Four Globe personnel moves are aimed at bolstering digital

Katie Kingsbury. Photo via. Twitter.
Katie Kingsbury. Photo via Twitter.
Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory this afternoon announced some major moves, and all of them are aimed at bolstering the Globe‘s digital presence. The big news is that Katie Kingsbury will replace David Skok as managing editor for digital. Skok, who’s also vice president for digital, is heading back to his native Canada.

Kingsbury, as McGrory notes below, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and has more recently been editing the Ideas section. I think it’s significant that what she can bring to digital is seen as more urgent than her more traditional work as a writer and editor. Globe print subscribers might also remember that last winter, during the paper’s home-delivery fiasco, Kingsbury was a constant presence on Twitter, where she helped to solve problems and in a few cases delivered papers to customers’ doorsteps.

As always, these memos don’t just magically appear in my inbox. I depend on leaks—and leakers. That means you.

The text of McGrory’s email to the staff follows.

I’m delighted to announce some key personnel moves in the newsroom.

First, Katie Kingsbury will take the role of managing editor, digital.

You know we’re a great news organization when a transformative figure like David Skok can leave and we’re able to fill the void from our own midst with a Pulitzer Prize winning editor of uncommon intellect and unparalleled commitment. Katie is her own weather system, someone who isn’t only a learned digital journalist, but also an entirely natural one. Digital isn’t an added element with Katie; it’s what she does—and always has done. Look no further than her work on Ideas, and her role propelling opinion journalism to the forefront of bostonglobe.com. Linger, especially, on some of the projects she’s helped oversee, particularly our exquisite Make It Stop wraparound and digital presentation that owned the web for the better part of a week. That project would never have happened as it did without Katie driving it forward.

Katie is, at her core, a storyteller, though with a digital soul and spine. She’s spent the better part of her career as a reporter—with Metro in Boston, then with Time in Asia and New York. She arrived in our room in 2013, another smart Peter Canellos hire, as a freelance editorial writer. It took her, what, less that two years to pen that utterly extraordinary series on the plight of fast food workers that earned her the previously mentioned Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 2015. Katie became the Sunday op-ed editor in 2014, and then Ideas editor in 2015. There’s been nothing but unabashed success at every turn.

There’s also a book contract, and a whole lot more, making for a schedule that is virtually unimaginable, and yet it doesn’t seem to matter. Katie is a relentlessly cheerful presence, a world-class colleague who treasures ideas and creativity and seems to have been put on this earth to challenge the status quo.

Katie will start in her new role very soon, and by that I mean whenever she can work out a smooth transition from Ideas with Ellen [Clegg] and her successor.

Second, Jason Tuohey will become the deputy managing editor for audience engagement.

At one level, it’s accurate to say that Jason may be the steadiest human being on the planet, quietly driving bostonglobe.com forward for years such that it’s the single most successful aspect of our entire enterprise, up 20 percent in uniques year over year, topping the 70,000 paid subscriber mark earlier this month, an uncommonly accessible site that always seems to strike just the right note at just the right time.

But even that somehow sells Jason short, because he’s far more than steady. Behind that unflappable demeanor is a brilliant editor and beloved manager who knows the exact levers to push and pull with staff to keep the site humming with readers. There’s nobody in the industry I’ve looked to more for counsel on all things digital, and Jason is always dead on the mark.

In this new role, Jason will continue to have oversight of globe.com. In addition, he’ll be charged with connecting our journalism with the community and larger world in ways that we currently don’t do enough of. He will do outreach. He will also guide the room, with an appropriate emphasis on metrics, as to what works and what doesn’t—topics, tones, times of day, platforms, and so much more. Ideally, sooner rather than later, Jason will have his own team of audience development specialists, and will work with a larger team across the building.

Jason will start in his new role on October 17.

Third, Heather Hopp-Bruce will become design director. Heather is the outrageously talented designer of editorial and Ideas, constantly pushing industry boundaries with provocative sections fronts and projects that have earned her a stunning 11 SND [Society for News Design] awards in the past two years. Think of Heather as an activist designer, not only there at the inception of a piece or project, but immediately helping to shape it, probing and prodding it, and thinking across all platforms. Design, in her view, is a partner, something that comes through week after week, time and again, in her work in Ideas. Her sprawling intellect and boundless energy leads her in many directions. Surfing? She’s rabid, as well as talented. Marksmanship? A champion back in grade school—really. Heather swam across Boston Harbor a couple of years ago and still talks about all the little jelly fish that made it feel like pudding.

None of it got in the way of what has been an extraordinary career as a designer and writer, one that has brought Heather from Montana to San Francisco to Santa Cruz to Seattle, and then to Newsday. She was another brilliant Dan Zedek hire in 2010. She took some time away from journalism to work at a web design firm in Santa Cruz, though in her words, “I realized I could never be happy outside of a newsroom.”

Heather, too, checks off the box of world class colleague. She’ll start in her new role in early November.

Fourth, Lauren Shea has become a dedicated product manager for the newsroom, working hand in hand with our entire editorial team.

Lauren joined the Globe in June of 2014 and she has left an indelible mark on everything that you read and experience on Globe.com ever since. As the head of product for the Globe, Lauren was a driving force in modernizing the look and feel of our website, along with building out new digital advertising products and refining our meter to improve our efforts at more subscriptions. This was on top of her work launching Crux, BetaBoston, and Sports 2.0. Put another way: Lauren gets stuff done.

She now brings her talent solely into the storytelling realm. Along with elevating our special projects, Lauren will identify and build new products that allow us to tell everyday stories in new ways on all platforms. In her prior roles, including at Arnold Worldwide, Lauren has managed digital strategy, user experience/site architecture, visual design, end-to-end software development, and quality assurance testing. And yes, she’s a generous colleague beloved by everyone fortunate enough to work with her.

Again, the very fact that we have a roster like this ready to lead the newsroom ever more into the digital era is a tribute to us all.

Many thanks,

Brian

The Globe’s Saturday shrinkage and its digital future

saturday-globe

Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

If you’d asked me 10 years ago if I thought The Boston Globe and other metropolitan dailies would still be printing news on dead trees in 2015, I’d have replied, “Probably not.” Even five years ago, by which time it was clear that print had more resilience than many of us previously assumed, I still believed we were on the verge of drastic change — say, a mostly digital news operation supplemented by a weekend print edition.

Seen in that light, the Globe’s redesigned Saturday edition should be regarded as a cautious, incremental step. Unveiled this past weekend, the paper is thinner (42 pages compared to 52 the previous Saturday) and more magazine-like, with the Metro section starting on A2 rather than coming after the national, international and opinion pages. That’s followed by a lifestyle section called Good Life.

The larger context for these changes is that the existential crisis threatening the newspaper business hasn’t gone away. Revenue from print advertising — still the economic engine that powers virtually all daily newspapers — continues to fall, even as digital ads have proved to be a disappointment. Fewer ads mean fewer pages. This isn’t the first time the Globe has dropped pages, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. (The paper is also cutting staff in some areas, even as it continues to hire for new digital initiatives.)

How bad is it? According to the Pew Research Center’s “State of the Media 2015” report, revenue from print advertising at U.S. newspapers fell from $17.3 billion in 2013 to $16.4 billion in 2014. Digital advertising, meanwhile, rose from just $3.4 billion to $3.5 billion. And for some horrifying perspective on how steep the decline has been, print advertising revenue was $47.4 billion just 10 years ago.

The Globe’s response to this ugly drop has been two-fold. First, it’s asked its print and digital readers to pick up more of the cost through higher subscription fees. Second, even as the print edition shrinks, it has expanded what’s offered online — not just at BostonGlobe.com, but via its free verticals covering the local innovation economy (BetaBoston), the Catholic Church (Crux) and, soon, life sciences and health (Stat). Stories from those sites find their way into the Globe, while readers who are interested in going deeper can visit the sites themselves. (An exception to this strategy is Boston.com, the former online home of the Globe, which has been run as a separate operation since its relaunch in 2014.)

“I don’t quite think of it as the demise of print,” says Globe editor Brian McGrory of the Saturday redesign. He notes that over the past year-plus the print paper has added the weekly political section Capital as well as expanded business and Sunday arts coverage and daily full-size feature sections in place of the former tabloid “g” section.

“There are areas where we do well where we’re enhancing in print and there are areas where we’re looking to cut in print,” McGrory adds. “It’s a very fine and delicate balancing act.”

Some of those cuts in print are offset by more digital content. Consider the opinion pages, which underwent a redesign this past spring. (I should point out that McGrory does not run the opinion pages. Editorial-page editor Ellen Clegg, like McGrory, reports directly to publisher John Henry.) The online opinion section is simply more robust than what’s in print, offering some content a day or two earlier as well as online exclusives. This past Saturday, the print section was cut from two pages to one. Yet last week also marked the debut of a significant online-only feature: Opinion Reel, nine short videos submitted by members of the public on a wide variety of topics.

All are well-produced, ranging from an evocative look at a family raising a son with autism (told from his sister’s point of view) to a video op-ed on dangerous bicycle crossings along the Charles River. There’s even a claymation-like look at a man living with blindness. But perhaps the most gripping piece is about a man who was seriously beaten outside a bar in South Boston. It begins with a photo of him in his hospital bed, two middle fingers defiantly outstretched. It ends with him matter-of-factly explaining what led to the beating. “It was because I stepped on the guy’s shoe and he didn’t think I was from Southie,” he says before adding: “It was my godmother’s brother.”

Globe columnist and editorial board member Joanna Weiss, who is curating the project, says the paper received more than 50 submissions for this first round. “It has very much been a group effort,” Weiss told me by email. “The development team built the websites and Nicole Hernandez, digital producer for the editorial page, shepherded that process through; Linda Henry, who is very interested in promoting the local documentary filmmaking community, gave us feedback and advice in the early rounds; David Skok and Jason Tuohey from BostonGlobe.com gave indispensable advice in the final rounds, and of course the entire editorial board helped to screen and select the films.”

But all of this is far afield from the changes to the Saturday paper and what those might portend. McGrory told me he’s received several hundred emails about the redesign, some from readers who liked it, some who hated it and some who suggested tweaks — a few of which will be implemented.

Traditionally, a newspaper’s Saturday edition is its weakest both in terms of circulation and advertising. In the Globe’s case, though, the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday papers sell a few thousand fewer copies than Saturday’s 160,377, according to a 2014 report from the Alliance for Audited Media. No doubt that’s a reflection of a Thursday-through-Sunday subscription deal the Globe offers — though it does raise the question of whether other days might get the Saturday treatment.

“We have no plans right now to change the design or the general format of those papers,” McGrory responds. “But look, everything is always under discussion.” (The Globe’s Sunday print circulation is 282,440, according to the same AAM report. Its paid digital circulation is about 95,000 a day, the highest of any regional newspaper.)

One question many papers are dealing with is whether to continue offering print seven days a week. Advance Newspapers has experimented with cutting back on print at some of its titles, including the storied Times-Picayune of New Orleans. My Northeastern colleague Bill Mitchell’s reaction to the Globe’s Saturday changes was to predict that, eventually, American dailies would emulate European and Canadian papers by shifting their Sunday papers to Saturdays to create a big weekend paper — and eliminating the Sunday paper altogether.

The Globe and Mail of Toronto is one paper that has taken that route, and McGrory says it’s the sort of idea that he and others are keeping an eye on. But he stresses that the Globeisn’t going to follow in that path any time soon.

“Right now we have no plans to touch our Sunday paper,” he says. “It’s a really strong paper journalistically, it’s a strong paper circulation-wise, it’s a strong paper advertising-wise. We’re constantly thinking and rethinking this stuff. But as of this conversation, Sunday is Sunday and we don’t plan to change that at all.”

He adds: “We’re trying to mesh the new world with the printing press, and I think we’re coming out in an OK place. Better than an OK place. A good place.”