Blog Rally to Help the Boston Globe

We have all read recently about the threat of possible closure faced by the Boston Globe. A number of Boston-based bloggers who care about the continued existence of the Globe have banded together in conducting a blog rally. We are simultaneously posting this to solicit your ideas of steps the Globe could take to improve its financial picture.

We view the Globe as an important community resource, and we think that lots of people in the region agree and might have creative ideas that might help in this situation. So, here's your chance. Please don't write with nasty comments and sarcasm. Use this forum for thoughtful and interesting steps you would recommend to the management that would improve readership, enhance the Globe's community presence, and make money. Who knows, someone here might come up with an idea that will work, or at least help. Thank you.

Here is my suggestion: Publish the New York Times in New England as The Boston Globe, using a local newsroom to provide high quality local journalism for the region, and the Times' great national and international content for the rest. Repeat this in other cities to provide economies of scale and distribution for national and international content created by the central NY Times organization. Don’t hide the truth of this painful restructuring from the readers (who are not dumb), but embrace it by maintaining the best local reporting for the city, state and region.

Yes, my suggestion is to combine the Globe and the Times. Publish a vibrant New England (NE) section in a regional edition called The Boston Globe, with at least a couple of stories from this section on the front page and in the sports section. Maintain only city, state/regional and sports bureaus – do not duplicate national and international resources. Retain the highest quality journalism, investigation and writing for local, regional and sports news. Sell subscriptions on the Kindle and on the iPhone, and maybe even on the web (reducing the free stuff significantly). Charge more (there will no longer be competition between the Globe and Times). Charge premiums for out-of-area access; charge more to see the NY edition in NE and more to see the Boston content outside Boston … “ex-pats” living elsewhere and wanting home news will pay for it.

For a final step, repeat this formula in other cities. Buy other (failing) quality mastheads. Create economies of scale from the central content and use those economies to maintain the sharp local flavors in a symbiotic structure that works.

As well as a direct suggestion, let me also add some commentary. Previews of this blog rally prompted the question of why are we trying to save something that is clearly failing in the marketplace. Implicit here is inappropriate skepticism of bailouts for failing private sector concerns. However, our blog rally paragraph does not suggest any specific direction, and does not pre-suppose a non-market, interventionist response. The question is, merely, if you believe the Globe has something to offer, what might you do to save it.

If a bunch of customers wanted to save one of my companies I would certainly ask what the customers truly value. For many years the Globe has had two customers – readers and advertisers. My guess is any new ideas had better work for readers, because market forces have already shown advertisers that it no longer works for them.

I would ask customers who wanted to save my company (a) to pay more for the services and (b) to make an equity investment. My suggestion above centered on local investigative journalism, the local beat and sports reporting. These are things that a great local newsroom can provide which customers may value under a branded editorial umbrella. Despite complaints that the national and international staff are being cut, there is little (or no) additive value these provide under a Globe masthead.

That equity investment idea ... that's what a subscription is ... an upfront long-term payment for a share of whatever is produced (kind of like a CSA farm share program).

Good luck Boston Globe, and good luck New York Times, and kudos to Paul Levy for instigating another great rally.


stefanoq said...

Excellent post, Richard.

Jason said...

+1. I wonder if the NYTimes/Globe is considering this. They certainly should.