Lately every Boston blogger except yours truly has thrown around ideas on how to save the Boston Globe. I won’t discuss whether it deserves to be saved, for the purpose of this article we’ll assume it is a valuable part of the community (both in terms of jobs and journalism) and assume it needs to be saved for the sake of Boston.
Bloggers, reporters and citizens have suggested everything from increasing subscription and per paper prices, removing the Globe from Google, scrapping segments, scrapping the print edition and even buying subscriptions out of charity to boost revenues.
None of those ideas will work. Here are eight ideas that would work and really save The Boston Globe.
No print edition on Tuesdays and Thursdays
Let’s all be honest here, the print edition is not for breaking news. By the time it’s printed half the internet has already mentioned the story and moved on. Cutting these two days out of the schedule will allow for a better product on the days the Globe is printed. Less fluff, more stuff.
Boot the Boss
The people at the top have utterly and completely failed the newspaper. There are no more excuses left for them, they are clearly not so talented that they’re crucial to the future of the Globe. Simply put, the leaders at the Globe have not done their jobs and should not have them anymore. Firing the employees at the top will deliver a significant cost savings and bring new ideas to the table.
The union workers have done their jobs. Papers get written, printed and delivered every day. It is not their failure, but a failure at the top. It’s not harsh, it’s reality. The job of the leaders of the Globe is to ensure it is profitable. It’s not profitable so the leaders should be given the boot.
Side note, due to the ludicrous nature of most contracts for high level employees, it’s likely that the leaders have clauses in their contracts that activate lucrative severance payouts so this move may not be a huge cost savings but fresh leadership will still do the Globe good.
Premium Sports Section
Look, I’m not going to pay the Globe for news. It’s not going to happen. For one, the quality and integrity of their investigative journalism is debatable. Second, the cat is already out of the bag. The Globe and newspapers all around the country already offer their product for free, they will not be successful now taking this free news back and pushing subscriptions on us.
But, sports, especially in the City of Boston, is a whole different animal. We are extreme fanatics in this city and devour sports information like no other. Offer a basic sports section for free but for in-depth sports coverage require a small paid subscription. Sure, lots of people won’t buy it and will simply move on to the Herald or ESPN or WEEI or any number of local and national sports outlets, but a significant amount of people will give in to their sports addiction and sign up for premium sports coverage.
Invest in e-paper
There are lots of people like me who haven’t bought a physical newspaper in years and don’t plan on ever doing so again. The last time I bought a print newspaper was in 2004 to have a memento of the Sox World Series victory. That’s right, I haven’t bought a newspaper in almost five years. And why should I? I can get updated news for free online in a much more convenient format. Let’s all face facts here, printed subscription numbers are going to keep dropping. The Boston Globe should team up with other newspapers and invest in e-paper to drive its cost down.
Another option put forward by Dan Kennedy is to offer all subscribers a Kindle. I’m not opposed to this idea and the Kindle 2 is a great device that is very close to e-paper but perhaps offering Kindles on Boston.com with an Amazon affiliate link is a better way to earn money and convince readers to ditch paper.
Video News Online
Boston.com gets almost 6 million unique visitors every month. Add a video news section, keep those visitors there and appeal to a whole new audience. I haven’t watched TV news in forever but would probably tune in to a Boston.com video newscast. It’s worth a shot and could be done for a minimal cost. Hire some of the existing great videobloggers in Boston and integrate them into your site. Videos keep eyeballs at your site and increase what you can charge for ads.
Don’t blame Google/bloggers/unions
Google is not stealing content from newspapers. They are sharing excerpts of articles with their users, which is legal under the Fair Use Doctrine. If any newspaper truly believes Google is stealing their content go ahead and sue. Do it, it’s your legal right. The lack of legal action combined with the constant whining simply proves our point, you don’t want to accept the blame and instead wish to make wild and false accusations. If you truly think they’re stealing your content, sue them. Or better yet, place this code in your robots.txt file and all will be well with the world:
And if you’re going to go after Google, don’t forget the other news aggregators of the world. Universal Hub has ads on their site and posts excerpts from articles, they must be stealing!
But seriously, work with Google, bloggers and news aggregators to deliver more and more traffic to your site. Don’t place your blame externally, look internally to find the true source of your issues.
Embrace the internet
Sure, newspapers offer free news online but that’s not enough. Stop blaming google and bloggers for your drop in numbers and instead embrace them. Bloggers are often some of the best news consumers, but mainstream newspapers are trashing us and placing the blame for their failures on us.
Check out the website for a local newspaper, The Dorchester Reporter, to see how it’s done correctly. The Dot Reporter recently redesigned their entire website with a huge focus on interactivity and local bloggers. They have open comments on every single article on the site and list the latest five posts from area bloggers right on their homepage, with a permanent link back to the blogger.
The Globe on the other hand offers comments on some articles and lists less than a handful of local bloggers on their homepage. And after you move off the homepage your link back to your article disappears forever. I know because I’ve been featured on Boston.com a few times now, and while the temporary traffic is nice the next day the link and the traffic disappears. Worse than the loss of traffic is the disappearance of the link back, which is commonly accepted on the web as a form of attribution. It’s a shady, shady move.
Large newspapers constantly complain about bloggers “stealing” their content, but then they go right ahead and use an excerpt from my blog (which is what many large newspapers refer to as “stealing) and then don’t provide a permanent link back to my post. In essence, they take my content, use it temporarily, and then ditch the author attribution. So when I use an excerpt from a mainstream newspaper article and link back to it permanently, it’s called stealing. But when they post my excerpt and don’t link back to it permanently it’s called promotion/helping the little guy out. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the traffic boost from Boston.com linking to my blog, but I’d appreciate it even more if they provided a permanent link instead of a temporary one. It’s simply good practice and common courtesy on the web.
Allow comments on all articles, allow commenters to place an no-followed URL to their site (e.g. like my comment system below and nearly ever other comment system on the web), and for the sake of consistency and clarity provide permanent links to any bloggers you feature or excerpt. It’s the right thing to do and will encourage us to visit your site more often. Plus, your readers can then continue to find my content and aren’t left to wonder who wrote that great post about living car-free for a year.
Report the news
Simple step. Stop promoting gossip, rumors and other non-news. Report just the news and do it well. The real reason your newspaper readership is dropping is because you’re more concerned with stirring the pot or appeasing the elite than reporting the truth. Honestly, mainstream newspapers have taken a stumble down in terms of quality from their glory years. We don’t need the latest celebrity gossip, we do need an authoritative source to find and tell us the truth, not blindly repackage a press release, push it out and call it news.
When you need to explicitly describe to your readers what newspapers do instead of showing them, you’re doing something wrong.
Thanks to Tony the Misfit for the excellent photo of the Boston Globe headquarters in Dorchester, MA.
Disclosure: I occasionally write freelance articles for The Dorchester Reporter. I am not an employee of the paper and all of the views expressed above and anywhere else on this blog are mine and mine only. The Dorchester Reporter does not in anyway sponsor, authorize, or have any other relation to this blog or its contents.