A world without the Globe?

Matthew Gray: I don't think I could handle a Boston where the Herald is the paper of record.

George Snell writes the Times shouldn't wait 30 days:

... The Globe still has more than 200 drivers, a printing plant, and enormous printing and circulation operations. Get rid of them. Move everything online. Firing reporters and editors - the staff of which is already bone-thin from previous lay-offs - to tantamount to suicide at this point. News is the only valuable commodity that the paper owns. It’s the only thing they can sell.

Restructure the editorial staff for a focus on news, businesss and sports from Boston, Massachusetts and New England - only. Get rid of feature writing (movie reviews, record reviews, etc.) and use freelancers. No more cooking, recipes, comics, etc. And then charge a nominal subscription fee for the content - temporary and call it the "Save the Globe" fund if they want. The fee is to shore up finances as they scramble to save the operation. Painful, but necessary.

Then start to experiment, restructure and try to make a go of it as an Internet only operation. Infuse blogging, social media, and user generated feedback. Build forums and wikis. The Globe needs to dive into the Web like no other newspaper before it. ...

Mats Tolander: Reactionary as I am I just plain like newspapers and I don’t particularly enjoy seeing them belly up:

... Frankly, I think Times Co. demand for $20 million in concessions from the unions sounds like a classic negotiating ploy, except that not even those concessions are likely to be enough for the newspaper to turn a profit this year, or the next, or the one after. Even when the economy turns around and newspaper advertising picks up again - even if only as a halo-effect - Globe employees may find themselves in a high-inflation economy where their employer still can't turn a profit. ...

The Outraged Liberal wonders what sort of losers are running the show down in New York, what with the news coming out only a few days after the Globe laid off and bought out a good chunk of the newsroom:

... I doubt the Globe will fold up shop in 30 days. I strongly suspect the unions will agree to concessions -- but only after they wring some promises of sacrifice from management too. The industry is indeed dying, but I can't see people voluntarily ending their jobs in this economic environment.

And we can only hope there is a white knight out there to scoop up the pride of New England journalism -- for a bargain price to be sure.

I'll start rooting around in my change bowl and penny collection. Anyone care to join me?

Dan Kennedy thinks the Globe will survive but wonders what's next:

... I don't think anyone believes this is a one-time deal. What will the next demand be?

Paul Levy, who knows something about saving failing organizations, writes Times management needs to be completely open with both employees and the public if it really wants to keep the Globe alive:

... If people believe it is their paper they will read it. Use the forces and opportunities of technology to make it happen so your excellent reporters and columnists can earn a salary and work on the really important functions envisioned in the Constitution.

Laurel Touby: The mother is eating the cubs for survival?

Constantine von Hoffman doesn't think blogs and citizen journalists could fill the gap:

... Just like any other craft, journalism consists of skills that must be learned. While a self-taught electrician may become as good as one apprenticed to someone else I do not want to provide my house for him to do his or her learning on. I do not know if I am a good journalist but I do know I am a damn site better that I was when I started out 24 years ago. I am better because I had people show me how to ask questions, how to listen to answers, how to spot a discrepency, how to verify facts and to face the facts even when it means the death of a really pretty hypothesis. Business and the government have entire departments devoted to nothing but spinning the facts, institutionally those departments are all living for the day when they only have to deal with "citizen journalists." ...

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Comments

For Globe, it's reinvent or die

A "risky" but imaginative strategy to reinvent the Globe is actually less risky than what it appears to be doing, which is to keep lopping off parts and cutting pay 'till there's nothing left.

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Budget

We all have our own ideas about how to save the Boston Globe (and all newspapers) but only those who know the actual financials can figure out how to make it all work.

Online only? How do you make that work for a newspaper with a payroll in the millions?

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Web-only? No.

The problem with folding the print edition is that though you get rid of a lot of your costs, you also lose most of your revenue. On the other hand, I can easily see the Globe putting its print edition out just three or four days a week.

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I don't believe in web only

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I don't believe in web only but I also don't believe in print just 3-4 days a week. I don't see how that would fit into a routine. But what about Metro-style free on weekdays (no home delivery, obviously) and then have a meaty pay-for weekend/Sunday edition (w/ home delivery)? Could that retain enough readers and advertisers to improve profitability? Or is some form of daily or almost daily pay-for home-delivered print product necessary to remain viable (or, as the case may be, regain viability)?

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Web-only? Yes.

There's no choice, Dan. The Globe needs to get rid of the aspects of the paper that don't make money - namely circulation and printing costs. Print is dying. To keep investing in channel that delivers news once every 24-hours in the age of instant communication is throwing away money.

They need to invest in reporting and editing - but because of the drain of printing and delivery - they keep cutting reporting staff - the only thing of value they have. Keep doing that and they'll soon lose all of their readers.

The web is the way to go. It's how to attract more and new readers. Scale back, go local, and embrace every digital channel you can - from blogs and micro-blogs, to video and audio. Make the Globe a news operation - not a newspaper operation.

Cutting to a few days a week is just the kiss of death.

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Victim of Choices

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There is no mystery here. The Globe made poor choices about what to cover and how to cover it. It has been recycling NYT content for years. The editors made a conscious decision to promote opinion over facts. They failed to understand their customers. They failed as a business. Remember the printing of porn pictures and labeling them as Iraq prison pictures? Nobody lost their job. Everyone had a good laugh.

My plan to save the paper? Take the reports and writers and a few editors to proof the content. Check the facts, run the stories, reduce the size of the paper by 70%. I see more people with the Metro then the Globe and it’s not just because it’s free. The Globe has exploded in size over the years. Does anyone remember when you could roll up a paper? Now it’s like carrying a dictionary around.

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Former reader doesn't want the Globe to fold

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Sassy Sundry says she gave up the Globe when Tom Oliphant left and that she now relies on the Times for world news and WBUR for local coverage. And yet, she explains why she doesn't want the Globe to die:

... We need professional journalists to investigate and report on our communities. Television, radio, and the Internet do not lend themselves to the in-depth reporting that made papers such important sources of news for so long. However much blogs have become a way to learn how we regular folk view the world, we are not accountable for our reporting, or for our opinions. Nor do we have the time, resources, or training to uncover stories the way news room journalists can. ... Changes are necessary at the Globe, and I can only hope that they make them before it's too late. Especially since I hate the Herald.

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Time to shut down the web

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Maybe it is time to shut down the web or make people pay to read it online.

The internet is the downfall for the newspaper industry.

Nobody wants to pay but everyone wants to read it online.

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Let's not blame the new medium for the old medium's problems

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I'm sure there were people in radio who wanted to shut TV - and I'm sure those scriptoriums just absolutely hated Gutenberg.

Yes, the Web has cut into newspaper profits. But don't blame Craig or Monster.com because newspapers failed to adapt to the new medium fast enough (and to its credit, boston.com has done way better than most newspaper-based sites). And don't blame the Teamsters because the New York Times leveraged itself to the gills with debt over the past decade so it could do things like build 50-story monuments to itself rather than, say, maintaining enough reserves to get through an economic downturn (somehow it survived the Great Depression).

Also, the first thing I thought when I saw your subject line was "What, Time will shut down the Web? I bet Newsweek will have something to say about that."

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$500 teapots and $1500 Shirts

The NYT also failed to adapt to new markets with smaller base populations that lacked a critical mass of wealthy people to care about extremely expensive stuff they seemed intent on advertising in print and beside their breathy reviews of same.

There are a fair number of well-heeled folks in the area, but there aren't nearly enough of them to either create a durable culture of conspicuous wealth or support certain high end industries (like, say, the profusion of high-end luxury condos downtown, maybe?).

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And don't blame Wal-Mart for

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And don't blame Wal-Mart for eviscerating small-town businesses?

If you blame the newspapers for failing to adapt quickly, please inform us exactly what they should have done--if you have the master plan for saving the industry, why aren't you sharing it? How would you adapt to competition that secures millions in start-up funds in an era of dot-com irrationality, has no requirement to be profitable and has no local responsibility or commitment?

Indeed, the worst thing that most papers did, in terms of financial waste, was going online--enormously expensive start-up and operating costs, with very little revenue. Boston.com is not the Globe's solution; it's a financial sinkhole.

We all talk about the editorial content of the newspapers, because that's the interesting part. But it is the advertising market that has changed, and that is largely the doing of Web companies that chug along on vast capitalization and little or no profitability. Craigslist tore out the heart of newspaper profits by using classifieds as a loss-leader. However one perceives the utility of the site, that's an economic fact.

Bloggers like to view themselves as on the cutting edge, and sometimes they are. But I don't see many of them making a living from their blogs. Newspapers won't, either. And it should be panic time for bloggers as well; when the newspapers go away, so will lots of things to blog about. It will be all sunset photos and silly cat movies.

The Web is indeed a new medium, but that does not equate to progressive. In many ways, it is a massive reinvention of the wheel. Wikipedia figured out quickly it needs editors. Journalism will be reinvented again when major papers are reduced to online forums full of gossip and idiocy.

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TimesCo is not a mom-and-pop operation in a dying downtown

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At least, not yet.

Boston.com in its early days is actually a good example of what newspapers did wrong: They set up entirely separate new-media wings with their own management and staff, essentially reinventing the wheel, to use your metaphor, and wasting valuable money and time in internecine squabbling with the dead-trees people. It's not set up that way anymore (no more exposed-brick Fort Point lofts for the Globe's online arm), but is it too late?

Newspapers actually came out of the first dotcom bubble in pretty good shape: They were still standing, for one thing, and still had plenty of revenue from print to play with.

But instead of reinventing themselves for the new realities, they blew it all on massively overpriced acquisitions (the Globe being one of them; also see Tribune's acquisition of the LA Times) and bubble-induced hysterical speculation (did the Times really need a brand-new skyscraper?).

If anything, this is a case of where the downtown mom-and-pops beat the Walmarts: Craig came out of nowhere (the original Craisglist being a little mailing list that guy used to let his San Francisco friends know about upcoming events). If Craig is willing to get by on supermarket-type margins, rather than the double-digit margins newspapers were accustomed to through their local monopolies/duopolies, more power to him.

At the same time, I don't think journalism is dead: People still want and need quality journalism. Somebody's going to figure out the model to make it pay. It may not be NYTimes Co., but nothing lasts forever.

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You still haven't said what

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You still haven't said what adaptation or reinvention you are proposing and criticizing papers for not doing.

Skyscrapers and acquisitions are not the reason for the financial failure of the newspaper industry.

Very few, if any, Web-based news sites are profitable, no matter how they were set up.

Wal-Mart started as a five-and-dime. It is nonetheless Wal-Mart now. You don't appear to understand "loss-leader," or operating on massive capitalization and recapitalization a la Google rather than actually producing revenue. This is not about slim profit margins; it is about no profit margins.

My point is that the Web vastly changed the advertising base. Whether it did so by offering good or bad services is immaterial; the fact that it did is inescapable. And it remains unclear how papers were supposed to adapt to that. I agree that quality will find a way, but it is disingenous to suggest that newspapers are at fault for not adapting when you (and apparently everyone else) cannot suggest a viable method of adaptation even now, 15 years after the Web revolution. Merely implying that those who do not glory in every aspect of Web freebies is a Luddite is not elucidating; surely it is not a replacement for proposing a viable solution. That this glorying is generally done by bloggers who cannot make a living with their blogs is particularly odd.

I would add that I do not totally blame the Web, either. The industry had other problems in changing demographics, union requirements, etc., and was already shedding major dailies (and alternative weeklies), entering into joint operating agreements, etc., long ago. It's also worth noting the continued resilience of community papers in terms of both content and advertising.

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I admit it: I don't know just what they should be doing now

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Would I be sitting here typing this if I did? And would you be sitting there reading this?

Yes, the advertising game has changed. Disruptive technologies are often tough on monopolies. If newspapers had realized earlier on they were in the information business instead of the newspaper business, perhaps they would have come up with the killer search engine or job site (and, in fact, there was some early work at newspapers to develop such things; that they didn't work is perhaps indicative of the way large, entrenched bureaucracies at slow-moving corporations - which newspapers were on the business side - tend to work).

But somebody's going to figure out how to make money off it - just like Henry Luce figured out how to start a profitable, national magazine in the middle of the Great Depression. And somebody's going to figure out how to run a decent online news organization without a print component.

Maybe even those community papers you mention. Are they resilient because they've figured out the secret of online? Hardly, although some are coming up fast. Many are behind the online curve, sometimes comically so, but they're not hurting (or not hurting as much) because they didn't get sucked into the speculative bubble that the Sulzbergers of the world found so compelling five years ago.

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Some innovative models

How some Euromedia is weathering the storm.

Of course it helps if you didn't take on massive piles of debt to buy all your neighbors and run them into the ground with poor management.

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Is this title a snark title?

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If the "Don't blame Wal-Mart for eviscerating small-town businesses" title is snark, that's one thing. If, on the other hand, you're serious, then, yes, I do blame Wal-Mart for the evisceration of many of the small-town and mom-and-pop businesses. While the destruction of smaller, independent businesses has been going on for sometime, Wal-Mart's made an already-bad situation far worse.

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Stay focused

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He's using Walmart as a metaphor for what's happening to newspapers, not discussing Walmart itself.

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Which is bigger today,

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Which is bigger today, satellite radio or MTV?

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Shut down the Web World Wide?

Shut down the web in a protectionist fit for an obsolete industry in the US or around the entire world? Will it save the Globe if those of us who track certain information world wide through the web can't get to British papers, either?

BTW, it doesn't look like the European papers are doing so badly in the age of the web - how has that worked? Why is the web killing US papers first ... like, maybe, differences in underlying business practices maybe?

Oh, while we are protecting industries that simply refuse to adapt, shall we destroy i-tunes to protect the RIAA from it's own lousy judgment, too?

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The trouble with online news is

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that one doesn't always know who or what to believe, precisely because there's so much information floating around out there.

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Maybe the Globe should do things the Gatehouse media way

I'm having so much fun over at Live Journal asking questions about the loss of the Globe. http://community.livejournal.com/b0st0n
http://www.gatehousemedia.com/ is the owner of The Boston Herald, as well as several tiny papers that cover the Boston area, and beyond. Who thinks as they read the Alston Brighton Tab, that they are reading a version of the Boston Herald.

Now the Herald, or rather Gatehouse Media was smart. They own nothing, no buildings, no printing presses, nothing but a few delivery trucks.

They rent space for meetings, but generally reporters work from their homes and email in stories. Even the big stories. There are no news rooms, no bullpens. Nothing.

It stuns me that in all this conversation about failing newspapers I have yet to see an article about Gatehouse and it's ability to make money in this market.

I guess this means our future is in supermarket tabloids.

Ouch - Jan

Steps from the beach - http://fibrowitch.blogspot.com/

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Stop right there

GateHouse is NOT the owner of the Boston Herald.

The Herald used to own the Community Newspaper Company chain, but they sold it to (what is now called) GateHouse. The Herald stlll owns plenty of real estate in the South End.

Also, GateHouse definitely rents office space for real newsrooms. One of them is right here in Davis Square, in the Harvard Vanguard building.

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Get ready for the NYT Boston edition

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The NYT has a NY edition, a national edition and an international edition. Why not a Boston edition?

The Globe's local coverage sucks anyways, so you can buy the Herald and your local neighborhood newspaper for local stuff.

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Globe's local coverage doesn't suck

It's not great, it's not what it once was, but they have some good reporters and have done some decent investigative work over the years. It's dead wrong to think the Herald and the neighborhood weeklies can take up the slack.

Now, what could be viable is a NYT Boston edition that has a couple of dedicated Boston sections, staffed by a full Boston metro bureau of reporters covering major beats and doing investigative stories, plus local sports & cultural coverage and maybe a monthly Boston magazine insert. It could be the best of both worlds -- the national and int'l coverage of the Times, and the local coverage of a reinvented metro bureau.

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Exactly! When I have both

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Exactly!

When I have both papers to read at work I generally pull out the metro section of the Globe to read and chuck the rest, for national, world news and arts I much prefer the NYT.

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Who gets in the lifeboat?

NYT Boston Edition seems like the most likely thing to me. They could keep on a handful of writers and journalists from the Globe to produce the Boston Metro section, and slot that into the Times (FWIW, just like the current Metro section in NY). It's a shame, but I'd buy it.

Now we should all play that fun game: Who gets in the lifeboat?

If the NYT presents a reduced Boston Metro section as part of a regional edition, which of the current Glob writers should stay on?

Blessed are the cheesemakers...

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That would be interesting

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Boston is already in denial over not being the hub of the universe. Taking away our newspaper would remove all pretense of not being New York's bitch.

If we want to call ourselves a quaint college town in an outlying suburb of New York, with a thriving biotech office park and the remnants of an infotech one, that's OK. But I still think we rate having our own newspaper.

Then again, if the Globe turned into a special advertising section of the NYT, perhaps the Herald would rise to the occasion and start trying to appeal to former Globe readers.

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South End property

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FYI, the Herald no longer owns the land in the South End. Herald sold it a few years ago (2006 or '07, IIRC) to a LLC that includes Pat Purcell, with the caveat that they can stay on Harrison for six years from the sale date. Now that they've shut down the presses, they're looking more hard-core at relocating the newsroom and administrative offices, probably somewhere within the so-called Urban Ring realm.

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GateHouse doesn't own the Herald

The Herald used to own CNC (Community Newspaper Company) and sold it to GateHouse, which acquired the chain (which includes the MetroWest Daily News and a giant chunk of weeklies in eastern Mass.) along with the Enterprise and Quincy Patriot Ledger.

If you think GateHouse is unscathed, clearly you haven't been paying attention.

Personally, I think it's the papers who didn't end up getting acquired by the bigger chains in the last decade who might stand a chance of surviving, as long as they stay the only game in town. I would wager there are small papers that would be perfectly profitable on their own if it wasn't for the fact that their owners are using them to stem the red ink from the rest of the chain.

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What about the Telegram?

Would NYT Co. really stop publishing a newspaper in Boston and keep publishing one in Worcester?

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The Telegram?

I suppose that anon thinks that we should shut down instant messaging so people will have to send telegrams.

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Globe is on the story

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Globe Local News Updates: "Readers shocked at Globe's woes"

This is in awkward territory for them to report on, considering that the potential conflict of interest goes to the essence of their existence.

Incidentally, Maria Sacchetti, who is listed first in the byline, is the Globe journalist who I've recently heard (casually, not researched) criticized most by Herald readers as being "PC" and producing "liberal propaganda." Reporting seen as sympathetic to "immigrants" is going to alienate a large number of Bostonians.

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Maria Sacchetti is the

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Maria Sacchetti is the Globe's immigration reporter (whether that is an actual title or not I don't know) and like her predecessor Yvonne Abraham she is ridiculously biased in favor of immigrants and illegal aliens. However, I think her reporting is credible (unlike Kevin Cullen's immigration related columns, which are just plain crap) and uniformly leaves readers with enough information to understand the issue at hand and reach a conclusion that diverges from the one Sacchetti rather obviously holds. It could be better but it's good enough for me.

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I have no complaints about

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I have no complaints about Sacchetti's work myself.

I'm just thinking that, when the story of reader reactions naturally includes the barrage of criticism of the Globe's bias, it is odd to have one of the lightning rods for that criticism doing the reporting on the reactions.

When it comes to the Globe reporting on its own mortality, I'd expect them to bend over backwards be impeccable in both substance and appearance. I thought they did a good job with Saturday's front page story.

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"Globe Saves Self"???!!!

I'm glad they're running those pieces. Maybe it took a healthy dose of self-coverage to communicate the depth of the crisis faced by the Globe.

The Globe is fighting for its survival. Nothin' wrong with saying so.

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