By: Shawn Moynihan
Next year, The Boston Globe plans to divide its news content between two Websites. The existing Boston.com will remain free, while a subscription-only pay site, BostonGlobe.com, will launch featuring content produced by the newsroom.
It’s a strategy that aims to retain the existing audience at Boston.com, while expanding the brand to an additional site that not only will offer multimedia material to supplement the print edition, but over time in many cases will also serve as a gateway for readers to make the inevitable switch to consuming the Globe’s content from a print format to a digital one.
Which is not to say the latter aim was a conscious one, says Boston Globe Publisher Chris Mayer.
“We’re not facilitating that as much as we’re aware that digital is becoming a preferred medium for the existing consumers of the Boston Globe,” he tells E&P. “There will still be a good number of people who prefer us in print, but we want to be there” for digital consumers, he adds, delivering content wherever and whenever they want it.
While the change is set to take place in the second half of 2011, the app for BostonGlobe.com is already in the works and is expected to roll out between Q4 of this year and Q1 2011. The app will serve as a preview of sorts for what readers can expect from the paid site, access to which will be provided as part of a print subscription — even Sunday-only subscribers.
The forthcoming app for the paid site, when viewed on a tablet, will not be unlike the newspaper’s Adobe-powered Globe Reader, the downloadable software that delivers a digital experience of reading the Globe, Mayer says — in that it takes advantage of current technologies to enhance different sections, for example, comics. The BostonGlobe.com mobile app will be part of a digital bundle that will include Globe Reader.
The digital bundle will be available separately for non-print subscribers, although that price has not yet been determined.
BostonGlobe.com will be designed to mirror the experience of reading the paper’s print edition, but will be loaded with extras. It will contain all the reports from the day’s paper along with information related to current stories to provide context, exclusive reports, commentary, photos and graphics, and videos. While the details are still being worked out, Mayer is particularly excited about the idea of creating an online subscriber community at the paid site in which readers can engage in open discussion. “The ability to participate and communicate is something we’re looking to support,” he says.
In the newsroom, a new content-management system will be put in place that will allow editors to post to both platforms more easily, Mayer says.
But if print subscribers will get access to BostonGlobe.com as part of their subscription, and the site won’t be excessively add-heavy, as Mayer mentioned in the Globe’s report announcing the launch, what’s the strategy behind making the site profitable?
“As the audience grows, the ability to have a premium audience with a high level of engagement and wantedness and to deliver that to advertisers creates advertising opportunities, and certain segments are moving toward targeting in the digital space,” Mayer responds. “It gives us a very attractive audience to target.”
Simply sticking with what currently works, he explains, isn’t enough. While Boston.com has been successful in terms of drawing advertising and page views, extending the brand to deliver a more engaged readership — and the type of well educated, slightly higher income demo that implies — becomes an added goal.
Otherwise, he says, “If we base our business model on [existing] advertising revenue, given the volatility of ad revenue, it becomes very difficult to make investments into the type of content-producing organization that is part of our brand.
“We’ve had a lot of success with Boston.com as an advertising-based model,” he adds, “and we want to maintain that audience as we build out in the digital space.”