‘Boston Globe’ to Offer One Paid, One Free Site in 2011

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By: E&P Staff

The Boston Globe believes it has a solution to the paid-vs.-free debate over Web content: why not have both?

Next year, the 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 newspaper’s journalists, the Globe reported Thursday morning.

Whereas Boston.com will continue to offer breaking news, sports, and weather from various sources, along with classified advertising, social networking, and information about travel, restaurants and entertainment, BostonGlobe.com will be designed to mirror the experience of reading the paper’s print edition. It will contain all the reports from the day’s paper as well as exclusive reports, in-depth news, analysis, commentary, photos and graphics, plus video and interactive features.

The change is set to take place in the second half of 2011.

“This seems like a step in the right direction — producing a free site aggregating all local content, including bulletins produced by the paper’s own staff but also operating a paid site where newspapers can attempt to be properly compensated for the major investment they make in producing exclusive content,” said Alan Mutter, the “Reflections of a Newsosaur” blogger and monthly E&P columnist who closely follows the paid-versus-free debate. “The free site will defend against competitors like Patch and Huffington Post and the paid site will differentiate the Boston Globe as a premium brand.

“As former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld might say,” he added, “the unknown unknown is just how many people actually will pay to access the premium site when so much news already is available for free at other places.”

Subscribers to the print edition will be given free access to BostonGlobe.com as part of their subscription. The paper has yet to decide how much a digital-only subscription will cost. Some breaking news will remain on Boston.com, but the precise mix has yet to be determined.

“Two brands create exciting opportunities for us,” publisher Christopher M. Mayer said in a statement. “These two distinct sites will allow us to serve both types of readers with maximum effectiveness, while continuing to provide advertisers the large engaged audience they have come to expect from Boston.com.”

Mayer told his newspaper the Globe had considered a metered model, as The New York Times is set to adopt next year, before settling on the two-brands strategy. Boston.com, started 15 years ago, had established a separate brand identity, he said, in addition to its link with the Globe.

The two sites, Mayer told the Globe, will allow advertisers to target different audiences, one being the more casual reader, the other more engaged in the Globe’s in-depth journalism. “If you want to expand market share,” he said, “you expand the product base.”

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