On Monday, The Boston Globe is launching bostonglobe.com in a bid to shore up falling circulations and revenues. To see the new website, just like the print newspaper, you have to subscribe.
The Globe already owns boston.com. That popular site’s going to remain free. The new subscription one sets itself apart with different content and less advertising.
WBUR’s Business and Technology Reporter Curt Nickisch has been covering the newspaper’s “paywall,” as it’s known in the publishing industry, and joined Morning Edition Monday to talk about it.
Bob Oakes: I’m looking at the website right now. There's a lot of white space on here, it looks very clean, but when I click on any story, I get the signup sheet where I have to pay.
Curt Nickisch: At least for now, you won't have to pay, they do have a sponsor to get you through the end of the month, so you can just sign in and register and check it out for a while. But you're right, it's very unlike boston.com, it has much more of a newspaper feel, just black on white. Photos there jump out on the page, so to speak. And that's really how the Globe designed this. They set it up so that it would look really good on a desktop computer, that it would resize down, and you still get that newspaper feel if you're looking at it on a smartphone or a tablet computer. The Globe's Jeff Moriarty said he wanted to bring that newspaper feel to these new digital devices.
There’s such great content there. And we just wanted to really provide a great experience, where people could explore, make it extremely readable, very usable, very clean.
Very clean, when I wipe my hands on the screen I don't get newsprint. How much will it cost to subscribe to the Globe at bostonglobe.com?
It's $4 a week for the digital subscription. Now if you already get a print subscription, if you already get that newspaper ink on your fingers, it's part of your subscription.
Even if you only get the Sunday Globe?
[sidebar title="Developing Bostonglobe.com:" width="300" align="right"]
- Boston-based company Upstatement was the principal designer of the new site.
- Upstatement came up with the responsive design aspects of the site. Responsive design allows content to appear "viewable and intuitive" on desktops, smartphones and tablets.
- Filament Group, another company based in Boston, developed the technology to implement the responsive design elements and make it work on all platforms.
Even if you only get the Sunday Globe you get access to bostonglobe.com for the whole week.
The New York Times recently launched its own paywall just earlier this year. The Times Co. owns the Boston Globe. How's that gone and is the Globe hoping to match that if it's gone well?
It's gone well by a lot of measures, but the Globe really has to do something different. They already had boston.com, they've got this huge audience online and they really didn’t want to scare people away. And so what it's doing by creating bostonglobe.com is to create kind of a premium site –- less advertising, that white space that you're talking about — and boston.com, the original site, so to speak, is not going to have everything from the print edition, but it's still going to have a lot of basic stuff.
If you want to read all the articles, if you want to get less advertising, more of a premium feel, then you go to bostonglobe.com.
So the Globe's editor, Marty Baron, said that they didn't want to scare people away, but they did want to give people an extra experience for those people who are willing to pay:
We recognize that a lot of people who used to read a print publication don’t any longer. But they actually enjoy reading newspapers, but for some reason, because of their lifestyle, they are going to our website. And so we want to appeal to those people. Some people will be willing to pay and some people won’t be willing to pay.
The Times Co. also owns the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, which started a paywall earlier this year too, but the idea is really just to force people who stopped subscribing to subscribe again. So these three member newspapers of the Times Co. are all pursuing different strategies based on their audiences.
And why today? What's the significance of launching on Sept. 12?
They had actually planned the launch last week, but the idea is, you've got 9/11 coverage, we have a pennant race, the Pats start playing tonight, so there's a lot of good news content out there that they hope to hook people on.
But I think the bigger question really for the Globe is, it's not just market timing for bostonglobe.com during the news cycle, or during a busy time of the news year. I think it's really about trying to seize on all this excitement over smartphones and tablet devices, that they get people to pay more now. This is just one step, they're going to have to adapt as they go along to try to make this digital conversion.
This program aired on September 12, 2011.