The Struggles of Boston Newspapers in Making the Transition to New Media

I came across an interesting article this morning entitled 10 Newspaper Myths Deconstructed.

There is a lot of talk out there about how the newspaper industry is in trouble. Some feel that newspapers will be obsolete in the near future, and that they are struggling to keep up with new media.

This article outlines 10 major misconceptions held by publishers and executives that hinder newspapers from keeping up with the new media party.


I’m going to look at the points and offer some comments and observations based on the Boston area…mostly in the context of the Boston Globe, (because you might soon see some reasons why that unit of the NY Times is struggling so badly) but also the region’s papers in general.

Myth1 : We pay for printed content
Fact 1: News content was always free

The point is made in the online column that the 50 cents that you slapped down for a newspaper in the past was to cover the paper and printing…all the content, editing and delivery are paid for by advertisements. So the notion that papers should be charging for their content online doesn’t work. Remember when the Globe flirted with the idea of taking its sports content to a pay model? If they still decide to go through with that, it will likely be a disaster. The Boston Herald used to charge for to read content from columnists – an idea that was dropped in time.

Myth 2: There is not enough money in online ads
Fact 2: Newspapers don’t care about online ads

One of the notes that the original article makes about online ads:

And once and for all: No popups. Everybody hates popups and companies that use popups to advertise their stuff make us angry.

Boston.com (Online home of the Boston Globe) uses pop-up ads. In fact they’re pretty aggressive with them. I have various popup blockers on my Firefox browser, which is good to begin with at blocking popups, and still the ads get through from time to time. It doesn’t endear them to me, or most likely anyone else browsing the site. Advertising is necessary, being intrusive is annoying.

Myth 3: Newspapers need on- and offline identities
Fact 3: Newspaper need one identity

The article uses The New York Times as a good example. They have one identity. The online Times and the print Times are one entity. So why does their New England unit not follow that example? You’ve got the Boston Globe print edition and you’ve got Boston.com, which are two separate entities, even if they share content and office space. As the article states:

The “special” online identity communicates: “This is not the real thing. It’s a sloppy version of the paper.” Get rid of that silly “online” or “.com” or “.co.uk” or whatnot attribute after your precious brand. The New York Times got it right.

Ideally there should be the Boston Globe newspaper and the Boston Globe website, seamlessly integrated into one cohesive organization and brand.

Myth 4: Newspapers need closed archives
Fact 4: Closed archives destroy access

Want to look up a Globe or Herald article from last year? Ante up.

Do the papers make a lot of money charging for access to their archive? I doubt it.

Are they losing out on tons of traffic (and income) that would come in through search engines like Google? No doubt about it.

Why can’t they see that?


Myth 5: Newspapers pages need to burst with stuff
Fact 5: Readers want nicely presented information

Many newspaper web sites are disasters. They obviously view the web site as an afterthought. They’re losing out. The Boston.com and Herald websites are actually pretty good in presenting information and content, but some of the other local websites, especially the ones associated with smaller papers, are a nightmare.

Myth 6: People are stupid, Journalists are smart
Fact 6: The collective is smarter than you

Was this written with certain Globe writers in mind? They writers note that using “the intelligence of your readership is far more economic than insulting it.”

On one hand you have Dan Shaughnessy routinely insulting bloggers and “fanboys” and on the other you have Mike Reiss taking feedback and suggestions from readers, and getting the information they’re looking for. Which is better for business?

Myth 7: Journalists=professional, bloggers=smearers
Fact 7: Bloggers are journalists

Like it or not.

Myth 8: The web is just a trend. No need to panic.
Fact 8: Change or die

Embrace the web, blogs and new technology. Don’t mock it. It’s not going away, and if you’re not able to adapt to it, you’re surely not going to adapt to what comes after it.

The last two points are not as germane to the discussion of sports media, but interesting nonetheless:

Myth 9: Without paper journalism&democracy die
Fact 9: Social news is democratic news

Myth 10: Newspapers need to become social networks.
Fact 10: Newspapers need to become wikis

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Newspapers all over the country (not just New England) are struggling to adapt to the new age of media we find ourselves in. Some are doing better than others. The Boston.com website is actually pretty progressive, with chats, blogs, videos, podcasts and slideshows integrated nicely into the content. However, based on the points above, the Boston Globe and other papers in the region are still struggling in grasping how to best adapt to the modern environment. Monitoring how they’re progressing in this adaptation should certainly be interesting over the coming months and years.