I applaud the Globe for taking this bold initiative. After all, as a journalist, I want to make money off my toils, too. BostonGlobe.com is priced at $3.99 a week for non-subscribers and free for subscribers to the paper. We’re in a free trial period that started 10 days ago and ends Sept. 30.
A quick analysis shows a huge savings for online over print. I paid an astronomical $600 plus for paper this year while online nets out to just over $200 a year.
This venture is not without big risks, however. BostonGlobe.com could cannibalize Boston.com, which has been around for more than a decade. With more than 200 million page views a month, it’s a BIG online franchise.
The Globe used to pitch Boston.com and still does occasionally as communal site including some other local media outlets, but to readers, Boston.com is 99.99% the Globe. Does it seem just a tad late that we are just now getting BostonGlobe.com?
Unless BostonGlobe.com is substantially different than Boston.com, it could become what Google+ is to Facebook, a distant, distant also-ran….just something else to ignore in the media space. And unlike Google+, BostonGlobe.com costs money.
Here’s what surprised me so far: BostonGlobe.com from a content perspective is not all that different from Boston.com in the two weeks it’s been live. At least at first glance: on Saturday, for example, the sad passing of Kara Kennedy led both sites. If there are differences, they are not terribly noticeable. As two examples here clearly show, the headlines can’t be the only difference.
I thought its creators would have come out of the gate showing how one could not live without BostonGlobe.com to make clear why it is worth four bucks a week. But nothing in that category has struck me yet although in fairness, I probably need to look a little deeper.
Globe online editors have to win over readers as if BostonGlobe.com with what is essentially a brand new newspaper with little or no pre-existing loyalty except for the Globe brand. And let’s face it: brand loyalty in media these days ranges from fleeting to nonexistent.
Granted, forming one’s opinion can take place after the free trial ends on Sept. 30, but BostonGlobe.com is new and has the public’s attention at the moment. I sense the editors have not quite figured out how to make them different the first time you look at them. After all, the news is the news. They look different, but many of the stories are the same.
The worst of all scenarios is if BostonGlobe.com is primarily a slug of re-purposed print stories every day (what “Today’s Globe” in Boston.com has been for years) and not much else. Like any good news site, it will need updating every minute of the day. And that’s hard in the era of doing more with much, much less.
On the plus side, BostonGlobe.com is much less cluttered site than Boston.com. It has a fresher appearance and clearly is the flagship online version of the dead tree edition. What’s more, you will be able to save stories that might useful after you initially read them. It looks and feels more serious than the more gossipy and social Boston.com. And mobile version is not bad. The Globe is also soliciting substantial feedback from readers, laying the groundwork for what a news site should be – a robust two-way conversation.
In style, they feel different. But only time will tell whether they are different enough in substance. Indeed, the audience will vote with their pocketbooks.
On a more tactical level, BostonGlobe.com doesn’t use your Boston.com login. You have to register for a new one. Logins are something between a huge pain and a necessary evil. I take that back: they are just a huge pain for we have way too many of them. So they could turn away readers accustomed to getting Globe content for free. Boston.com has required logins off and on for years to get full stories and more often recently in anticipation of the paid site launch.
Hey, free content could not last forever.
Here’s an unedited online chat with a support person at BostonGlobe.com. Did she get a bit testy or was I goading her? In any event, it did feel like I was chatting with real person who pushed back a bit versus someone who just keeps apologizing. The trademark crankiness of journalists on both ends of this conversation was refreshing.
Jill: Hi, my name is Jill. How may I help you?
John Dodge: frustrated w logins…trying to find an obit in today’s paper. Tom Schwigen…should I contact you every time I want to find an obit?
Jill: The obituaries are still on Boston.com you can log in there to see them. Obituaries are also on BostonGlobe.com but death notices are ONLY on Boston.com
John Dodge: why are boston.com and bostonglobe.com logins different? Hassle…and why does Bostonglobe.com make me register every time I want content?
Jill: As of October 1 BostonGlobe.com will be a subscription site. Boston.com will remain free.
John Dodge: I know that….but logins should still be the same….
John Dodge: So far, Bostonglobe.com does not seem to be that different content wise than Boston.com…why is that? Tell me what’s on Bostonglobe.com that is not on Boston.com
Jill: They will be after October 1 if you have a subscription to BostonGlobe.com for the free trial to allow everyone to view the site we required registration. You are free to use the date from Boston.com but you will need to enter your first name and confirm the password when you first enter BostonGlobe.com
John Dodge: You’d think they be different enough in the free trial period so people could make an informed decision prior to deciding whether to pay for Bostonglobe.com…no?
Jill: Again sir that is why we asked to register. You can use the same data as Boston.com but you do not have to. BostonGlobe.com will be a subscription service but Boston.com will remain free so we did not alter the registration data on that site for those who either do not receive home delivery or do not wish to subscriber to BostonGlobe.com
John Dodge: Oh oh, you’re calling me “sir.” As someone who’s had experience at what the Globe is trying to do, you HAVE to make stunningly easy or people will quickly drift away. I have no problem paying for the content (I want to get paid for mine), but if there are login hassles…or if content is hard to find, you’ll lose the war. I could not find obits there.
John Dodge: How about this? How fast can you find Tom Schwigen’s obit at Bostonglobe.com? I am timing you and will stop the clock when send me the link…
Jill: On BostonGlobe.com when I entered Obituary in the search bar I come up with Leonard Harris as the first listing. Would you like me to try and locate them on Boston.com
John Dodge: sure…pls. send link…I want to tweet it….
Jill: enter his name in the search bar it comes right up
Jill: Was there anything else I can help you with today?
John Dodge: That link just takes me to that very irritating login registration! ARRRGH….I registered last night but that popup provides no place to login…I can only imagine many others are having the same problem.
Jill: When the login page comes up it says Returning to BostonGlobe.com Login. Enter your email address and password.
John Dodge: ahhh…yes, I see it now….It needs to be much bigger and more prominent….readers today have the attention span, of, well, errr…they don’t have attention spans when it comes to looking for stuff like logins… thanks for the info…
Jill: You’re welcome is there anything else I can help you with today
John Dodge: U can follow me on twitter @thedodgeretort if you so desire…just tweeted Schwigen’s obit…..and tweet lots of Globe content every day (used to write it to…..lifelong reader
Jill: I do not use twitter but you can access the Globe on it from what I understand. I have a good day.
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