Wednesday, June 16, 2010
By Dorie Clark
I don’t need to rule the whole planet—just the Globe. The Boston Globe, that is. As a former journalist, it’s a favorite parlor game among my media-savvy friends: What would we do to stop the freefall and inject a little mojo back into New England’s paper of record? Purging myself of sentimentality and whipping out the green eyeshades, here are my solutions:
1) Finally admit you’re owned by the Times. It’s embarrassing, I know. But the Globe has been owned by the New York Times for quite a while now. There’s no sense wasting those synergies. It was sad—the end of an era—when the Globe shuttered its international bureaus. In the pre-Internet era, few people subscribed to multiple newspapers—the Globe did need to “do it all” for New England readers. But these days, it’s easy to go directly to the pre-eminent sources (you can check Times coverage on your iPhone while you’re standing in line). So give up the ghost and let the Times do the heavy lifting on national and international news. Bye-bye, DC Bureau—hello, Times reprints.
2) Embrace the local. To survive in any meaningful way, the Globe needs to swallow its ego and recognize that its future is a lot less New York Times and a lot more Somerville Journal. There’s still a hunger for well-reported Metro Boston area news. So—to use a New York Times-ism—“flood the zone.” Take your staff off national news, movie reviews, anything New York can do, and put them on the city beat. The Globe has tried this a bit—but random blogs about Prop 2 ½ overrides won’t cut it. Make the Globe the definitive source of Metro news.
3) Rein in your columnists. The Globe has long been criticized for its top-heavy roster of star columnists. A few buyouts later, the ranks have thinned—but not enough! Sure, they’ll go ballistic, but you need to forbid them from opining about national issues. Guess what: Tom Friedman and Paul Krugman are, for better or worse, the voices readers turn to on national issues. Stick to your knitting, and keep sticking those needles into State House hacks, where they have a real impact.
4) Know who your competition is. Quick answer: it’s not the Times. Not anymore. The old concept of the “great regional newspaper” is dead. There are a handful of national papers—the Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, for the hotel-goers out there—and the rest of the broadsheet world needs to go hyper-local. The competition is anyone else, in any medium, who can deliver that same jolt of neighborhood info, whether it’s the local NPR station or Yelp.com.
If I were media mogul for a day, my great wish would be to preserve and protect the Globe, an institution that has kept New England’s leaders on their toes for generations. But the secret isn’t another round of layoffs or buyouts (there have been plenty over the past decade). It’s a targeted focus on what the Globe can do best in the Internet era.
Dorie Clark--a marketing strategy consultant for clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service--is President of Clark Strategic Communications. A former New England Press Association award-winning journalist, she can be reached at www.dorieclark.com and www.twitter.com/dorieclark.