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Some Advice for the Boston Globe

by Don Martelli | Thought Leadership
August 4, 2016

Recently, The Boston Globe Editor-in-Chief Brian McGrory distributed a memo to his newsroom colleagues about the current state of the paper. Outside of recent buyouts and potential layoffs, McGrory outlined how critical it has become for the Globe to reinvent itself.

As an integrated media agency that continues to work with clients to get them in the news, the team at Belfort Group knows what the Globe is going through first hand. It’s becoming harder and harder to get media coverage. We’re successful at it, but regardless, it takes creativity, broad context, good timing, great sources, data, trends and often times, good luck.

Regardless of the challenges we face in terms of getting coverage for our clients, it doesn’t change the fact that newsrooms are hurting. They are struggling with how to produce high quality content that’s reputable and holds true to journalistic integrity.

Sites like Mic., Vice, The Verge and more and producing content at a spiraling pace — and are getting the eyeballs (read: page views and advertising dollars) and notoriety.

But, since Belfort Group started as a PR firm back in the 80s and our staff is comprised of newsroom refugees, we have a soft spot for good ole print. And, being that the Globe is one of the most notable media outlets in the world and is located in our backyard, we felt compelled to give McGrory and his talented team some advice on revitalizing their product.

Get Shorter, Faster and More Visual

While reading the Globe every day is a guilty pleasure of ours, no one has the time to dig into a 3,000 word story, never mind the entire paper, front to back. The print version has to feature more digestible content. It also needs to include more visual breakouts like infographics, photo galleries or data points that have a visual treatment. These elements bring the content to life and grab attention. The newspaper needs a better visual experience, from layout to creative accents.

Stop Competing for Eyeballs

Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com are great sites. The former was redesigned to be Buzzfeed-ish; quick, hitting content that covered anything and everything. BostonGlobe.com aligns with the paper, has a traditional newsroom feel to it and comes across as the more established product. In our opinion, the Globe as an entity is competing for eyeballs. Why not combine the assets, including those who write for each? Create one editorial experience that takes the best of both assets and rolls it into one.

Let the Old Dogs Teach the New Dogs Tricks and Vice Versa

The veteran journalists that continue to prowl the city for stories can teach the young bucks a thing or two. Being able to put words together is one thing, but being able to report (ask questions, react to answers, ask the question no one wants to ask, etc.) is another skill all together. It’s hard to learn “reporting.” It is a skill that takes years to refine and master. On the flip side, your Gen X/Millennial scribe knows how to capture a story in multiple formats and get it out to the masses in the time it took you to read this sentence. The web works off of speed and in the news, speed drive success (readership, page views, video views, social media shares, etc.). Our suggestion is to have the younger scribes teach the veterans how to use the suite of services and apps that are taking up space on their iPhones. Conversely, the veterans should “media train” younger journalists on the nuances it takes to get a story that’s beyond the obvious.

Fail More Often

McGrory brings up a great point in his memo, “…analyze how we can become a more nimble learning culture, with a collective understanding that we need to constantly experiment and change, tolerate failure, and become more entrepreneurial.”

Tolerate failure…that’s a tough pill to swallow because in print journalism, you don’t fail. You don’t get the story wrong. Corrections are like obituaries to reporters. They don’t ever want to see their own in print.

But McGrory’s right — the Globe needs to innovate. They need to change dramatically to compete with the onslaught of “media” outlets now at our fingertips. The innovations should lead to new ways to get readers engaged through paid experiences and more importantly, get readers to share their content more vigorously through social media. That process creates a cycle that drives page views and increases readership.

Be The Globe

You’re the Boston Globe — THE Boston Globe — you know, Spotlight and all that. You are a leader. You represent the voice of many here in New England and beyond. Whether it be pointing out the disparities in our mental health system; shedding light on the Catholic Church’s ugly past; holding politicians accountable; continuing to showcase young boys and girls who are looking to get out of foster care and be part of a loving family; or, being Santa.

Be the Globe. Good luck!

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