Going Digital: The Boston Globe's Perspective on New Media

Last week, I attended a talk at the Boston Globe called "The Boston Globe and the changing media landscape: An Inside Look at the Move from Print to Digital." Moderated by Jack Jackson, the president of Boston's chapter of PRSA, the panel looked at how emerging methods of communication are changing both the business model of newspapers and news reporting. Panelists included David Beard, Editor; Boston.com; Susan Hunt Stevens, Senior VP/Digital; Shirley Leung, Business Editor and Sam Martin, Senior VP/Chief Advertising Officer.  Each presented their take on the current state of affairs: Beard and Leung talked about how editorial decisions have shifted to include online components (links, videos, chats, etc.); and Stevens and Martin talked about the business side of the house, including the opportunities and challenges of reaching more customers and advertisers.

The audience sparked an interesting discussion around the quality of the print journalism versus its online counterpart, and the panelists all enthused that online coverage provides new opportunities for rich, multi-media content. For instance, this video about the Massachusetts man who received the second face transplant is an example of very high-quality journalism that would not be possible with just a print paper.

With an audience of communications professionals from a mix of agencies, large public companies, educational institutions and non profits, the questions were heated, especially around the Globe's recent cuts from its parent company, the New York Times. The panelists were all incredibly positive in their answers and kept reiterating that online readership has been at an all-time high (nearly 5 million visitors in April, according to Compete). 

They also assured their audience that it is, in fact a great time for the media industry given the current potential for innovation. These same points were repeated to the point that they felt disingenuous.  I'm not sure anyone would agree it’s a great time for the media industry.  I'm a fan of the Globe and I want them to succeed (see our previous post on how Gen Y feels about the future of the Globe's print edition here), but I felt like they were selling us.  As newspapers and we as PR pros think about how to communicate during tough times, its important to realize that while a positive message is important, it needs to be genuine.  Sometimes, that involves letting in a little more of the negative.

Contributed by Sue Ferranti. Follow her at @sueferranti