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Strategic analysis
My Advice to Boston Globe. You Need More Than Reinvention

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Written by on April 18, 2016

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Kal Ström

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As you may have heard, the internal memo from Boston Globe's editor Brian McGrory was leaked last week, and it tells a very familiar story. The Boston Globe is in trouble. They have started yet another round of 'innovation', but don't worry too much about the jobs that will be cut, they say, because the journalism is doing excellently.

We have heard this story so many times before, with so many other publishers. For instance, back in 2014, I analyzed the New York Times' innovation report, which basically said the same thing.

The New York Times is winning at journalism. Of all the challenges facing a media company in the digital age, producing great journalism is the hardest. Our daily report is deep, broad, smart and engaging - and we've got a huge lead over the competition.

Sounds great, right? But then it went on to say:

The Times has watched readership fall significantly. Not only is the audience on our website shrinking but our audience on our smartphone apps has dipped, an extremely worrying sign.

This led me to ask:

If the NYT is 'winning at journalism', why is its readership falling significantly? If their daily report is smart and engaging, why are they failing to get its journalism to its readers?

There seems to be an extremely persistent reality distortion field in the media industry that, even when everything is going badly, newspapers are still convinced that they are winning.

Mind you, the New York Times did manage to turn things around. But a lot of that is based on very aggressively cutting costs while emphasizing their scale. The New York Times is many times larger than Boston Globe, and NYT is national instead being a local newspaper. So, what worked for the New York Times probably won't work for the Boston Globe.

But let's take a really hard look at the future of the Boston Globe and let me ask the hard questions for them. What should the Boston Globe do to survive? Indeed, what should any newspaper do in a similar situation?

It's hard to change when you won't admit you've failed

First, let's talk about what Boston Globe actually said, because it's a textbook example of not admitting they have failed. In Brian's internal memo, he starts out by highlighting the reality of their situation.

As he wrote:

The Globe, like every other major legacy news organization, has faced what have proven to be irreversible revenue declines. [...] We can't ignore hard realities, either, or simply wish them away. My own strong preference is to somehow shed the annual reduction exercise that seems increasingly inevitable here and everywhere. So I've asked senior editors to think about how we, at the very least, might get ahead of the declines, and in the best case, work to slow or even halt them.

I will repeat that. They are faced with an 'irreversible revenue decline', as in 'we're in deep shit'. And the best-case scenario is not to win the future, but to slow or maybe halt this decline.

That's bad.

Of course, I hear the same thing from so many other newspapers and it doesn't really come as a surprise to anyone. The signs, not just for the Boston Globe but for the newspaper industry in general, have been clear as day for a very long time.

But you would think that when things are this bad, something drastic needs to be done. Right? Well, yes-ish.

Brian then starts to detail the questions that need to be asked:

There are important issues to raise and explore in what I'll call a reinvention initiative: Do we have the right technology? Do we train staff in the right way? Should we remain in the current print format that we have now, same size, same sections? Do we have the right departments? Is our beat structure outdated? How can our workflows improve? Do we have too many of XX and not enough Ys? Should we publish seven days a week? Do print and digital relate in the right ways?

"The questions could go on and on. They could become bolder still.

Oh yes. In fact, they are probably not even close to being bold enough at this point.

But we also start to the see the same problem as anywhere else. Brian is almost exclusively talking about the business side of the newspapers. He doesn't seem to be questioning the editorial value, in fact he then goes on to praise how amazing the newsroom is.

The good news is that we've got an absurdly smart, dedicated collection of journalists, many of the best in the nation, that has embraced profound and meaningful change over the years, always while maintaining our values. We've built two of the most successful websites in the industry, first boston.com, and now bostonglobe.com. The latter site is not only thriving, but growing rapidly, up more than 15 percent in uniques and page views this year over last, and leading the league in digital-only subscribers-the most important metric. We successfully overhauled key parts of the site last year. We're about to launch a major sports redesign this spring, all while we confidently spread our wings with a broader array of stories and topics geared first to our web audience.

At the same time, we haven't just maintained print, but enhanced it over the past few years, with a great new standalone business section through the week, a Sunday Arts section that showcases some of the best critics in the industry, Address, premium magazines, broadsheet feature sections. I'm missing things, I'm sure. We saw quite clearly in January just how much the physical paper means to an enormous swath of our readership.

The journalism, through it all, has been consistently exceptional [...] All of which is to say: We're very good at change. We're committed to high standards. We are well-positioned to go even further.

What?... no... wait... what??

This makes no sense whatsoever. Let me repeat the reality here. The Boston Globe is facing an irreversible revenue decline.

What that means is that its absurdly smart journalists who have embraced profound and meaningful change haven't done that at all. It has not build two of the most successful websites in the industry. Its growth in traffic clearly isn't a valuable and actionable type of audience. It has not successfully overhauled key parts of the site. It has not maintained and enhanced print, and... I'm sorry to say this, but Boston Globe's journalism hasn't been consistently exceptional for any metric that matters.

The Boston Globe cannot say that it's amazing at journalism if it is actually losing.

So, with my apologies to my friends over at Boston Globe, I know that you are smart people individually, but... your journalism has failed.

This is the reality for the Boston Globe. And it's the reality for most newspapers.

Look at the trends. Look at the shifting dynamics of the market. It's clear to everyone that what it defines as journalism isn't actually what people need in a connected world. Its journalistic product isn't serving the needs of a modern newsreader.

Brian McGrory then asked the journalists at Boston Globe to consider this:

If a wealthy individual was to give us funding to launch a news organization designed to take on The Boston Globe, what would it look like?

Yeah... uh...

This is not the right question to ask. In fact, that they are asking the question this way pretty much illustrates why they are in trouble.

You see, this has already happened. And those who are winning today aren't trying to take on the Boston Globe, because isn't relevant to them.

But the newspapers, like the Boston Globe, are refusing to acknowledge this. They insist on sticking to their old market, and they want to do their 'reinvention initiative' by imagining how someone else would do the same thing as they are already doing.

In other words, the question is not to imagine a competitor launching "a news organization to take on the Boston Globe". It's to imagine how to win in a market where news organizations like the Boston Globe are irrelevant.

Right?

I have said this many times before, but what is happening to the newspaper industry reminds us so much of Kodak. Kodak completely failed to keep changing, and today they are doing this:

Kodak is refusing to face up to the reality of the world, and so desperately hanging on to their old world that they have convinced themselves it's where the future is. It's a really sad thing to look at.

When the Boston Globe says it has "embraced profound and meaningful change over the years", that it has "successfully overhauled key parts", that it hasn't "just maintained print, but enhanced it", and that it has "been consistently exceptional", they talking exactly the same ways as Kodak is doing.

Obviously, Brian is saying these things to be a good leader, and keep up people's motivation, and we all understand that. But it's also counterproductive because it removes the urgency to change, and keeps the past in place as an option.

But the reality is that local newspapers like the Boston Globe are facing an existential crisis, and the best way out today is not to try to save the past, but to pivot and become something else.

This is obviously easier said than done, but as long as it tries to keep being a newspaper, it will keep failing.

So let's talk about this.

Do we need news?

The first question we need to ask is simply: Do we still need news?

If you are journalist or an editor, this might seem like an insane question. It's like asking the fashion industry if people still need clothes. Of course we do.

And yet, if you look at the fashion industry, you will find that many fashion companies are struggling in an ever pressing fashion market. Just look at American Apparel, which had to file for bankruptcy.

The reason the fashion industry is struggling is because of two things: There are too many options, and everyone is competing on price. And to solve this, the fashion industry shot itself in the foot. In trying to survive it had to cut costs and focus on more and more commodity items, which in turn eliminated their individual distinction, which in turn made it even harder for people to choose.

This is why American Apparel failed. It is making the type of clothing that nobody cares about, that isn't anything special, that doesn't entice you on a personal level, that is so random that it serves no personal need, and all using models that look like they really want to be somewhere else.

So, in general, we all need clothes. But in practice and on an individual level, the answer is no. No, we don't actually need clothes because they are so plentiful and so common that we already have them. There is no market for clothes as a commodity, but there is a market for clothes as a statement.

And it's the same for news. But let's talk about the market.

Every single market, whether it is about fashion or news, looks like this:

At the lower end are all the crappy product that nobody really wants or cares about. Then we have the average products for average people slightly further up the scale. And then there is a rather big gap until we get to the very top where we find the truly amazing, special and distinctive products that we absolutely love.

There are a number of things to understand about this though.

The first thing is that, because of the internet, the gap between average products and distinctive products is growing. It's getting harder and harder to be distinctive simply because we have so many choices that people are overwhelmed and can't tell the difference.

For instance, the amount of effort we have to put into an article to make it stand out is now insane, and it often costs quite a lot more to do right.

But we do see it, and one place is on YouTube. Here, when you look at the high-value and popular YouTube stars, you see how their effort, passion and dedication really makes them stand out from the rest.

You see, for instance, how Marques Brownlee is considered one of the best tech journalists today. You see why he has 3 million subscribers and why each of his videos is seen by 1.5 million people.

This is distinction, whereas many other tech sites don't feel like they are putting in the same effort. They instead feel 'average'.

This also illustrates that, to stand out today, you need to do more than just create a product or an article. That gap to distinction today requires you to add something extra. Being either real expertise and knowhow (which is why we say that journalists need to become specialists), a purpose or a passion, or simply a level of specific value that people need.

The age of journalists just publishing articles and hiding themselves behind a byline isn't enough anymore. You need to be more than just the words on a page.

Right?

The next thing to understand is what type of businesses this can support, and that looks something like this:

Here you see that all the crappy products (or articles) always only work at scale. This has been the case since forever. If you are selling rather plain products (think Walmart), you can only succeed by focusing on low prices at volume.

And it's the same for news.

Then we have a weird thing, because when we look at the average products (or average newspapers), we used to live in a world where you could both succeed at scale (as a national newspaper) and as a niche (as a local newspaper).

Again, think about a fashion shop. In the past, if you made average products, it didn't make much difference on a local scale whether you were a small fashion brand with only a few shops, or a big fashion enterprise with 100 shops. The scale was geographically limited, and the advertising was published in the same local newspapers.

You could be a success at any size, locally.

But this is not true anymore. Today, if you are creating average products for average people, you can't make it without scale. And that's why so many smaller businesses are going bankrupt.

So, today, the reality of the market looks like this:

You either have to be a really amazing niche, or you have to try to win at scale.

For instance, in the past, people in Boston would only subscribe to one newspaper, which might be the Boston Globe. And they would rely on it to bring them everything they needed to know.

The Boston Globe was the bringer of news.

But today, the same people are highly likely to spend more time reading other newspapers, like Huffington Post, the New York Times, or other national news sources. The Boston Globe's role as being the sole source of news no longer exists.

More to the point, the way we discover news today is now happening at global platforms, like Facebook.

It's not just the format that has changed. It's the market itself that has changed, and Boston Globe, like so many other newspapers, suddenly finds itself without a market.

So let's about talk what the newspapers need to do in the future.

The strategies that do work

There are several strategies that work in this new world of media, but there is a huge difference between whether you are monetized by advertising or via subscriptions.

Let's talk about subscriptions first.

This is what we see works and what doesn't work for subscription based media:

What you see here is that most of the market is failing except for two areas. At the very high-end are the high-value publications that really stand out. Sites like Skift, Politico Pro, and others.

But while these sites work, they are also small operations. These companies will never be able to scale the same way as, say, BuzzFeed or the New York Times, and as such their success is defined by profit margins rather than revenue levels.

And, as you can tell, these high-value niche publications only work because they not trying to reach the average reader. They have a very specific purpose, with a very specific editorial goal. They are the opposite of newspapers like the Boston Globe.

The other subscription-based area that works is this very narrow place where you can succeed at scale. There is this magical point where you can be both random and valuable at the same time.

You can see this spot in the graph. It's about twice as good as 'average', but not that much higher. And the reason why is because there is a limit to how much people are willing to pay for random news. It needs to be better than average to create distinction, but not so expensive that it costs too much to make.

Again, this is not just true for newspapers. Look at fashion companies like H&M. It is much better than American Apparel (which is average), but not fantastically so. H&M have found this magical spot where scale and money match the market.

So could this be a model for the Boston Globe (and other newspapers)? Well, in theory, yes. But not really in practice.

The problem is that the Boston Globe is designed to publish average stories for average people. This, in itself, means that it can't be niche. It simple doesn't have the journalistic product to do it.

But wait a minute, you say. The Boston Globe is doing amazing journalism. As Brian McGrory writes:

The journalism, through it all, has been consistently exceptional. We drove the Olympics debate. We launched a national debate on concurrent surgery. We've been one of the smartest, freshest voices on the national political scene. We've chronicled poverty in rural Maine and economic segregation in greater Boston in deeply memorable ways. Day in, day out, we are one of the most thoughtful metropolitan news organizations in the land.

This might be true, but that's not how to define distinction.

Distinction is the result of the value you create for the individual, but this is not what newspapers do at all. Every newspaper is based on the same concept. They are all trying to create a random package of news, with a little of bit of everything, for everyone.

This is what a newspaper is, but that also means they are defined around creating average products for average people.

The Boston Globe, and every newspaper like them, has no distinction on an individual level. And while the journalism itself may be good, it is still an average publication.

You see the problem here?

This doesn't work anymore. It's a business model based on the old world of print where the role of the newspaper was to be the connection to the world, and where you were protected by geographical limitations of the market. But today, the internet is that connection, and it's global... which means that it's scaled.

The Boston Globe can only win with its current editorial focus if it is based on scale, and even at that it needs to raise its distinction for the individual readers.

But the Boston Globe isn't a scalable newspaper.

Its market and its focus are in direct conflict with each other. It can't be niche because the editorial focus is to create this package of news about everything, and it can't do scale because it's local.

The publishing model of the Boston Globe doesn't match any of the successful digital business models that we see today.

Advertising?

So what about being monetized by advertising?

Well, this is even trickier, because this market now looks like this:

The problem with advertising is that it's either based on high-converting lead-generation, or low-converting reach and exposure campaigns with a ton of traffic. And we see this everywhere online today.

There are only two types of news sites that can really make it work. We either have sites like Mail Online and BuzzFeed, who are focusing on massive amount of views, on as many channels as possible, creating content which isn't really that good but drives traffic really well.

This is the red bar that you see in the graph above. It's below the value of even average products for average people, in the mostly-crap-zone, and it only works at scale.

Mind you, it's not about being as crappy as possible, that doesn't work either. It's to create the best crap. It's about the stories that people can snack on. This means creating either good entertaining stories, feel-good content, or content that outrages... which is why we see so much about Donald Trump.

One example of this is to look at the Washington Post. Recently, it has been winning with traffic for two reasons.

First of all, under Jeff Bezos' leadership, it has redefined itself as a national newspaper instead of being a local newspaper, which has enabled them to focus on scale.

Secondly, most of their traffic is driven by outraged or funny stories. Here is a screenshot:

And yes, it works. It drives a silly amount of traffic. But there is an added twist to this. It mostly only works for entertainment.

Take something like LIVE video. If you want to get 800,000 people to view you do something live, with another 10 million checking it afterwards, the solution is obvious.

You wait until it's Friday afternoon and people are tired after a long week, you can come up with some kind of entertaining gimmick, designed to both silly and suspenseful... say... like blowing up a watermelon with elastic bands, which is what BuzzFeed did.

Note: They didn't even use a high-speed camera so that people could really see it as The Slow Mo Guys did three years ago (a video that has 14 million views).

You see what's happening here?

There has been a tremendous shift in the role of the media over the past 30 years. Back in the 1980s when you looked at print media, you would find that people spent far more time reading newspapers (mostly news) than magazines (mostly entertainment).

It was the news that drove the traffic.

But now look at our world. Today,, we see that content designed to entertain is vastly outperforming the news stories. You would never get 800,000 people to watch a story about a car accident.

Take a look at these stories from the Boston Globe:

It's not that this news isn't important. It's not that these stories aren't good (although they are very average). But these will never be able to compete with an exploding watermelon, in terms of generating views.

As an individual, I don't particularly like this. I am as dismayed as the rest of you about all the pointless entertainment that we see online. But as a media analyst, this is now the reality.

If your newspaper is monetized by exposure based advertising, hard news will never be the type of content that drives the most traffic. You will always lose to more entertaining sites focusing on micro-moments instead.

This is the problem we all have. When I look at this graph again, I don't see hard news anywhere in it. I don't see a future where you can be a local newspaper and still be monetized by high-traffic advertising.

There is, however, another way.

You can still be niche, and we see many great example of this. Look at John Oliver, for instance, and his Last Week Tonight show. It's also designed around entertainment, but it's based on some really hard hitting journalism. This works because, once a week, he narrows in on a very important issue and takes it to a completely different level, which makes it both amazing and distinctive.

Or look at Politico Pro. This isn't entertainment at all, but it provides very important and highly niche coverage about US politics (without any of the Trump clickbait). It will never appeal to the mass market, but within its niche, it's perfect.

The problem here is that being a niche, and to be monetized by advertising, means you often have to focus on lead generation... and newspapers really suck at this because of their random focus.

But we see this everywhere else. We call this influencer marketing. It's when brands advertise on popular niche channels with sponsorships rather than ads.

The platforms win at scale, while the influencers win at niches... but today most local newspapers are incapable of offering either.

The new reality

This is the new reality for newspapers, and especially local newspapers like the Boston Globe. It's no surprise that they are in an 'irreversible revenue decline' because the trend of the market has dictated this outcome for a very long time.

And the reality today is that newspapers need to get away from their old markets and old roles. The idea that people need a local newspaper about everything doesn't match a connected world filled with an abundance of channels.

This is a very hard reality to accept, especially for a newspaper with a 144-year legacy, a very strong identity, and an existing market that is expecting them to do what they have always done.

It is scary as hell. But it has to be done. So, how can the Boston Globe change... or pivot?

Well, let me give you one example.

One of the things the Boston Globe is talking about is a major redesign of their sports section, which is not a bad idea. But think about what I just told you about how the market works today.

Creating a sports site for Boston alone means it is trying to create a package of sports news, covering a little bit of everything, for everyone. In other words, it's exactly the same model as what it is already failing at. It's an average product for average people, designed to be so wide that it cannot be distinctive as a niche, and limited geographically so that it cannot scale.

Redesigning the sports site doesn't change anything.

So what the Boston Globe should do instead is to think about how a sports site could work in the connected world. And there are three options.

First option: Turn niche

It could turn it into the most amazing niche sports site. In this case, the obvious choice would be to focus on either the The New England Patriots (football), the Boston Red Sox (baseball) or the Boston Bruins (hockey), which are three top sports teams in Boston (in case you are not from Boston). But, by focusing on niche value, you create one site for each sport that goes above and beyond what we have today.

It's not about being a newspaper here. It's about creating the absolutely foremost channel for fans of the Boston Red Sox. This includes news. It includes game day coverage, live streaming, backstage activities, events, expertise, data analysis (including during the games), creating connections, and creating fan activities... it's everything!

And, instead of being a journalist who covers the sport with the normal view from nowhere where you just report the stories, you position the Boston Globe / Red Sox as a specialist channel with journalists who are super fans and experts themselves.

The reason people come to you should not be because of what you write about others. It's should be because they want to listen to your journalists' insights specifically.

You become the unofficial voice of the Boston Red Sox. The voice of their fans, their passion, their energy, and frustrations.

Mind you, you don't just do this for people in Boston, that's the wrong way to define 'local'. You become the best channel for Boston Red Sox fans everywhere, both inside and outside of Boston. You define 'local' around the people who care and what they care about, rather than around the city geographically.

And there is one more thing. To become a highly successfully niche like this, your success closely follows the success of the Red Sox. So if the Red Sox are doing badly, it's part of your purpose as a news channel to drum up support and make people love them again.

People need to feel that you care. They need to feel your frustration when things go bad, and they need to feel your excitement to create a community around it.

You are not in the 'neutral' newspaper business anymore. You are in the community business. You are part of the public, part of their excitement, and part of their journey. But you approach it with your journalistic expertise and integrity (which in itself adds to your distinction).

Right?

Second option: Go national within a specific sport

The second option is to stop being a local newspaper, but we still need to have some type of focus. So, instead of being a sports site just for the Boston Red Sox (who are local), your goal is instead to become the number one site for MLB sports... everywhere!

In other words, you go national!

You still have to do all the same things as before. You still have to be more than just news. You have to engage your audience to build up a strong and passionate community, you have to do live coverage, and so forth.

In other words, when people today visit MLB.com, ESPN or SB Nation, your goal should be to have everyone go to The MLB Globe.

Yep, that's right. You are not The Boston Globe anymore. You are The MLB Globe.

Oh... and I know what some of you are thinking right about now. You are thinking this can't be done. It's too big, and that this isn't who you are... and that's exactly why you fail.

Think about Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, and all the tech companies. They would never create a Boston sports site. They would go national by default.

Think about the entrepreneurs and startups redefining how to do news. They don't meet with venture capitalists with the pitch that they will create a random sports site just for Boston. They aim to go big from the start.

When Brian McGrory wrote:

If a wealthy individual was to give us funding to launch a news organization designed to take on The Boston Globe, what would it look like?

This is what this wealthy individual would do. They would not take on the Boston Globe. They would try to create a sports site for an entirely different market.

This is what's happening in the world of news today. This is what your future competitors would do. Don't create a Boston sports site. Create a sports site within a specific focus... for the world.

Third option: The BuzzFeed of sports

The third option is to just focus on traffic monetized by advertising, in which case there is really only one future. In this case, you need to focus on mostly crappy, but very funny and highly shareable entertainment. In other words, you need to be the BuzzFeed of sports.

This means that your editorial strategy is to post funny shit like the video below, as well as other types of content that are perfect for snacking on social channels.

And since everyone absolutely loves sports, you should have no shortage of source material to play with.

But, as I detailed before, to do this, you need a massive amount of scale. You need to be on every single channel, and you need to design your advertising model so that you bring your ads with you to every channel as well (so forget display advertising). This means doing Facebook Instant Articles, Snapchat and all of these other channels.

This could work too... although the future of this viral content is a bit risky. We are generally seeing a decline in value across all these sites, with Mashable, Vice, BuzzFeed and Mail Online all readjusting their projections downwards.

These are the options that are available for the future of Boston Globe's sports section:

  1. Go niche around a specific local team
  2. Go global around a specific sport
  3. Go entertaining.

What they cannot do is to create a sports section just for Boston. That is 100% a print mentality that won't work in the future.

It's more than sport

Obviously, the Boston Globe then have to do the same exercise with everything they do. For instance, why are you writing about random 'art' (being everything from books, movies, music, television, and theaters) limited to Boston?

This pretty much guarantees that you appeal to nobody. Why don't you pick the form of art that has an economic potential, and then focus on that on a national scale?

Or what about lifestyle? Why are you bringing people completely random articles with no real focus or target market?

In comparison we have people like Jimmy DiResta. He does one thing really well, has half a million subscribers, post one/two videos per week, each is seen by about 700,000 people.

Why are you not doing this? Why do you insist on creating a package of random news, which means you create something that most people don't really care about?

Of course, the big problem is the hard news. What to do with that?

The problem is that, from a financial perspective, hard news doesn't seem to have much of a future in its current form. While people might care about specific issues, they often don't care enough (or feel involved enough) to support it financially (AKA to subscribe). More to the point, the old model of publishing 150 random articles per day pretty much guarantees that people won't care to begin with.

Just think about this. Publishing 150 articles per day just screams that you never really cared about the individual story. It's only relevant to do if your business model is to sell a print newspaper package in the 1980s.

So, I only see three ways of really fixing this.

One way is to be the H&M of news. As in, a national newspaper, with enough scale and with quality level that puts you twice above the average level. Like what the New York Times is trying to do.

You will still only reach a fraction of the market (only 0.3% of the US subscribes to the New York Times), but on a national scale, it's still a lot.

The second way is to turn to philanthropy. Convince the owner of the Boston Globe to subsidize the hard news with the revenue and profit from, for instance, the new The MLB Globe.

I don't consider this to be very wise thing to aim for (in fact, it wouldn't be my advice), but I really don't see how a local newspaper can ever support the kind of newsroom Boston Globe has today, with its current editorial focus.

But, while this might sound crazy, it's actually what BuzzFeed is doing. Buzzfeed is subsidizing BuzzFeed News with its entertainment content. And it's using hard news to boost its brand the same way as H&M is using famous designers to raise theirs. In other words. It's using news to market the BuzzFeed brand. It's a marketing expense, with a great purpose.

The third way is to stop defining your news operation as a package of news. Stop defining yourself as the bringer of news. We have the internet for that. Instead, only focus on the stories that really make a difference. In other words, instead of posting 150 articles per day, post a few seriously good ones. Articles that are very well researched, seriously fact-checked, and carry with them real impact and usefulness/concern/passion for your readers.

This is what John Oliver is doing with his Last Week Tonight show. It's one topic, once per week... but it has a huge impact and it is presented with a real purpose to change things.

Of course, this also means completely dropping the random news stories. For instance, it means dropping all the news stories about traffic accidents, or that there was a fire at Boston University.

But those aren't really news to begin with, nor do they really carry any influence. They are the stories you write to use as filler for your print newspaper, but they have almost zero traffic potential online. So why write them? It is really the type of news that people need to know about?

But hard news is problematic no matter how we look at it. I predict that much of what we know today won't exist in 10 years. I see huge potential for the hard news that truly makes a difference. But I see no potential for the hard news that doesn't.

In the future, we will turn directly to the police for simple crime and traffic news (and the public will demand more from them). We don't need journalists to do that. But we do need journalists to create the advanced news. The news that means something and that is more than just a quick article.

For instance, we don't care about a random person being arrested for a common crime. But if the police fails, like they did in Ferguson, that's where the journalists move in, and that's what people will share.

This is the future.

These are the hard realities that you have to face.

Because, as Brian said, today's model is stuck in an irreversible revenue decline. And that is not just true for the Boston Globe. It's true for so many newspapers around the US... and the world.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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