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Newsonomics: On end games and end times
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Feb. 18, 2014, 12:34 p.m.

That’s one of the takeaways from this long profile of the John Henry-era Globe by Jason Schwartz in Boston Magazine. The Globe famously split its web presence in 2011 into a completely free Boston.com and a mostly hard-paywalled BostonGlobe.com. Stories that appear in the newspaper (with a few exceptions) only appear on BostonGlobe.com, while Boston.com is the land of slideshows, blogs, wire stories, and weather.

Meanwhile, changes are afoot at sister site BostonGlobe.com. Around the same time as the Boston.com relaunch, Boston Globe.com will switch from a hard-paywall model, where all Globe content is behind the curtain, to a New York Times–style metered model, where readers will be given a certain number of free stories each month before being asked to pay. “It was being talked about before he came, but his presence accelerated it,” [Globe DME for multimedia Bennie] DiNardo says.

The bigger shift is in a new design for Boston.com, which has been in the works for a long time — I remember seeing an early version of it two and a half years ago — and which now aims to be out in the next six weeks or so.

Inside the Globe, Boston.com is regarded as a great, underutilized asset. Publisher Chris Mayer’s plan was to slowly separate the site from BostonGlobe.com, but as Globe execs have continuously pulled Globe material away from Boston.com over the past three years, the site has suffered, losing both its sense of purpose and traffic. The Boston Business Journal has reported that, between 2010 and 2012, page views plummeted 24 percent, from 188 million to 143 million, according to the sale book on the Globe commissioned by the Times Company. Globe editors refute those numbers, though, and say that an uptick in mobile users has pushed traffic up from last year.

The vision for the new Boston.com is to be, as Henry puts it, “a phone-first website” and totally independent of the Globe—something like a mixture of the Huffington Post with BuzzFeed. He’s dropped in on several meetings and made additional visits to the Boston.com boiler room.

Schwartz also outlines a coming investment in content-specific verticals — the Catholic one that’s been reported elsewhere (and which strikes me as a very good idea), a local tech site built on The Hive that would seem to compete with folks like Xconomy and BostInno, and maybe future sites built around education and medicine.

There’s lots of great stuff in there, of interest to both Bostonians and people who care about the evolution of newspapers, but there’s also one detail I can’t resist including. One of the other bidders for the Globe was a group led by Doug Manchester, who owns U-T San Diego (née The San Diego Union-Tribune).

“Do you have any idea what it was like to sit in a conference room at a downtown hotel, day after day, eating God-awful catered food,” [Globe editor Brian McGrory] continues, “sitting there with people who you know just wanted to cut the living bejesus out of the place that you love the second they got their hands on us? And you had to be polite, you had to be informative, and these meetings stretched on forever, five, six hours at a time—most of the time I got so bored I just had to leave.”

During the U-T San Diego presentation, people who were in the room attest, Manchester at one point instructed McGrory to call him “Papa Doug.” McGrory did not call him Papa Doug.

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