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April 7, 2016, 2:58 p.m.
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LINK: dankennedy.net  ➚   |   Posted by: Ricardo Bilton   |   April 7, 2016

On the same day that Mashable announced a strategic refocus away from hard news, The Boston Globe says it’s doing some refocusing of its own.

The Globe is laying the groundwork for “a no-sacred-cows analysis” of its newsroom and print business, according to a new memo from editor Brian McGrory. The Globe’s “ reinvention initiative” will explore how the Globe can rethink both its internal production processes (“Is our beat structure outdated?”) to bigger questions about its print operations (“Should we publish seven days a week? Do print and digital relate in the right ways?”).

The initiative was sparked by what McGrory calls “irreversible revenue declines” at the Globe (and the entire industry) over past few years, which have sparked annual layoffs and buyouts at the paper. (The Globe cut two dozen part-time and full-time staffers just last October.)

“There’s far too much good that goes on at this organization on a moment-by-moment basis to allow ourselves to be consumed by what’s wrong with the industry,” McGrory wrote in the memo, which was obtained by our friend Dan Kennedy. “But 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.”

The Globe has tried its hand at a variety of digital-only initiatives over the past few years, to varying degrees of success. It won applause for launching one of the industry’s first responsive websites, though it can feel a little creaky in places five years later. Boston.com, the free half of its two-site strategy, has had its struggles both technical and editorial. Last month, it stopped funding Crux, its standalone Catholic news site, which had a niche focus and audience but little revenue success. It’s too early to say whether Stat, its new life sciences site, will suffer the same fate.

On the flip side, the Globe has amassed more then 60,000 digital-only subscribers — the largest total for any local or regional U.S. daily newspaper, by some margin — and has some success increasing revenue from those readers.

Here’s some of the memo, the entirely of which you can find on Kennedy’s site.

It’s time to bring everyone up to date on a series of conversations I’ve initiated among senior editors over the past couple of months, conversations intended to lay the groundwork for a no-sacred-cows analysis of our newsroom and what the Globe should look like in the future. It’s also time to get the room fully involved in the process.

You know it as I know it: The Globe, like every other major legacy news organization, has faced what have proven to be irreversible revenue declines. The revenue funds our journalism. The declines have mandated significant cuts over the past dozen years.

There’s far too much good that goes on at this organization on a moment-by-moment basis to allow ourselves to be consumed by what’s wrong with the industry. But 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. To help shape the discussion, consider this question: 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?

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 work flows 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?

Kennedy is tweeting some ideas, including a native mobile app and folding Boston.com, shifting much of its content into BostonGlobe.com.

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