Monday, September 12, 2011

The new Will a print-like experience work for online/mobile?

(Note: A version of this post appeared in comment form on Universal Hub) Let me preface this post by saying that I haven't tried the new site yet, other than to look at the front page (see screenshot, below). It's definitely a clean, print-like interface, but I couldn't get any further -- I attempted to log in so using my existing credentials (which are supposed to work - " users or Boston Globe subscribers can use their existing registered e-mail and password here. ") but didn't accept them. There is no password recovery feature for at the moment; you are instead routed to a live customer service chat app but no agent appears ... I imagine because quite a few people have support issues right now, on the first day of the launch.

Still, based on what's been stated publicly about the site and its business model, I can make some observations. I believe will have a tough time gaining traction as long as a significant amount of supposedly premium content remains freely available on its internal competitor -- (and the mobile app). For instance, I am looking at "David Ortiz says now is the time to panic" for free on both. I know when I come back tomorrow there will be more free content, so why should I start paying $4 per week to see it formatted differently on

I suppose the New York Times Company (parent of the Globe) could cut off the spigot of free content on, but it's easy enough to find commodity news (sports, crime, weather, etc.) elsewhere for free, including,, the local TV station sites, etc.

Cutting off free content would also hurt in the long run, in terms of page views/display ad revenue as well as mindshare. Once readers have decamped for other sources of online content, it's hard to get them back.

The Boston Globe's publisher may argue that they are targeting a different demographic -- people who like print and actually have the time to spend 30 minutes with the site every day. But that is surely not a good long-term strategy. It's a small potential audience, probably a fraction of the Globe's current print readership who are willing to shell out extra to look at it on a tablet/smartphone/browser. The potential audience may get bigger as more print subscribers get smartphones and tablets, but keep in mind that those people will also start to use their devices to install information and entertainment apps from other sources, which further lessens the attractiveness of Why subscribe, when there are so many other things to do and see on the device?

What could work for the In my opinion, the editors have to have concrete plans for truly original content -- information, community, tools, and even entertainment that can't be found anywhere else. Another strategy could involve working with local merchants to offer products, services, and discounts that can't be found anywhere else. If I knew that my $4/week subscription could consistently bring me more valuable benefits or savings at shops, supermarkets, service providers, auto dealerships, etc., I might be willing to subscribe.

I'll be curious to try out the site once the login issues are worked out.

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