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Boston Globe to Split into Free and Paid Sites

  |  October 1, 2010   |  Comments

Fifteen-year-old Boston.com will incorporate social media and even more shopping and classifieds.

The Boston Globe will divide its digital presence, pumping up 15-year-old Boston.com with social media and even more shopping and classifieds, while putting most newspaper content behind a paywall at BostonGlobe.com. Subscribers to the print edition will also be able to access BostonGlobe.com at no additional charge, while a digital-only subscription will be available at a yet-to-be-determined rate.

The Boston Globe is wholly owned by The New York Times Company, which earlier this year announced it would begin charging for online reading of some New York Times content in 2011, following the example of the Wall Street Journal.

While the company took a careful look at the experiences of other newspapers instituting paid access, Bob Powers, VP of marketing and communications, said that the Boston Globe is in a unique position because Boston.com already is somewhat of a separate brand, with an audience that includes some who are interested in breaking news and entertainment but not the entire contents of the newspaper. Boston.com was an early Internet presence that evolved in parallel to the newspaper.

"It was separate from the Boston Globe in its original conception, including it but also other content and functionality. That was in a large degree a secret to its success," Powers said. Going forward, Boston.com will aggregate news, sports, weather and entertainment from a variety of sources, as well as limited access to journalism. "It will be more of a portal to the city."

Pushing each brand in separate directions could make each of them stronger, Powers said. The look and feel of BostonGlobe.com will more resemble the print newspaper, with fewer and less intrusive ads and a more elegant design that may appeal to brand advertisers.

At the same time, Powers said, Boston.com will add more transactional capabilities and also social media applications that he would not specify.

Soon, Boston.com will introduce user registration; combined with paid registration for BostonGlobe.com, this will let advertisers target by demographics and behavior across both properties.

According to the World Association of Newspapers, while consumers remain unwilling to pay for content, newspapers have a small core of approximately 10 percent of loyal readers who will pay.

"We did test to see willingness to pay and were encouraged by that, as well as by the desire of current subscribers to have a digital experience of The Globe that's very different than the one they have now," Powers said. He expects to maintain and even expand traffic on Boston.com with additional features and functionality.

Gannett, Tribune Co. and Hearst all offer digital marketing services that enable local advertisers to benefit from newspaper websites and social media. Powers said, "We've looked into it and haven't made a decision -- but that does look like an interesting option."



Susan Kuchinskas

Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.

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