On Wednesday, the WAN-IFRA New Media, New Challenges, New Business study tour visited The Boston Globe to learn about its innovative approach to paid content.
Jeff Moriarty, Vice President Digital Products, told the group about the new two-website strategy, launched a year ago. Since 1996, the publisher had been running the free Boston.com website, focused on lifestyle, sport and living in and around Boston. At the end of 2010, Forrester was brought in to help identify different user segments, and found three clear groups: print engaged users, who essentially like the print format and experience and are willing to pay, online/mobile engaged users, who dip in and out, like to curate their own content, and have some willingness to pay, and finally casual users who have no willingness to pay.
From this finding, The Boston Globe decided to publish a second, paid, website, much more closely linked to the newspaper brand and experience, and bostonglobe.com was born. While boston.com remains free, bostonglobe.com is what Moriarty describes as a premium membership site, focused on top quality journalism, and aimed at the print engaged segment of users. BostonGlobe.com offers the first month for 99 cents, after that subscribers pay $14.50 a month. A year after launch there are 25,000 digital-only subscribers, and 120,000 of the approximately 300,000 print subscribers have activated their online subscriptions (included in their subscription).
While the new website was being developed, the publisher also changed the entire CMS, so that everyone now uses Eidos Méthode, which means reporters work completely platform agnostically. Coupled with this, the new website is produced in HTML5 with responsive design, so that from day one there has only been one product for all devices; laptops, tablets and mobile phones all receive the same feed which adjusts according to the user’s device screen size.
There are of course challenges, including getting users to understand the difference between the two websites, and getting advertisers to embrace the responsive design: “I hope the advertising industry will move to where they will allow their ads to move and change to fit each format, but that is not how we can sell ads right now,” said Moriarty.
By Cecilia Campbell, consultant for WAN-IFRA's Digital Media team
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