Editor: The ‘Boston Globe’ Needs to Be “More Like a Startup”

August 4, 2016

9:00 pm

Newspaper cultures need to change fast in order to keep up with rapidly worsening media atmosphere. Facebook’s crackdown on clickbait today is just one of the many ways in which the glut of online content is getting honed down to a clear-cut distinction between a small group of winners and the loser majority.

So what’s the solution? Getting leaner, meaner, and faster to pivot. Turning into a startup, in other words. Those words are the exact ones uttered by the editor of the Boston Globe, Brian McGrory, in a memo just published yesterday. The memo is a response to a recent company buyout and outlines a “very broad vision statement” for the paper’s future.

More Startup Culture, Less Legacy Culture

The memo’s plan includes four work groups, set to ponder set topics over a period of two months: Newsroom culture, workflows, editorial mission, and the business of journalism. Writing under the “newsroom culture” section, McGrory explains his understanding of the questions to ask:

“It will analyze how we can become a more nimble learning culture, with a collective understanding that we need to constantly experiment and change, tolerate failure, and become more entrepreneurial. This will require more training across the room, but what kind of training do we need? How do we transform our mindset? How, in general, do we behave more like a startup and less like a legacy company as we fight for our lives?”

The questions are sharp, but the answers, as always, will rely on the specific situation at the Boston Globe and the relevant data points.

It’s Worked for Others

Staying small and sustainable by aiming for niche markets is a popular choice for successful media startups today, from Philadelphia-based Billy Penn to Breaking Media and its roster of seven verticals to cover the fields of law, fashion, finance, medical, defense, energy and government.

“Serving a specific community, or even over-serving them, then figuring out how to give them things that will create a profit margin, is the one thing that’s consistently successful in media,” said Dorian Benkoil, founder of publishing consulting firm Teeming Media, in a recent profile of Breaking Media from Digiday.

Hopefully the Boston Globe can find a form of this approach that works for them.

Image: Wikipedia

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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