When newspapers launch paywalls, they take the risk of alienating casual visitors who are surfing for free news content while trying to get loyal users to pay.
The Boston Globe is trying a two-prong strategy that it hopes will satisfy both audiences. It’s launching a new paid site, BostonGlobe.com, for enthusiasts of the newspaper-reading experience, to supplement its pre-existing destination site Boston.com.
Christopher Mayer, publisher of the Globe, said the paper had been looking at how to create paid content when it realized that Boston.com and the Globe newspaper had mostly distinct audiences.
“We feel like there’s an opportunity to have BostonGlobe.com become a destination for people who want to read the newspaper, have affinity for the newspaper brand, and like to navigate it as they do a newspaper,” he said. “Boston.com is more of town square, [with] more opportunities to participate in conversation, what’s going on—your town’s local coverage.”
BostonGlobe.com launched Sept. 12 and will be free through the end of the month when Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage New England will sponsor the site. After that, it will charge $3.99 per week. Print subscribers will have free access.
The venture is The New York Times Co.’s latest paid content experiment, following metered models launched at its flagship The New York Times and the Worcester, Mass., Telegram & Gazette this year.
The question is whether online readers find BostonGlobe.com content necessary enough to pay for it. With their core print business flagging, newspapers have tried to squeeze more revenue out of consumers, but so far only a few like the Times and The Wall Street Journal, because their content is specialized enough, have demonstrated success.
Mayer said he expects the new site to cannibalize Boston.com in the short term but is betting that new features on BostonGlobe.com will attract paying customers and that the readership of both sites will ultimately grow. Beyond the newspaper content, BostonGlobe.com will offer blogs on lifestyle topics, a loyalty program including advertiser deals and access to Globe events, and the ability to save articles for offline reading. Boston.com, meanwhile, is scaling back the amount of Globe content it runs to push people to the paid site.
“We have the largest news-gathering organization in New England. We have terrific and insightful journalists, we have stories we tell,” Mayer said. "If we didn’t have that, we would be an aggregator underneath a brand, and we’re not that. That’s obviously not of the scope that The New York Times does, that’s not in the market The Wall Street Journal is. What it is, is something in the Boston market that’s . . . much larger than anyone else in the space has the ability to produce.”
BostonGlobe.com will also offer a cleaner reading experience, without the homepage takeovers or pop-ups used on the free Boston.com. It was developed using HTML5 so that it will work across multiple screen sizes.