Boston Globe launches subscription web site

NEW YORK ( - The Boston Globe, New England’s largest regional newspaper by circulation, has launched its new web site,, marking its official entrance into the digital subscription market.

A morning delivery of the Boston Globe newspaper sits on a front porch in Medford, Massachusetts May 4, 2009. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Prior to Monday, when the site launched, readers looking for the Globe’s content online went to, a free web site that generates revenue through advertising. In addition to journalistic content, offers features like events listings and e-retail, making it a more then just the newspaper’s digital doppelganger.

While has been extremely popular, the Globe’s brain trust has devoted this new site, which it announced last year, entirely to the newspaper’s content. It was a decision sparked by its research into’s audience.

“What we noticed was that there were really two audiences going to,” said publisher Chris Mayer. “One type of reader was looking for general news and information, breaking news, anything that was happening, things to do and e-commerce -- what you’d use a community portal for.” The other wanted the more typical journalistic experience.

That realization was just part of the motivation for the new site. Other factors include the continued migration of readers from the print space to the digital one and the constant search for new revenue streams.

Hence a subscription site. All readers will be able to access the new site’s content free of charge until the end of September, at which point the paywall will go up. Consumers can pay $3.99 a week ($208 a year) for a digital subscription while print subscribers are granted free access.

“There’s an increased willingness to pay for quality content,” Mayer said. “You can see that with what the New York Times experience has bee in terms of the adoption of a digital only subscriber base.” The Times, whose parent company owns the Globe, has lured in more digital subscribers than expected since launching in March.

The difference between and the new site is substantial. will continue to get a certain amount of the Globe’s content, but its main purpose will be as the community portal Mayer referred to.

The vast majority of the journalistic content -- about 75 percent says editor-in-chief Marty Baron -- will be exclusive to One of the notable exceptions is with sports news and analysis, a result of the intense competition in that market.

“The user of is a person who wants the full range of coverage we have, who likes to read, likes to read stories in depth and likes the reading experience of a newspaper,” Baron said.

That is why emphasis of the new site will be on the content -- both written and visual -- which means that advertising plays a much smaller role.

That makes for a cleaner site with a flexible reading interface, particularly when it comes to different devices. Rather than create a native application, the Globe opted to create a site that could be adapted to a computer, a tablet or a phone.

“We believe mobile and tablet devices will be the bulk of our readership,” said Jeff Moriarty, Vice President of Digital Content. “We wanted to build a site that had that in mind.”

It has applike features, such as the ability to save stories and read them offline and an emphasis on photos and other multimedia, but it is still distinctly a web site.

“We wanted it to work somewhere between web site and app,” Moriarty said.

Despite all of the optimism emanating out of the Globe camp, the new site does raise some questions.

Given that print subscribers will be able to access the new site for free and that the Globe considers itself a regional paper, who will buy the digital subscriptions? And despite research indicating two audiences, will removing a large chunk of the newspaper’s content from affect its large readership?

Mayer does not seem a problem, citing the university-centric city’s large ex-pat population and a broad market for subjects like Boston sports and its key industries.