Twenty years ago, my mornings began with a little yellow on the front door. Quickly bending at the waist, I retrieved my coveted prize, a neatly folded Boston Globe. The Globe was an integral part of my mornings, as was my “big – regular” Dunkin Donuts coffee. I would repeat my coffee and newspaper ritual seven days a week, with a special appreciation for both the size and substance of the Boston Sunday Globe, packed with news, politics, sports, and usually big real estate, search help, cars and classified ads. sections. Some Sundays, it seemed as if the Globe weighed five pounds when removed from its customary and customary position at the front door. And at the time, The New York Times bought the prestigious Boston Globe, for more than a billion dollars, less than a decade before a traditional industry vs. Paradigm shift on the Internet.
Times, technology and habits have changed, for me and for most Bostonians. As the Internet became more ubiquitous, the Globe became thinner and less substantial. Initially, I moved to delivery three days a week, then only on Sundays. A few years later, I stopped the Globe altogether, opting for the Sunday Times for a few more years. I was saddened by the cancellation call, I would miss reading the Globe and thought it was an excellent publication that I have enjoyed for decades.
Fast forward to today, when the New York Times announced that it has “agreed to sell The Boston Globe and its other New England media properties to John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox” for $70 million, a drop prolific in value, as The Times bought the Globe in 1993 for $1.1 billion. The Globe, like most newspapers, has seen a precipitous drop in advertising revenue. As newspaper ads dwindled, they moved to the Internet, providing huge revenue streams for Google and other search engines, websites, and more recently, social media.
I hope that both The Globe and The Times find a model that works for them. Reporting from reputable news sources is an important check and balance in our democracy, and both organizations have provided some glowing, if not revealing, investigative reports. The probability that any traditional newspaper distribution model will work well in the future seems low. After all, cutting down trees, processing them into paper, printing and folding them, loading them onto trucks, and delivering them to homes seems pretty absurd today, akin to the challenges of the US Postal Service delivering physical mail from Maine to Hawaii for less than 50 cents.
The only constant is change, and The Globe and The Times are trying to change with the times. As with many Bostonians and the rest of the world, widespread, immediate (and often free) Internet-based news is replacing traditional newspapers. This trend is unlikely to abate anytime soon. And while I would have bet against it, I also switched to Starbuck’s coffee, eschewing the weaker Dunkin Donuts coffee offered at my old coffee shop in favor of a more robust Venti. Even though in Boston, many, many people still order their Dunkin Donuts coffee every morning, “Give me a great regular,” but then check their news over Wi-Fi.