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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, October 01, 2010

And the walls came down...

It was inevitable that the Globe, which hemorrhaged talent in recent years as advertising dried up, would look to an option to get more buck for its online bang. Whether the pay wall that will rise next year is the answer remains unclear.

Under the plans announced yesterday, I may not personally be affected. Because I endure the "service" known as home delivery, paying extra cash to get late or undelivered dead trees, the Globe says I will be able to access both boston.com and bostonglobe.com. The latter already exists as today's newspaper and frankly it's what I rely on for most of my Globe reading, whether print or online.

But as others have noted, boston.com is a unique and powerful brand that, while not strong enough to float the Globe financially, has a power of spreading the newspaper's words far beyond the 495 corridor.

Let's take a minor example: this blog is written largely around commentary on stories in the Globe. For reasons unknown I get traffic from some pretty far flung places. If the new Blogger stats are to be believe, folks have recently checked in from Luxembourg, Ukraine and the Philippines.

A click on a link will, more often than not, take them to a Globe story, generating a few pennies, if any, should the reader be so inclined. Multiply that by total posts, and more significantly by all the bloggers who rely on Globe content, and eventually you could generate something approaching significant revenue.

The powers-that-be at the Globe figure there is far more significant revenue in putting it behind a pay wall. In a dollars and sense equation, they are correct. But the intangibles, spreading the Globe's work across the web, they risk losing something that ultimately may have more value than cash -- reputation and influence.

The financial folks will undoubtedly note the Wall Street Journal is behind a pay wall and they haven't lost any prestige or influence (nope, that's coming from its Murdochization). But because the Globe has always aspired to play with the big boys like the Journal and its own parent, The New York Times, the situations are far different -- and the loss of potential sources of visibility is something to consider.

So I'll continue to plug away and comment on Globe stories when the wall comes down. Fewer and fewer people will be able to read my links and see what the Boston Globe is talking about. I'll survive. The Globe may even thrive, financially.

Bu something will definitely be lost in the free marketplace of ideas.

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