Okay, I understand all the consternation at the Boston Globe. It's actually losing money, joining what I suspect will become a not-very-exclusive club over the next several years. Its owner, the New York Times is trying to tie future union pay increases to revenue increases, and unions and the Times are skirmishing over this question: if revenue and pay are tied, should revenues from Boston.Com, the Globe's web presence, be included?
Into this breach has leapt Jack Welch. GE Genius, mover of men, women and cash flow. He's told the Times he'd like to buy the struggling property and set things right, though he's offered but $600 million for a property the Times paid $1.1 billion now for in 1993. The Times has rejected him and a sale -- for now.
If you want to see how fundamental are the problems of the Globe, in some senses a proxy for slow-motion destruction of the American newspaper industry, just start with the Boston.Com site and one basic thing that people like to do on the web.
Let's say you want to see how the Globe itself has covered the Jack Welch-Seeks-the-Globe story.
Go to site, and slip "Jack Welch" into the search box, right? Uhhhhhhhhh, but where's the search box? Must be here at the top of the page somewhere. After all, search is #2 thing people do on the web, after e-mail, followed by newsreading. And, search is what the web is about, right, not reading just the re-purposed newspaper stories editors have squeezed onto the little-bitty web page.
Start scrolling. Keep going.
Go past the TJ Maxx and Brandeis University ads.
Ah, a search box....but only to access "26,000 jobs". That's right, a way for me to help the Globe monetize its highest-profit advertising, recruitment. But, thanks, I already have a job. Now, what about Jack Welch?
Finally, past a feature on Greenland icebergs, day-old-stock-market averages, a big, honking ad for Cingular and much more, a search box! It's just above the bottom of the way-long page, just above a friendly reminder to subscribe to the print Globe.
It's enough to leave any lover of journalism sputtering. No search box near the top of the page. Maybe in 1996, but 2006? A stranger from another planet might think the paper, and the industry, had a death wish. And what do you think those boys and girls at Yahoo and Google think when they look at newspaper company web pages?
When Jack Welch, Ron Burkle, Eli Broad, David Geffen or new Philly owner Brian Tierney peer into this glorious industry, they may see trophies. But as Tierney is finding out in Philadelphia, they had better plan on time needed to remove the sometimes-tarnished thinking.