Boston Globe Bleeds Subscribers for Extra $109/year

January 28, 2021

For the past year or two, the hardreading staff has subscribed to the print edition of the Boston Sunday Globe, which also gets us unlimited digital access to the stately local broadsheet (as well as the print edition of the Saturday Globe, which for some inexplicable reason we started getting for no additional charge).

And then yesterday we got this in our emailbox.

Dear Globe Subscriber,

It’s become a bit clichéd to say that 2020 was a year unlike any other. But there’s no other good way to sum it up. It was a year in which we saw unfathomable death from the global pandemic. We saw so much of our economy collapse. We saw a vital social justice movement. We saw the most important presidential campaign in generations. And we saw an election aftermath unlike any that came before.

We also saw how much journalism mattered . . .

As costs of covering the news have increased, we are increasing the weekly rate by $2.10, effective on your next subscription renewal . . .

Not to get technical about it, but it turns out that by “subscription renewal” the Globe means “your next automatic credit card payment.”

So, starting sort of right now, a hike of $109.20 per annum.

For those of you keeping score at home, Boston Business Journal stalwart Don Seiffert detailed the Globe rate card last year.

The Globe’s subscription rates have historically been considered among the highest of any regional daily in the nation. Its website currently indicates a regular, weekday subscription rate of $21 a week ($1,092 a year), and a Sunday-only rate of $8 a week ($416 per year), after introductory discounts expire . . .

The Globe’s regular online-only subscription rate, before discounts, is $6.93 per week, or $360 annually.

Subscription rates vary widely, but bottom line for us: We could pay $556 to keep what we currently have, or drop the Sunday print edition and save $224 a year.

Which is exactly what we did.

So we gotta ask: Who’s doing the math at the Boston Globe?

As this BBJ chart shows, print subscriptions are cratering at the Globe while online subscriptions rise.

How does replacing departed $1000 print subscribers with (at best) $525 digital subscribers work as a revenue model? Taking a 50% haircut for every lost print subscription hardly seems a recipe for long-term success. (Keep in mind that the Globe’s print circulation in 2013 – when John Henry bought the paper – was 245,572.)

Or are we missing something here?