Posted by Irregaahhdless
When people look at why the newspaper industry is in shambles, the arguments that always pop up first are:
“The generation that grew up with newspapers is dying off.”
“They need to find a way to make money online.”
What seems to come up far less frequently is that newspaper management continually makes craptacular decisions about its personnel, thereby leaving people who (a) might still read a physical paper and (b) might pay for some content online with a terrible product.
(Side note No. 1: In many ways, I feel the same way about the automobile industry. I mean, is it heartbreaking to see large portions of Detroit in decay and many folks out of work? Of course. But you want to know why that is? Because, for years and years and years, auto plants in Detroit cranked out inferior cars. I drove a new Pontiac for three years before it started giving me trouble. My Honda Accord is chugging toward our 10-year anniversary with nary a problem.)
Wait. What? Oh, right. Newspapers. Anyway, congrats are in order for the Boston Globe’s Mike Reiss, who has jumped ship for ESPN Boston (launching Monday). Reiss was the Patriots beat reporter and blogger — a role that (hopefully) he’ll be duplicating over at the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
Now, I’m not sure if Reiss created the blueprint for how to blog about a sports team. But if he didn’t, he was an early consultant on the project. For four-plus years at the Globe, his “Reiss’ Pieces” blog set the standard for how to give fans what they wanted exactly when they wanted it. He posted 4-5 times an afternoon during the season, dropping little nuggets about which players weren’t present at the media-attended portion of practice and which ones were in non-contact jerseys. (Considering how closely the Pats guard info like that, it’s surprising that Bill Belichick didn’t have Reiss killed at some point. Maybe the fact that he didn’t goes to show that Coach Bill respected a kid who busted his ass and was always at the top of his game.) Even the most mundane info (you know, the kind of stuff sports fans eat up) like which numbers the team’s new draft picks were wearing was posted. Seriously, Reiss didn’t miss a trick.
Now, I don’t have the first clue as to why Reiss is leaving the Globe, but if I were a betting man, I’d say it had something to do with money. He’s going from a company that was close to being shut down earlier this year to one that has billion-dollar broadcast rights to the NFL, MLB and NBA. You can’t blame him for that.
Who you can blame, though, is the Globe. Along with Reiss, the company also had the talented Christopher Gasper covering the Pats. The two of them combined probably made half of what columnist Dan Shaughnessy pulls in for 8 to 10 less-than-mediocre columns a month. Yet Shaughnessy and his bloated salary remain on the Globe payroll, largely because the guys running the joint think his tired-back-in-1999 columns (“Ooooh, the Sox are cursed!” and “Remember Red Auerbach — he shut off the hot water in the visitors’ locker room! That rascal!”) are what Boston sports fans want to read more than anything else.
(Side note No. 2: Of course, there are at least a few dipshits over at ESPN who think that people enjoy watching Chris Berman, Lou Holtz and Skip Bayless. Note to those guys: We don’t.)
Years ago, it was impossible to put a value on what a writer was worth to a newspaper. Sure, your paper could sell a million copies a day — but how many folks were buying that paper to read a particular columnist? Or, for that matter, how many people simply read someone on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis? It wasn’t really measurable.
Well, now it is. Online metrics can track how many folks read Reiss’ stuff compared to Shaughnessy’s. And they can also gauge what that means in terms of overall revenue to the paper. And you have to think that an Internet-savvy guy like Reiss got sick and tired of leading the Globe sports staff in page views while being paid like the No. 8 hitter in the order.
So, now he’s gone. And even though I loathe ESPN at times, you’d better believe I’ll be adding Reiss and ESPN Boston to my bookmarks first thing Monday morning — and I’m sure thousands of other Patriots fans will be doing the same.
Real smart, Boston Globe. How to work it through.