I woke up this weekend to the news The Times had finally sold off The Boston Globe to a local investor for a paltry $70M. And the buyer didn’t take The Globe’s hefty pension obligations. So the NYT essentially gave it away, just to be rid of it. I was there when they bought it for over a billion dollars 20 years ago. But now the business is a shadow of its former self, with circulation and revenue slashed in half, and bleeding cash. Ouch.
The news sparked memories of my three years at The Globe in the mid-’90s, in the last days of its glory as a mighty Boston institution. Even then, it was clear that an asteroid was coming.
I joined The Boston Globe in September 1993, fresh out of business school, as their guy in charge of getting the newspaper online - making the case for an aggressive digital investment and getting it done. I was the only one in the building with “online experience” (I’d helped Knight Ridder’s San Jose Mercury News do their first deal with AOL). I stayed up nights researching and writing the business plan, coming to the conclusion that online media posed a serious threat to the newspaper business.