How John Henry should fix the epic stupidity of the Boston Globe

Liverpool Football club's co-owner, John Henry, arrives to watch a team training session at their Melwood Training Ground in Liverpool, north-west England, on November 3, 2010. Liverpool are set to play Napoli in a UEFA Europa League football match on November 4. AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images

The Boston Globe has managed to survive the inescapable digital transformation of the world, only to destroy itself in spectacularly shortsighted analog fashion.

Like all media, the Globe faces digital disruption. But from the innovative launch of Boston.com in 1995 to the responsive-design works-on-all-devices site of today, its digital steps have been clever and effective. The paper’s a lot thinner than it used to be, but its mainstay features have remained: the tenacious investigative reporting (as highlighted in the movie Spotlight), the comprehensive and witty sports pages, the local politics and tech coverage, and most of all, the unique understanding of the jambalaya that is living in Boston.

globe zip codesBoston Red Sox owner John Henry bought the paper in 2013. Since then it’s added national health care coverage, a section on local politics, and a dedicated site on Boston Tech. It’s a smart paper.

And it just did something dumb. It changed home delivery services and totally fucked it up.

After three days in which many print subscribers got no papers at all, the Globe published this on its site (I’ve highlighted the lame-ass parts in bold italic):

To our loyal subscribers, thank you for your patience. This week, we are transitioning home delivery partners which is causing disruption to our delivery service. This disruption is not unexpected, as the transition involves the hiring and deployment of approximately 600 drivers. But it is necessary and will assure a higher level of delivery and customer service over the long term.

Here’s what not to do if your customers are seething. Don’t thank Bostonians for patience that they legendarily do not have, especially when you’ve just admitted in backhand fashion that the screwup was “not unexpected.” Don’t fail to take responsibility with weasel words like “is causing disruption.” And don’t tell us everything is going to be awesome. We’re from Boston. We hear shit like that all the time from the Red Sox and the politicians and we know better. Hey, we’re still sore about the Big Dig, and it’s been 10 years.

Allow me to write what you should have said:

Hi. I’m John Henry and I’m wicked sorry I fucked up your paper delivery.

I thought I could save some money with a new delivery service. I expected it to be bad. It was even worse than I thought.

I’m sorry you’ve gone most of a week without your paper. I know it’s a digital world, but I also know a lot of you like to hold the paper in your hand and curse the Celtics and Donald Trump while you drink your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. I’ve messed with a sacred ritual, and that was a mistake.

I’m sorry our customer service phone lines have been giving out nothing but busy signals for three days. If I’d thought this through, I would have upgraded that system before making this change.

globe customer service siteI’m sorry that our customer service site is so lame, that when you click on the button to complain, it just glows instead of showing you that something happened. Should have fixed that ahead of time, too.

I’m sorry that it took our own paper three days to publish an article about it.

globe good to see youAs you know, I’m very rich. So I’m going to make this up to you.

Effective immediately, Red Sox tickets will be half price for Boston Globe print subscribers. And the first 1,000 people to reach me will get a free trip to Fort Myers, Florida to watch spring training games. Yes, that means escaping Boston in February.

For those of you who are Sox fans, I also want to let you know that I traded lazy washed-up loser Hanley Ramirez to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Paul Goldschmidt. They tell me he’s the best first baseman out there. I had to give the Diamondbacks $250 million to do it, but consider it my penance.

I’ve also funded my own SuperPAC dedicated to bringing down Donald Trump.

Finally, I’ve offered to bring back any delivery person who will still work with me.

I’m looking forward to winning your trust in the New Year. Your Globe will be back on your porch if I have to deliver it myself.

Thanks. Your friend, John.

Follow up, one week into the crisis: Why digital disruption is not the cause of the Globe’s problems.

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  1. Sorry, but this statement “…from the innovative launch of Boston.com in 1995 to the responsive-design works-on-all-devices site of today, its digital steps have been clever and effective…” is fundamentally untrue.

    The Boston Globe ePaper app is an unmitigated disaster: frequently late, slow to load, often unreadable all the way through. Plus it provides no ability to comment or interact with other readers as most normal newspaper apps now do. Just go read all the reviews on the iTunes App Store–pretty much everyone hates it.

    What’s worse, the Globe provides no recourse for disgruntled digital readers. At least when your newspaper fails to show up on your doorstep they credit your account. A failed, blotchy, 100% blurry download nets you nothing other than a shrug from their soulless customer service department and a vague directive to “try the web version.”

    If I still lived in Boston I would have reverted to the home delivery version by now. But apparently they’re taking that option down the same disastrous road.

  2. The worst part of what the Globe is trying to say as a way to improve service it such a lie.

    The fact is they only made the change to save money, had it been for better service they would never ever make such a large change without a solid transition plan.

    It would have been better to admit the made the changes to keep cost down for the long term viability of the Boston Globe.

    But no they lied and tried to skirt it as improved customer service. Such bullshit.

    They also did not mention all the drivers and employees they helped lose their job or make less money for doing more.

    Time for the Boston Herald!!

  3. Just received this by email:

    Dear Subscriber,

    We know that you have reached out to us this week to discuss your service interruption, and we apologize to those who did not get through. We are working around the clock to resolve our Customer Service and operational issues and get your paper to your door on time.

    In the meantime, your home delivery account will be credited for this entire week. This will happen automatically; you do not need to take any action.

    Once again, we apologize. For the most up-to-date information on delivery in your area and any new service announcements, please go to our dedicated delivery change page: BostonGlobe.com/ConsumerUpdate.

    Thank you,
    The Boston Globe Team

    It’s a start . . .

    1. Yes, that email is a start — and I’m glad you shared it. It shows that maybe the Globe “gets it” and it provides a sliver lining for this story. Now, if he really can trade Ramirez, that would make everything OK.

  4. No the Globe doesn’t get it. Even before they have completely resolved the home delivery issue they have updated their ePaper app to a version that seems to not work. Every re owe in the iTunes App Store is negative. The topping on this rant they will stop delivery content to the previous version the end on the month. They are forcing you to update to the new version…. The one that doesn’t work. Excellent service in every area.

  5. All your statements about how you’re working around the clock to fix delivery problems are now very old and ridiculous and after 5 1/5 weeks I still have not received a single copy of the Globe. Shall I email the Herald or Jim Braude, both of whom have paid more attention to your problems than you have? If you’re really worried about fewer and fewer people reading newspapers you would fix your delivery problems.
    Naturally, after about a week of missed deliveries (about 4 weeks ago), I received a bill for a full month. You can understand why I’m feeling cynical about your miserable and inept efforts and the malarkey you keep repeating.

  6. Ok so now we’re approaching the end of March and still NO Sunday Boston Globe! It has now been three months. The so-called coupons that we are supposed to use when we don’t receive our paper don’t work….at least in So. NH. Is there by solution in sight? Just please let me know one way or the other so I can plan accordingly.