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.
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.
I’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.
As 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.