On Thursday, a most unusual announcement was made. In a day and age when long-established daily newspapers are going the way of the buggy whip, one is defying logic by returning from the dead. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, which last published in 1986, is coming back on December 8 in a free, online-only format.
The new Globe-Democrat will be a complete newspaper, including local and national news, local and national sports, obituaries, local and syndicated opinion columnists, comics and even a printable TV guide.
Readers can sign up via their website, www.globe-democrat.com, to receive updates on the rollout plans. Once operational, the Globe-Democrat will send subscribers the morning paper as well as breaking news, sports and topical alerts via email, smart phone and mobile phone.
A number of familiar names will be a part of the operation, including one of the old Globe-Democrat’s most prominent writers, Rob Rains. Since 1986, Rains has authored over two dozen books, with over half of them focused on Cardinals greats such as Jack Buck, Ozzie Smith, Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols. Rains also wrote for USA Today Baseball Weekly and hosted several local sports-oriented radio programs. His newest book, “Tony La Russa: Man on a Mission” was released by Triumph Books this spring.
In terms of full disclosure, I consider Rob a friend. From our very earliest days as a fledgling blog, Rob offered advice and encouragement to be an independent voice covering the Cardinals. He will now be rejoining the world of daily St. Louis sports coverage personally.
Not only is Rob becoming the Globe's sports editor and baseball writer, it is going to be a family affair. Son BJ, who has been writing for mlb.com, has joined the new endeavor as the sports multimedia producer.
I sat down with Rains to understand what is behind the effort, how they plan to roll out the Globe and compete, what the reader should expect and especially how they plan to cover the Cardinals.
Highlights follow with the entire interview available in audio form below for Scout.com subscribers.
Brian Walton: Should this be viewed as a direct attack on the Post-Dispatch?
Rob Rains: “No, I don’t think so. It’s like any other endeavor in this world. I think competition is good for everybody. I think there is some market here for the product that we are going to be delivering. It is hopefully going to combine the journalistic integrity and quality of writing and coverage that people expect from a first-rate newspaper. We’ll also have the advantage of all the new digital flat forms and modern technology to deliver a complete package of information to people, Cardinals fans and any sports fans.”
Was the plan from the beginning for the new Globe-Democrat to be an online-only endeavor at no charge?
“Yes, that was one of the plans from the beginning. The two biggest problems newspapers are having in the country today are the cost of newsprint, printing the paper, and the cost of distribution. With this model, you eliminate both those costs right from the beginning. You obviously have to have personnel to staff all those areas.
“It’s the future. I am a dinosaur. I still like the idea of having the printed paper in my hand every morning. But I am also a realist to know that the future is definitely going to be online.”
Without disclosing the details of your business model, with everything no charge to the reader, how can you make enough money to be in business?
“Well, luckily, that is not my part (chuckles). It is to plan how much advertising you need to support the site and the hits you are going to get on the pages will determine the dollars people are going to spend for those ads. The people in charge have an investor group and are very confident they are going to meet their goals and be able to accomplish a profit not too far into the future.”
It seems so notable since we’ve seen recently papers in other cities going out of business, stopping their print version and their online presence as well. You are kind of going against the grain...
“One of the advantages we have is we only have an online presence. If you look at other newspapers that have both a printed edition and online, their resources are kind of divided. They have to worry about the printed model and they also have to worry about the online. A lot of times, the online becomes an ugly stepsister, if you will, and they only think about it when the printed edition gets done. The same thing with the television model. With television stations there is a tendency to forget about the websites and concentrate entirely on the product you are putting on the television.
“The beauty of our situation is that we have only one product and that is the online product. So hopefully all of our resources will be directed to that and the readers will quickly be able to see the benefits of that and the difference.”
Let’s talk about your sports section. How much of your content do you expect will be new content generated by your local writers versus syndicated national content?
“It is hard for me to put percentages on that. Our intention is to have all the local coverage that you would find in a normal newspaper such as coverage of the Cardinals, the Blues and the Rams. We have a full-time columnist as well as well as a full-time multimedia producer. So our intention is to cover all of the local teams as well as if we were any other kind of model of a newspaper and pick up the national news for the league roundups and the national stories that do not appear in St. Louis.”
As you know from personal experience, beat writing is very time consuming. Will the Globe have writers covering the Rams, Blues and Cardinals on a first-hand basis every day?
“At the moment the plan is that we will have only a couple of Rams games left, when we start. We are not going to travel with the Blues initially. Travel with the Cardinals is going to depend on at the start of the season what is going on with the growth of the newspaper at that point.
“Our emphasis is not going to be on game stories because our feeling is that especially as an online newspaper, that is a lot of information you can get elsewhere. Our emphasis is going to be and we are going to put our resources into analysis, commentary, opinion pieces, feature stories… We will obviously be very heavy on breaking news, trying to break stories that we can as they happen. The other emphasis is going to be on really quality reporting and writing and then on the multimedia platform side.”
For the entire interview, Scout.com subscribers can click below.
Listen to Audio (10:27)
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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