Newstrack Reflections: Boston.com’s Current State & Potential for Improvement

Tracking Boston.com’s website over the past couple months – observing which news they choose to cover and how to display information, their range of content and how inclusively they report on issues, and comparing their site to other local and national news sources – has urged me to consider the quality and depth of their site.

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Boston.com’s logo (photo: Google Images)

I initially assumed Boston.com was just a lesser version of the Boston Globe, but I’ve realized they deserve more credit, due to the objective of their website: to inform Boston residents specifically. Their content remains exclusively local, while any national news is linked directly to their parent company, the Globe.

However, while their site seems to consistently cover any relevant Boston news, I found their content overall to be brief and uninspired. Rarely do their articles include any form of alternative storytelling, besides an occasional live Twitter stream or picture/video. Secondly, the way their site is set-up, they allow a lot of screen space to be filled with advertisements – sometimes ones that pop-up to cover articles.

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“Trending on Boston Globe” section of Boston.com’s homepage (photo: screenshot)

But Boston.com also has several positive attributes. Their event tab provides an impressive amount of activities happening around the city, and their “Trending on the Globe” section allows readers to read local content, but still connect directly with national and international news all from the Boston.com website.

Because they’re an exclusively online platform, I think Boston.com has the potential to connect with more Boston residents if they take greater advantage of social media platforms and multi-media reporting. Compared to the innovative methods national news sources utilize to report and illustrate their content, Boston.com is at a fairly basic level. If they’re able to develop alternate storytelling within their content and visual displays, their articles would become more intriguing and informative.

Overall, some of my observations of the Globe are summarized in these 5 bullets:

  1. They have a strong dedication to local news and report successfully on information relevant to Boston residents
  2. Their Events tab and connection to the Boston Globe seem to be the two strongest aspects of the website
  3. News reporting rarely strays from traditional text blocks and short article length
  4. Pop-up and sidebar advertisements demand attention from visitors to their site, and take away from the attention to articles and content
  5. A lack of alternative storytelling (e.i. videos, live streams, listicles, etc.) set Boston.com behind other news sources in terms of creativity, intrigue and innovation
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Breaking News on Boston.com: Red Sox Opening Day

Despite fatal subway explosions in St. Petersburg, government filibusters and NCAA March Madness results, Boston.com’s breaking news updates this week focused most heavily on reporting the Red Socks opening day.

Their coverage, beyond articles reposted from the Boston Globe, included an article breaking down the starting roster line-up and opening day live updates. As far as alternative reporting goes, their live updates included a live stream of tweets from both the Boston Red Socks twitter account, and various fans and residents at the event.

While Boston.com didn’t cover the perhaps more urgent national or international breaking news, because the mission of the site is to inform Boston residents of local news first and foremost, their coverage of the Red Socks opening day was relevant and expected.

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Boston.com’s Mobile, Digital Medium: Radio BDC

Although most of Boston.com’s content conforms to traditional structure of photographs and text blocks, I noticed a sidebar on their homepage with a link to Radio BDC – a online, mobile platform that live-streams their own Boston.com radio station. It was launched in 2012 and runs 24/7, featuring a team of different personalities. The content includes a variety of music, both upcoming and established artists, and reports news and local events. The station can be heard through the website stream or through the RadioBDC app.

The link to their radio station is here. 

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Boston.com’s Attention to Fake News

Boston.com’s unique position as a condensed, locally focused version of the Boston Globe, allows the publication to choose only specific articles and information to share with their audience. In regards to Trump’s claim of the media’s ‘fake news,’ Boston.com has continued to share the Globe’s various assertions on the topic, as well as brief articles of their own.

I’ve noticed Boston.com’s style of content is usually published in a series of short updates or limited-sized articles. In addressing ‘fake news,’ they seem to follow those same trends, but while brief, their coverage has been consistent. The topic, for the most part, only pops up within updates on Trump’s newest inflammatory tweets, or news-coverage of other presidential activity.

Other attention to ‘fake news’ included a post during the election process titled “How to Spot Fake News!” held in Massachusetts.Boston.com’s Event page content usually fills a good portion of the home page, so holding the event during Trump’s campaign may have been in an effort to present New Englander’s with methods of obtaining the truth. The event’s description said the presenters would discuss how to identify and consider fake news and whether it’s claimed appearance in media is legitimate.

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Boston.com’s website also includes a “Trending on the Globe” section, which allows readers to access the Globe’s more lengthy analyses of any articles relating to ‘fake news’.

I think considering the style and content typical of Boston.com, their limited objective coverage of ‘fake news’ is expected. Their publication focuses much more heavily with providing their readers with local news and event information, and discussing Trump’s assertions of the media is left mostly to their parent publication, the Globe.

 

 

 

 

Newstracker #3: Photos & Social Media

Boston.com’s approach to photo-use across platforms tends to be consistent and frequent. Their Twitter feed includes a picture with each post, relevant to the article or tweet.

Their Instagram account displays a more creative style of photo-sharing. Keeping in mind that the Boston Globe is their parent company, Boston.com chooses a less news-driven Instagram account. In order to keep their accounts distinctive, while the Globe posts local to international-ranging image content, Boston.com sticks to local, Boston-relevant pictures. Furthermore, their bio requests followers to send them “your great shots of Boston,” for the chance to be reposted on the Boston.com account. I noticed, surprisingly, that Boston.com’s account has well over twice as many followers as the Boston Globe’s, suggesting perhaps Bostonians care more about visiting an account dedicated to their own city and photos, rather than feature-like posts with a broader scope.

Newstracker #2: Super Bowl Ads

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Screenshot of Budweiser’s advertisement portraying a German immigrant’s journey to become the founder of the beer company.

I didn’t find Boston.com’s coverage of the Super Bowl to be anything too special – especially not for a news site dedicated to Boston news. While they posted articles and updates frequently before, during, and after the Super Bowl, their content was mostly in brief, unsubstantial posts, and often after the Globe or other sites had already released the same information.

However, I did notice two articles posted by Boston.com, the Best Ads of the Super Bowl and Super Bowl Ads Go Political in a Big Way, which led me to look into the Super Bowl’s advertisements more broadly.

Sixteen days after Trump’s inauguration, the anticipation of Sunday’s Super Bowl game between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons had become linked with the political heat of the nation.

In the past few months, actresses and pop stars, including Meryl Streep and Lady Gaga, have voiced their concerns for the nation under Trump’s administration, and citizens have shown widespread acts of activism and protest. The national women’s march, Trump’s immigration ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries, his Cabinet nominations, and other political activity has dominated the media and spread to other aspects of American culture.

As the Super Bowl remains the largest sports event in America, rates of viewership and cost of advertising were the highest in history, despite an overall decrease in viewing during the regular football season, according to Forbes. Many commentators linked these statistics with the political events in the past two weeks. Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady’s support and friendship with President Trump also raised questions regarding their relationship and political opinions.

Collectively, America’s politically charged atmosphere has infiltrated this year’s most popular sports and entertainment events to become – for better or worst – strongly infused with national politics.

In particular, company advertisements with seemingly political messages received controversial reactions. Budweiser, with a legacy of popular Super Bowl advertisements, aired a commercial following Founder Busch’s immigration from Germany to the U.S. with a dream to produce Budweiser beer (here). Many portrayed the ad as a comment of opposition to Trump’s Executive Order to ban immigrants from the U.S. Another company, 84 Lumber released an ad deemed “too controversial” by Fox Sports to air. In the ad, a Mexican mother and her daughter begin a journey through their country to the U.S./Mexico border. The full story, including a depiction of Trump’s border wall, was available on 84 Lumber’s website for viewers to finish watching at halftime (here).

While these and a few other commercials stood out as politically engaging and controversial, articles such as Boston.com’s Best and Worst Super Bowl ads noted ads that remained light-hearted and unbaised, perhaps chosen in part due to the polarized political environment in the nation currently.

Americans have reacted to the bolder commercials in a variety of ways – the Twitter hashtag #BoycottBudweiser was trending after their ad was released, alongside those who voiced support of the company and its political stance.

However, the topic is broader than a controversy over which advertisement elicited the greatest reaction, or which most harshly critiqued Trump’s actions – it’s significant in illustrating how integrated our culture has become in terms of politics, sports, and entertainment. It’s a question of whether citizens are influenced by knowing the political stances of the brands they buy and players they support, or would rather keep events like the Super Bowl separate from their political views. Furthermore how do Americans choose or choose not to continue supporting industries, businesses, and public figures once their politics have been revealed?