Behind the Scenes Q&As

Meet the founder: The B-Side’s Andrew Grillo on knowing your audience

Emojis. Neon purple. Phrases like “LOL” and “out of my tax bracket.” These are some of the details that have contributed to The B-Side’s popularity among Gen Z and other young adults. 

Launched by Boston Globe Media and known mainly for its newsletter, The B-Side is a digital news outlet founded by Andrew Grillo that keeps Bostonians up to date on the latest things to do while also infusing hard news like policy changes.

Last year, Storybench spoke with Emily Schario, The B-Side’s head of content and lead writer who works closely with Grillo, to discuss what engagement strategies she implements through social media to capture the attention of young Bostonians. Grillo primarily works on the business side, and together, their collaboration with one another has allowed for attractive, sustainable news. That partnership has caused the news outlet to blossom over the past year and a half, since its creation in October 2022.

Storybench spoke with Grillo to discuss his goals with The B-Side and their strategies moving forward, including a membership model that gives out perks to readers. Grillo visited Northeastern University’s School of Journalism on Feb. 29, 2024. The questions and answers below are also taken from the event.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What makes The B-Side unique from other news publications? 

Grillo: A lot of people have bad news bias. We really want to keep this conversation on the local level and be uplifting where possible. We’re informative in the way that we’ll let you know what’s going on with the T, but we’ll tell it from [the] point of view of a young Bostonian whose commute just got a lot harder from it. We know this cohort of under 34-year-old Bostonians are looking to connect with their community and be entertained with our news product. It’s sprinkling in your vegetables to your milkshake. You’re getting it all –– it tastes very good, but you’re getting the essential vitamins.

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Homepage of The B-Side website from Mar. 11, 2024.

The B-Side is part of the larger Boston Globe Media family that also includes The Boston Globe and Boston.com. How does The B-Side contribute to the larger community?

We’re at 35,000 daily readers, which is encouraging. Within The Boston Globe, we are the highest open [rate] newsletter, at a 60% open rate and the highest engaged-with newsletter at 7% to 8% click-through rate. Our newsletter is self-contained –– all the information you need to know you can find in the newsletter. But we’re consistently hyperlinking, so you can dive deeper. It’s creating that deep connection that really becomes an entry point. About 65% of our audience is under 34, and 85% of our audience is under 44. When they click on one of those articles, it generally will be a Globe article or a Boston.com article, so it’s creating this funnel approach. Let’s give them the news that affects their life and act as an entryway into the Globe so that audiences that want harder news have access to it.  

What makes The B-Side appealing to younger audiences? 

The biggest thing that is empowering is that it’s led by a 28-year-old Bostonian. Our young content team is able to know stories that resonate with the audience and speak with a voice that the audience can relate to. People are gravitating toward individuals with expertise. Every latte isn’t amazing, right? There’s journalistic scrutiny and evaluation.

For the lede today [Feb. 29, 2024], one of our writers, while the Green Line is down, took four different ways to the office, so anyone living in the area that had these transportation woes can say, “I’m going to take this information and apply it to my life.” We’re building trust with the audience and serving them what they want. By being selective and consistent with our editorial approach, the audience follows.

The B-Side newsletter from Feb. 29, 2024

How does The B-Side promote audience engagement with the newsletter? 

It is a troubling reality that attention is hard to capture. People are burnt out on bad news. We’re writing with our reader in mind — we’re casual, conversational, snarky. We use a great email service provider beehiiv that allows a lot of testing that can send different variations of the same email. It’s knowing your audience and the bait to get the audience into the newsletter. We’re really proud of how our audience clicks through editorially. Each day we have a personalized intro which gives a treat, like there’s a “buy one, get one deal here” or a travel deal. Also, we poll in every newsletter, which we’re able to learn more about our audience.

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What does The B-Side’s future look like?

Media is such a competitive space that if you lose your North Star, you might not be able to speak to your audience consistently and garner that attention. This year, we’ll be working on a membership offering: a very low monthly membership fee that we’re going to partner with local businesses to create a perks program. As a member, you get evergreen perks to awesome Boston places and any Globe article linked in the newsletter. As journalists, being open-minded to how to work outside the column is possible.

Heidi Ho

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