What Does It Mean For The Christian Science Monitor To Go Web Only?
from the questions,-questions,-questions dept
Early Tuesday, I saw the news that the venerable Christian Science Monitor newspaper was the first major mainstream daily newspaper to decide to shift away from print and focus mainly on the web. For the last few years there’s been plenty of talk about how this day would come eventually, but it’s still quite a surprise to see it actually happen. While I think it’s the right move, I had expected most major newspapers to hang on until the bitter end. I didn’t have a chance to write up a post on it immediately, so it gave me more of a chance to think through what this really means. The cost of producing, printing and distributing a physical newspaper each day is quite high. So, removing all of those costs is a big deal. The paper still is planning to do a print version weekly, which will function more as a weekly magazine, allowing the staff to dig deeper into various issues and provide a more complete summary reading for the week. Thus it will still need to do some printing and distribution, but at a vastly reduced rate and scale.
In a lot of ways, this setup probably makes a lot more sense for many people. Newspapers have long since lost their ability to be the source of “breaking news” in print. News breaks online, and by the time it’s in the newspaper the next morning, it’s old hat. The days of paperboys screaming “Extra! Extra!” are long gone. Still, many may question the timing of the move. Online advertising, while growing rapidly for many, still doesn’t make up a huge percentage of revenue for most newspapers. Decreasing the costs significantly means that the revenue doesn’t have to match, but there may still be quite a gap there, and I’d imagine some may have been more comfortable waiting for the gap to close before leaping out of the plane without much of a parachute.
However, in taking that plunge, it will force the CSMonitor to really focus in on making its website as good as it can be, both for readers and for advertisers. That sort of hyperfocus could be quite useful, as we’ve seen too many newspapers find themselves in a struggle for resources and attention between the (dwindling) cash cow print business, and the small, but growing, online markets. No matter what, you can bet that other big (and small) newspapers will be watching the CSM’s leap with great interest as they plan their own strategies for a changing media world.