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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    John Doe, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 5:16am

    I hope they make it as I don't personally buy newspapers. I get my news online. I hope the advertising model works as I won't pay for news online either.

     

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    Lonnie E. Holder, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 5:21am

    Left in the Cold

    I wonder whether some people will be left behind in this move. For a variety of reasons, I would guess probably about 50% of the people in the United States would either be unable or unwilling to receive an electronic newspaper.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 5:51am

    I actually didn't realize they had a print version...I've read countless articles online, mostly through feeds.

     

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    PintoVega, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 5:56am

    Paper Newspaper

    I read Google News, keeping in mind to consider the source. I really don't see any type of media that is representing itself as pure news. It has all become newstertainment with an agenda. What happens next? Choose any media; magazines, radio, TV, libraries, books, movies, video games,.. the internet will devour it all and give it back to us digital form. We live in a rare time when we can actually track evolution as we merge our lifestyles with our machines. I wonder what Thomas Edison and Henry Ford would have to say?

     

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    Rich, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 6:49am

    Good journalism

    From the Ft Walton Beach Fishwrapper to the New York Times, the problem is poor editing, republishing press releases in lieu of news, lack of substantive reporting (due largely to poor hiring), and other unsound journalistic practices.

    The CSM is surprisingly devoid of these flaws; it's a pretty darn good paper. OF course, that and a nickel gets you... well, nothin'.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 7:08am

      Re: Good journalism

      In THIS economy? It gets you almost an ownership share in many publicly traded company!

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 7:39am

      Re: Good journalism

      Isn't the CSM that black and white newspaper with the total conspiracy theory or weird stuff about how Jesus has been spotted on a sandwich in Des Monies?

      I could be completely mistaken. That could be Christian World news or something that gives a horrible rep to things.

       

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    Dex, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 8:34am

    CSM is not your local newspaper

    In order to survive, newspapers need to focus on the two things they do best: deliver local news, and give more in-depth reporting.
    Your local paper has a certain built-in circulation, and it always will. Although those numbers will continue to decline for the foreseeable future, there will always be a base audience for a hard copy. That base is also good for businesses, as they know their ad dollars are buying placement in front of people who would actually shop in their stores.
    CSM does not that local base to support it, so this move makes sense for them. I don't believe that this move would make sense for say, Des Moines Register or Cleveland Plain Dealer, yet. Even New York Times or Washington Post, while certainly having a national audience, still has a local base from which to work.

     

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    rockyc, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 11:31am

    Web version

    I think their pdf version includes the same ads that appear in the print version. Perhaps that is one of the options they are exploring.

     

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    Missing the old style, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 12:51pm

    There should always be a place for good journalism. A lot of what we see isn't fact checked journalism. Remember Steve Jobs' heart attack. I miss the good old days where big news wasn't distributed unless it was check.

     

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    another mike, Oct 31st, 2008 @ 3:32pm

    oop, that was me

    I used to subscribe to the dead tree version of CSM. When I didn't renew, they called me up to ask why in the form of a customer satisfaction survey. I told them I only read newspapers online.
    Actually it's a matter of quality rather than a choice between bits and dead trees. My local paper has both print and a web site; I don't read either, but I read the Monitor everyday.

     

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