Christian Science Monitor to cease publishing print newspaper

The Christian Science Monitor will end weekday publication of its print edition next April, concentrating on a daily Web model.

The Monitor will also be adding a Sunday magazine. Please excuse the wildly-misleading New York Times headline that says the Monitor will be online only. In fact, the new magazine will cost more per issue than the old weekday publication.

The Sunday magazine will cost $89 for a years subscription, while the old five-day-a-week print edition cost $219 a year. That translates to more than double the subscription revenue per issue. The idea is to make the print product more valuable per edition (for both readers and advertisers), while also shedding much of the printing and distribution costs that plague daily publication.

Part of this transition includes upgrades to the Monitor Web site, CSMonitor.com, (which makes perfect sense). From the press release about the upgrades:

  • Original reporting on global news and events seven days a week
  • Continuously updated stories
  • Global conversations between readers and Monitor staff
  • Links to valuable content elsewhere on the Web

Top editor John Yemma said a decision on the future of the Monitor was coming this fall in the podcast I had with him a week ago. At the time, he said the Monitor was considering either adding a weekend edition on top of its weekday publishing or going to a model that focuses on online with a weekly news magazine.

The Monitor went with the latter, more logical option. This is what the weekly magazine will feature:

  • The Monitor’s well-regarded analysis of both US and global news
  • Weekly snapshots of life around the globe and news around the Web
  • Profiles of individuals who are tackling tough problems and trying to make a difference
  • Special emphasis on the environment, innovation, money & values

This is a model I have been trying to sell people on for more than a year now (and brought up at ONA 08 to the “super panel.” The idea was essentially scoffed at by some execs at dying print publications). Here is why I have championed this model:

  • Daily reporting on the Web — Newspapers all across the world are filled with old news. Print publications are ill suited to break news and to report on news as it is happening.
  • Analysis pieces once a week — Daily reporting is not always the best way to look at the bigger picture or to provide historical context. This is where strong, thoughtful and, yes, often long analysis pieces come into play. This is the kind of reporting that belongs in print. I may not want to spend a few hours reading about one subject online (I’ll get distracted quickly), but I am willing to devote much more time to print, especially on weekends. I’ll say it again, I love the Economist magazine.
  • Synergyrent a car bulgaria — Top editors like to prentend like their employees don’t waste time, but they do — a lot of time and resources. And what are they wasting time doing? Duplicating content for print and the Web. A lot of the beat bloggers I work with complain that they have to “re-report” news for the print edition after they post it online. This often means reconfiguring a story to fit into the print model. It might mean finding “man on the street quotes.” And it can mean finding ways to explain things in print that simple links do much better on the Web. All of this means, however, wasted time and resources. But if print doesn’t care about breaking news, this isn’t an issue.

I think the Monitor’s new model could work very well for a lot of publications. At the minimum, we’ll learn a lot within a year from now how much this new model makes sense and where it can take traditional news media.

  • http://www.aaronspencer.com Aaron

    Wow. Yeah great idea. Except…

    I can see how local weekend magazines would do great. But the CSM is going to have to compete will all the national weekend mags already at newsstands.

    Also, from the Boston Business Journal:

    “The new weekly paper edition of the paper will cost $89 per year. The daily Web edition will cost $219 per year.”

    a.) $89 a year sounds kind of steep. That’s about what the Economist charges (I love it but it’s darn expensive).
    b.) Um, what? They’re charging for online news?

  • http://www.patthorntonfiles.com pat

    @Aaron,

    I’ll have to ask the Monitor for clarification, but the Monitor is free online right now. They do have, however, a “Treeless Edition,” which is a PDF version of the paper. That costs money.

    I believe that is what the Boston Business Journal is referring to. But I’ll send an e-mail ASAP.

    I don’t think $89 is too steep if the quality is there. The Economist costs more than that, and frankly Newsweek, Time and U.S. News aren’t worth a fraction of that. If the Monitor can put out an Economist caliber publication, $89 is nothing. If it’s more along the lines of Time, it’s a ripoff.

  • http://www.patthorntonfiles.com pat

    @Aaron,

    I contacted the Monitor and they said it’s a mistake in the Boston Business Journal’s story. They have contacted the Journal to fix their story.

    It would be interesting to see local publications attempt this strategy. Or how about local weekly publications beefing up their Web sites? Those weeklies could publish daily online, which should make for a better overall product.

  • http://www.aaronspencer.com Aaron

    Ah. Thanks Pat. Whew.

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  • Mez

    Great decision and definitely the way of the future. But I’d like to see the print CSM eventually evolve into a monthly magazine like World Monitor which they published in the early 90s. I was studying international politics at the time and found its coverage of the break up of the Soviet Union to be particularly outstanding. The photography was beautiful and the articles covered a wide range of political/historical/economic topics. It’s that breadth of coverage that’s missing from so many newspapers/magazines today.

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  • http://atthealligator.wordpress.com/ Hilary

    It’s interesting to read this post in light of recent of newspaper print issues being sold out after election day.

    Part of me would like to see what would happen if newspapers go to online-only issues with special editions and Sunday editions. But the other part of me would bleed to see newspapers disappear from the subways or coffee shops. I guess a lot of it is nostalgia.

    And sometimes, publications do work better in print — the University of Florida student paper does well in print because people take it to class or on the bus. It’s essentially a question of form meets function.