Christian Science Monitor Stops the Presses

The Christian Science Monitor will cease the weekday print edition of its award-winning newspaper in April after a century of continuous publication.

The plan is to move the weekday publication to an online-only format while rolling out a new weekend print magazine.

The Monitor has a storied history and a unique place in the newspaper industry — it has won seven Pulitzer Prizes and is well known for its coverage of international news and trends. The newspaper is a nonprofit financed by the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston.

The Monitor is the first national publication to move almost entirely away from print.

Unlike the vast majority of daily print newspapers, the Monitor makes most of its money on subscription fees. Subscriptions account for about $9 million of the newspaper’s revenue, while print advertising accounts for less than $1 million.

Not a Death Knell for Newspapers

Despite the Monitor‘s decision to move away from print, industry observers say most newspapers will continue to produce print editions for years to come.

“I don’t think it signals the death knell for the newspaper industry,” Mary Nesbitt, managing director of The Readership Institute at Northwestern University, told the E-Commerce Times.

Like nearly all daily newspapers, the Monitor has been hit with a double whammy. For years, classified and display advertising revenue has been shifting away from print to the Internet. At the same time, the current downward spiral of the economy has forced news organizations in print, radio and television to cut costs by slashing jobs in editorial and advertising departments across the country, Nesbitt said.

“News organizations that are teetering are likely to take major steps, which I think is what the Monitor has done,” she said. “It’s tough at these times to keep your circulation. The cost of production and mailing takes its toll.”

Print Editions Still Vital

While it’s clear to most newspaper industry observers that the costs associated with producing a print publication are becoming more and more onerous, print news editions still account for the lion’s share of revenue generated by news organizations.

“For the vast majority of newspapers, the print product is a vital part of their product mix,” Randy Bennett, senior vice president of business development at the Newspaper Association of America, told the E-Commerce Times. “It represents 80 percent of revenue and has a solid, loyal audience. So, the vast majority of newspapers will continue to print the newspaper for many years to come.”

Prior to the Monitor’s Tuesday announcement, only a handful of daily newspapers had moved to an online-only format, Bennett said, including the Madison, Wis.-based Capital Times and the Superior, Wis.-based Daily Telegram.

“I think we’ll still see print newspapers for well beyond the next 10 years,” Bennett said. “The print product has unique characteristics to it — portability, browsability, the physical feel of the product itself, the presentation, which people value. Unless some technology comes along that can duplicate that, people will continue to pick up a newspaper and use it as a source of news and information.”

That said, newspapers must continue to adapt to the digital age, he said.

“What that product will look like, the format, the content, the frequency of publication, all those things, will shift over time as newspapers respond to shifting media consumption patterns,” Bennett said. “Unlike 20 years ago, (the newspaper) may not be (readers’) primary source of information. They’ll have a mix of media.”

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