Yet another shoe fell in the newspaper industry today as The Christian Science Monitor announced plans to switch from a daily to weekly format in April of 2009. More tellingly, the paper will focus most of its energy on growing its website, CSMontior.com, according to Mediapost.com.
The Monitor is coming late to a party already in full swing at papers such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, at television news networks, and on sites sprung from the loins of e-businesses such as AOL. And like so many of the traditional lions of print journalism, the CSM is sitting on a stable of experienced and polished writers, too many for one weekly magazine, so layoffs are expected. By focusing on the web with 24/7 coverage updates, it obviously hopes to keep the best of its staff working. However, few except the WSJ have been able to make a subscription-based service work, and advertising alone probably won't cover the wages of those top-notch reporters.
The Monitor has been bleeding money, with $18.9 million in losses last year, according to Business Week. Circulation, which peaked at 223,000 in 1970, is down to 56,000. Even worse, less than 10% of its print revenues comes from advertising.
Because the newspaper is owned by the Christian Science Church, it may not have always danced to Mammon's tune like Rupert Murdoch, but even it cannot long ignore the lack of readers. Given its narrow market, lack of media partners, and late entry to the game, to succeed the Monitor will need some help from above.
And I mean even further above than Rupert Murdoch.