NEW YORK With newspapers on the decline as readers and advertisers shift online, The Christian Science Monitor will become the latest paper to stop publishing a daily print edition.
The paper will announce today that come April 2009, it will fold its tab-sized daily and relaunch as a glossy, oversized newsweekly format, while beefing up its Web site with more original reporting and frequent updates. The globally focused newspaper also plans to create a daily, paid, e-mail edition that will include top stories, links to other stories and an original editor’s column.
The 100-year-old title, whose circulation has declined to about 52,000 from a peak of more than 200,000 around 30 years ago, has an operating deficit of $18 million, said Jonathan Wells, managing publisher. He said that by scaling back the print schedule, the deficit is projected to go to $10 million within the next five years.
Wells said that he also expected print revenue losses associated with the folding of the daily edition to stabilize as print readers and advertisers migrate to CSMonitor.com, which he said receives 1.5 million unique monthly visitors. He said consumers polled in focus groups indicated that they value the global news focus but prefer a weekly publication delivered before the weekend, when they have more time to spend with it.
The move won’t be pain free; Wells said he expected to make an undetermined number of cuts in the 125-member staff.
Two smaller dailies have made similar moves in the past year. E.W. Scripps kept Kentucky Post alive at KYPost.com after folding the 27,000-circ paper along with sibling paper Cincinnati Post on Dec. 31, 2007. And in April, the 17,000-circ afternoon Capital Times in Madison, Wis., dropped its freestanding daily edition and beefed up its Web site.
Rick Edmonds, media business analyst for the Poynter Institute, said that ceasing print publication carries significant savings, as the expense associated with putting out a daily paper accounts for some 40 percent of a newspaper’s costs.
“[Ceasing daily publication] makes sense from the point of view that you get a huge reduction in expenses,” Edmonds said. “But the hitch is that 95 percent of the revenue is coming from print advertising.” Readers can compare prices in ads and receive coupons via inserts in the printed newspaper, advertising features not easily replicated online, he said.