The venerable Christian Science Monitor has become the first major U.S. newspaper to give up the paper while (it hopes) keeping the news. Just shy of its 100th birthday, the newspaper announced Tuesday that it will discontinue the daily newspaper next April, replacing it with an improved online edition and (I suspect temporary) weekly paper edition.
A few analysts predicted that the San Francisco Chronicle would be the first to make the move, but at least it has local department store ads.
The Monitor is facing some atypical cost and demand pressures. Its strong coverage of international news means that it has a loyal but scattered following. Unlike the much larger national dailies — the WSJ, NYT and USA Today — it lacks the scale economies to support nationwide distribution of the print edition, and also to attract major advertisers. It also has long publication leadtimes which make it hard to keep its news, well, newsworthy. It’s been losing money for years, supported as a mission of the Christian Science church.
This doesn’t mean that the other papers are immune: the Monitor is the first of many. NYT publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was asked last week how the NYT feels about the death of printed newspapers. As CNET reported:
"The heart of the answer must be (that) we can't care," Sulzberger responded, though he added that the radio, the television, and even the telegraph were all supposed to kill print reporting. "We do care. I care very much. But we must be where people want us for our information. It's the thought of cannibalizing yourself before somebody else cannibalizes you."Ken Doctor on Seeking Alpha predicts the transition from paper to electronic will be mostly complete by 2015. (Not 2014? 2016? I digress). If he’s right, the Kindle (current US market leader) has a bright future in front of it.