- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The century-old Christian Science Monitor announced Tuesday that it will become the first nationally distributed newspaper to stop publishing a daily print edition, instead bolstering its Web presence in hopes of chasing online advertising dollars.

The Boston-based paper is not forsaking print altogether — it will offer a weekly print version in addition to daily e-mail editions — but editors acknowledged shifting the focus to CSMonitor.com will save millions in addition to widening its audience.

“Within the media industry in general, I think there’s a real recognition that the … old business model for print journalism is broken,” the paper’s editor, John Yemma, said in a video on CSMonitor.com. “It’s very difficult to distribute — to print, to cut down the trees, to bring the ink, to run the presses, to drive the trucks, to distribute a print newspaper product.”

The move comes on the heels of circulation numbers released Monday that paint a gloomy picture of a slumping newspaper industry as readers and advertisers migrate to the Web, forcing a tide of layoffs and bureau closings.

On Tuesday, Gannett Co. Inc., the nation’s largest newspaper publisher, said it plans to cut 10 percent of its community newspaper division, totaling about 3,000 employees. The Los Angeles Times on Monday laid off 75 newsroom employees after letting go 130 staffers in July. And the Newark Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest daily, recently announced it will cut about 40 percent of its newsroom staff.

While newspapers across the country have been beefing up their Web sites, the Monitor is the most prominent paper to discontinue its regular print version, which comes out five days a week and often suffers from mail delays. The change is slated for April.

The Monitor, which receives its funding from the Christian Science Church, has been subsidized for most of its 100-year history, largely insulating it from market forces. The paper is projected to lose $18.9 million this year on a church subsidy of $12.1 million. The new strategy is expected to cut that loss to $10.5 million by 2013.

The transition is likely to entail a “modest reduction” in the company’s 95-person editorial staff, Mr. Yemma said.

The e-mail edition will be sent to subscribers in the form of a PDF file Monday through Friday. Its weekly print product will be aimed at subscribers looking for a weekend read, Mr. Yemma said.

Like other newspapers, The Washington Times’ print circulation has dropped by about 15 percent over the past year, primarily in single-copy sales since the newspaper doubled its single-copy price to 50 cents a day last spring. The paper expected the drop and budgeted for it and is already seeing signs of a recovery this fall, Executive Editor John Solomon said.

The Times recently launched a marketing campaign to increase subscriptions in its local market, Mr. Solomon said, adding that readers outside Washington are receiving a redesigned National Weekly edition and a new electronic edition that delivers a digital replica of the daily newspaper to e-mail in-boxes around the world.

“In just a few short months, we have seen thousands of new subscriptions to the e-edition and the National Weekly and we hope to have a positive story to tell on future publisher’s statements,” Mr. Solomon said. “We haven’t given up on the print product like some in the profession and believe there is a rich national and global audience to be tapped through a combination of traditional print and innovative new digital products like the e-edition. The rapid growth of our Web traffic validates our beliefs.”

The Times redesigned all of its core products earlier this year, including its Internet site. Its Web traffic has nearly tripled from about 1.5 million monthly visitors and 6 million monthly page views at the start of the year to a projected 4.5 million visitors and 14 million page views in October, Mr. Solomon said. In addition, the newspaper is launching a wire service to syndicate its news stories, photos and columns next month, he said.

Across the country, daily circulation at 16 of the 25 biggest papers fell more than 5 percent in September compared with a year ago, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The decline was exacerbated this past summer by a pullback in advertising amid a weakened economy.

The biggest change among the nation’s 25 largest papers was the 13.6 percent drop in circulation at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which raised prices and cut its distribution by a third.

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