Yesterday I read on Mathew Ingram’s blog that the Christian Science Monitor is going strictly digital (though it’s launching a weekly magazine next year). It has always been, in my mind, a highly reputable publication. However, as the Times article reports, its print circulation reflects trends across the industry:
The Monitor is an anomaly in journalism, a nonprofit financed by a church and delivered through the mail. But with seven Pulitzer Prizes and a reputation for thoughtful writing and strong international coverage, it long maintained an outsize influence in the publishing world, which declined as its circulation has slipped to 52,000, from a high of more than 220,000 in 1970.
On the other hand, I think of the CSM as one of the first papers, along with The Guardian, to really embrace the web. If I recall correctly, they never used a pay-only firewall to block off their content. I hope they can retain their high quality of reportage and make a go of it on the web.
But in today’s world of free – and instant – political blogging, [publisher Michael] Bate said it’s been getting much harder to present fresh material on a bimonthly basis to a paying audience.
Ottawa’s media circuit “was a gentleman’s club in the early ’90s and I think we wrote about subjects that were taboo,” Bate said. “In a way, we were the Internet then.”
If you look at their tremendously irritating website, it’s clear that they haven’t paid enough attention to their web strategy. From the sounds of it, they didn’t want to be an online magazine.
While I’m never happy to see an independent voice of the media (and particularly a satirical one) silenced, I’m pretty ambivalent about losing Frank. Whenever I looked at the magazine, it always felt like inside baseball exclusively for those in and around Ottawa. Plus, I’ve never forgotten a pretty despicable Frank stunt where they ran a fake contest to deflower a then 17-year-old Caroline Mulroney.
UPDATE: Scott Rosenberg, co-founder of Salon and, according to Wikipedia, ‘a relatively early participant in The WELL’ (that ‘relatively’ is so catty, eh?), has some interesting thoughts on the CSM move.