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Christian Science Monitor's online success

Christian Science Monitor's online success

Church-funded and with a minimal reliance on advertising, The Christian Science Monitor enjoys a small circulation but loyal readership. Some seven months after putting an end to its print edition, the Monitor is still an ever-growing source for breaking news.

In a phone interview with Ponyter Online's Rick Edmond, Monitor Editor John Yemma stated that "93 percent of the 43,000 subscribers of the printed daily agreed to switch to a new weekly print magazine," and in the publication's short history, its circulation has increased to "67,000 fully paid subscribers (at $89 a year). And another 18,000 trial subscribers are paying a reduced rate."

With its web site now up and running at full pelt, page views have also crept up by a considerable 20 percent and monthly unique visits have increased by an even higher percentage, Yemma said.

More than half the Monitor's budget, roughly $20 million a year, is derived from income on an endowment and a subsidy from the Church of Christ, Scientist - much greater than philanthropy-supported start-ups such as ProPublica , whose outgoings this year are expected to be around the $9 million mark. According to Yemma, the money saved on printing, paper, distribution and a reduced staff balances the lower circulation revenue.

So what are the factors behind the publication's growth?

First of all, Yemma attributes the magazines growth to an impressive marketing scheme put in place earlier this year - which other financially crippled magazines just didn't have the means to carry out.

Furthermore, Monitor has been filling a gap in the market: With U.S. News & World Report cutting back to monthly publication, readers looking for a weekly switched to the Monitor. Yemma feels that readers appreciate the publications "straight news approach."

The website, which is updated frequently, has enjoyed particular success with its multimedia series, "Little Bill Clinton," following a young Congolese immigrant named Bill Clinton Hadan and his travels through "third grade America".

Those concerned that the Monitor will be switching to an entirely paid online content format should worry not. A self-confessed paid online "skeptic", Yemma states that his publication will not be headed in that direction any time soon.

That's not to say that the idea hasn't been tried and tested however: Last year the Monitor launched a three-page PDF news round-up, entitled "the Daily Briefing" for $7 a month. The emailed document currently has 1,800 subscribers. The document includes an editor's pick of daily news stories, ranked by level of importance, as well as a brief commentary by Yemma or Managing Editor Marshall Ingwerson.

The publication has reported on a significant number of big stories, including Letterman, the Fox News-Obama administration feud as well as the recent balloon boy escapade. They even passed comment on Kanye West's Grammy indiscretion - much to the annoyance of some of the regular readers - yet Yemma states that even a straight talking publication has time for some fun.

Whilst the success of the Monitor might not herald the turn around for news outlets just yet (especially when we consider that they enjoy the privilege of relatively independent funding) it does mean that the appetite for the straight talking news is still out there - readers are still reading - and as long as this continues, then so too must journalists keep on writing.

Source: Poynter



Helena Humphrey


2009-10-26 18:48

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