Last week, the Christian Science Monitor (an excellent, objective, and non-religious newspaper) published a story admitting what’s long been no secret within the American newspaper industry: it’s parent operation, the Christian Science Publishing Society (CSPS), which also publish the Christian Science Sentinel, Christian Science Journal, and Christian Science Quarterly, is US$30 million in the hole, despite cutting 150 of its 900 employees.
The CSPS is still recovering from its lost tens of millions of dollars in an ill-advised attempt to create a Christian Science cable television channel nearly two decades ago. The stem those losses, the CSPS ten years ago closed one of its most popular new outlets, the Monitor radio service (which was carried by many public radio stations in the U.S.) And during the past 40 years the print circulation of the Christian Science Monitor newspaper itself has dropped from more than 250,000 to 69,000.
Meanwhile, the CSMonitor.com website has grown to receive 1.7 million different online visitors each month.
I’ve heard that the CSPS will force the Monitor website to begin charging for access. I’ve also heard that the savvy staff of that site will instead ask for donations in exchange for access, rather than charge a set price. (I wrote a ClickZ column last February about how the donation method can be ably used). Nevertheless, charging for general news content is almost always a bad idea, even when some site visitors are church members who might gladly donate money.
What should the CSPS really do?
Yet, I’m sure that this advice will be anathema to CSPS. I think they’ll sacrifice their growing new-media operation before they’ll sacrife their dying print media operations. But what would founder Mary Baker Eddy have done the same in this situation?