As I mentioned below, the Christian Science Monitor has decided to stop printing a daily paper and ramp up the online edition instead. If the Monitor can afford to cease spending all that money on printing and distribution, why not everyone else?
Other papers will be watching closely, but the Monitor is not like other papers. To begin with, it's nonprofit. Second, it's subsidized by the Christian Science church. And its revenue stream is very different. This New York Times article indicates how different. Monitor editor John Yemma told the Times that his paper gets about $9 million a year from subscriptions and less than a million from ads. Revenue from ads sold on the Web site is about $1.3 million.
Like the Monitor, most papers derive around 90 percent of their profits from the print product, but unlike the Monitor, most revenues don't come from subscriptions (and of course at free papers like the Reader, there are no circulation revenues at all). To hang on to advertisers, newspapers do what it takes to keep circulation up; the Sun-Times, as we can see from my last post, isn't pretending otherwise.
But even the Monitor is hedging its bets. It hopes to hang on to some of that print ad revenue by publishing a weekly print edition.
As circulation drops ad revenues drop, and if ad dollars were simply following readers to the Web sites there'd be no problem. But, as this gloomy Times article relates, that's not what's happening, and newspapers are shifting to starvation rations as a result.