Yesterday, I sat down with my 5 pounds of Sunday New York Times, as much an enjoyable habit as well as a source of news and insight. Re-organizing the sections in my preferred order, I wondered if my newspaper shuffling was not only a fading experience but one that I was actually helping to bury. A couple weeks ago, the Christian Science Monitor chose Duo Consulting to implement its new Web-first strategy by Spring 2009. When we launch the new site, the venerable Christian Science Monitor will cease printing a daily paper.
Newspapers, we know, are on the ropes. This month, alone, Cox News closed its Washington DC news bureau. And, of course, another publishing institution, The Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy. Although the Tribune’s problems may be complicated by more than its publishing business model, even my trusty NYT reported October ad revenue at its newspapers dropped by 17.2% and classified sales dropped nearly 35%. And these trends are expected to continue well into 2009.
Incongruously, it’s not the news that’s not in demand. It’s the newspaper. When I started Duo in 1999, we were involved in some pretty unusual online business ventures. They were unusual in the sense that they were disruptive technologies. Few of them worked. And the market dismissed the entire initial online venture with the infamous bubble burst. But, as we now know, from the ashes of these twenty-first century disruptive initiatives have grown the 800 pound gorillas of today’s economy. And the products of the 800 pound gorillas of the twentieth century are, in many cases, lining the floor of bird cages.
Now what’s different about the Christian Science Monitor’s initiative is that their move to a web-first strategy has been a two-year process full of thoughtful consideration by the Monitor’s board of trustees, senior management, editorial and publishing staff. Rather than merely fleeing from the apparent hopelessness of a print edition, the leaders of the Monitor seem to be aware of a great opportunity here and are willing to take advantage of it.
Two people that we are working with in this transition, Monitor editor, John Yemma, and managing publisher, Jonathan Wells, have put their thoughts together in this video. Clearly, rather than escaping, they see a tremendous opportunity to “reach people increasingly where they are,” and allow world-wide news to essentially be reported as it happens.
Moreover, the Monitor is not abandoning its readers who value a printed paper. In a note to subscribers, Wells tells readers how the daily web publication “will be combined with the launch of an attractive new weekly print publication that looks behind the headlines and helps readers understand global issues.”
Now, almost 10 years since starting Duo Consulting it is fascinating to be helping industry leaders like the Christian Science Monitor truly disrupt their own industries. Our task is to provide interaction design and implementation to the Monitor to provide a powerful platform that uses content as a core strategic asset to their online efforts. They want csmonitor.com to be a website where you feel you are getting a trusted source of news in which you can both imbibe, react and interact with it. Those are our marching orders.
The Monitor has never missed a day of publishing-except one day a year designated by the founder. As their site developer and host, that’s a legacy in which we are honored to participate.