WASHINGTON ? The Christian Science Monitor prints its final edition on Friday, bringing a 100-year run as a daily newspaper to an end but beginning a new era as an online publication.
The Boston-based Monitor announced plans in October to eliminate its daily print edition and become the first national US newspaper to adopt a Web-based strategy.
Like other US dailies, the Monitor had been losing readership and print advertising revenue to online media for years and circulation was hovering around 50,000 by the time the decision was made to shut down the presses.
Editor John Yemma said the award-winning newspaper would still print a weekly edition for subscribers and a printable three-page daily news digest by email but the main focus will be on its website, CSMonitor.com.
He said visitors to the website, which currently attracts more than two million unique visitors a month, should not expect an immediate and dramatic change overnight but a steady improvement over time.
"It's not like we have new flash graphics or anything going up," Yemma told Agence France-Presse. "I'm sure we'll have to struggle to find our feet in the first couple of days.
"But after that you'll see the website will start to probably look different because it will be manned more hours of the day with fresh content," he said. "Our desire, of course, is to ultimately be 'round the clock.
"By freeing our journalists from print we should be able to devote more of their time and attention to Web content," Yemma said.
He said the Monitor had cut its editorial staff from 97 employees at the end of last year to around 80 but was maintaining eight foreign bureaus, a network of stringers and six domestic US bureaus outside of Boston and Washington.
"All that stays intact and our budget stays virtually the same there."
Yemma said the downsizing was hard "but now that we've completed that and we're on the verge of making our big push I think there's a lot of excitement about us being pioneers."
He said the Monitor, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last November, did not currently plan to charge visitors to its website like some other newspapers, notably the Wall Street Journal, are doing.
"I've looked at all those proposals that are out there ? micropayments, paywalls, and so forth ? and frankly I don't see anything yet that makes sense," he said.
"But we're never going to say never if we can figure out a way to do it."
The Monitor, which has won seven Pulitzer Prizes, the top US journalism award, was forecast to lose $18.9 million in the budget year ending April 30 requiring a subsidy of 12.1 million dollars from its backer, the Christian Science church.
The Monitor's Web shift comes less than two weeks after another major US newspaper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, printed its final edition and was reborn as an online-only publication, and with other dailies in trouble.
Hearst Corp., owner of the P-I, as the 146-year-old daily was known, shut down the print edition of the Seattle newspaper on March 17 and announced plans to publish entirely on the Web with a greatly reduced editorial staff.
The E.W. Scripps-owned Rocky Mountain News closed down in February, leaving Denver, Colorado, with just one newspaper, and several other newspaper groups have recently declared bankruptcy, including the Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and six other newspapers.