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Digital Mondays

Posted by cwaddell under All, Media Commentary

Christopher Waddell

The easy response to the National Post’s announcement today that it won’t print papers on Mondays for July and August is to say that it’s the first step in the paper’s demise. That’s been a  frequent prediction that so far hasn’t turned out to be true. In the interim though, the Post is trying an interesting experiment that deserves to be watched closely as it could help answer some questions about the future of newspapers.

On Mondays this summer the paper will appear just on the web. In the past the Post has not published a print edition on holidays Mondays but you could read a digital version if you were a print subscriber.

Newspapers in the United States are trying various models of print and web publication and it is encouraging to see more of that experimentation come to Canada. (CanWest already does digital editions of its metropolitan papers but not in place of a print edition.) So far Canadians have proven more loyal to newspapers and we also have greater broadband access than in the U.S.  So the results of newspaper web experiments in the U.S. can’t be directly transposed to Canada.

What might the Post’s experiment reveal – quite a lot.

Start with will web site visits rise on Mondays when there is no paper and how much will they go up?  How easily will subscribers adapt to reading a paper online and if they can be persuaded to switch to online on Mondays, what about the rest of the week?

The big question though is how much advertising does a newspaper have to sell to be profitable if it reduces capital investment and daily costs of newsprint, printing and distribution? Is there a new balance that could emerge between print and online in the way the Christian Science Monitor in the United States has eliminated print editions during the week but kept a weekend print version of the paper?

I hope the Post will share with its readers in September what worked and what didn’t on digital Mondays.

Christopher Waddell is associate director of the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University and a former reporter, Ottawa bureau chief, national editor and associate editor of the Globe and Mail and a former CBC-TV parliamentary bureau chief and executive producer-news specials for CBC TV News.