Earlier this month I was given a chance to sit in on an editorial board meeting of the Christian Science Monitor to get a feel for how a century-old paper handles the web.
Or, to be more accurate, how a former paper handles the web. Two years ago the format shifted from a daily print paper to an online presentation run alongside a weekend news magazine. Since then, editor John Yemma said the paper has seen a fivefold increase in web traffic as well as a rise in their (now cheaper) print subscription rates.
The CSM began in 1908 through a fund provided by Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy as an international paper with a goal to not only highlight problems but track down possible solutions for the public. While the mission of the paper has not changed, the means through which the Monitor staff displays their stories certainly has.
I was extremely impressed with the amount of attention Yemma and his staff dedicated to the interactive component of their online paper. Throughout the budget meeting my class sat in on, the list of stories would often stop when a staffer inquired “how clickable is this story?”
While many of these debates were resolved quickly, I did notice a few occasions where it seemed lists and slide shows may not have been the best way to present a story, but the need for click generation seemed to be the highest priority for many on staff. Granted, a look at the website on a given day seems to indicate that there is plenty of content floating around to keep the CSM’s audience busy.
Even though the paper’s move online is only two years old, I have to admit that the staff seems to have a real handle on how to draw in readers and keep them coming back. Of particular interest to me was a brief talk we had on search engine optimization.
Although many online news sources are content to run short, searchable headlines, the CSM seems very well versed in presenting headlines that include every major keyword, but also add a healthy touch of context.