Editor responds: How's the Web-first Monitor doing?

We're a month into our Web-first shift for the Monitor, so I thought it would be a good time for a progress report and a Q&A from readers on how we are doing, why we do what we do, and what we could do better.

The Weekly
Four issues of the Monitor's weekly review of global news and ideas are now in circulation. Along with many other topics featured in our 48 page publication, we've done in-depth cover stories on the economy, the environment, the Obama administration, and Iraq. Coming up next: an examination of the growing debate over drugs designed to boost mental performance.

Our readers have been strongly positive about the content mix and presentation of the weekly. We are continuing to refine aspects of the publication and are cautiously hopeful about growth of subscriptions and readership. Please continue to let us know what you think.

The Daily News Briefing:
We launched our three-page e-news briefing this week. So far, so good. Some readers have requested a little more content. Others have suggested we deliver the DNB by fax.

Those are reasonable ideas. The balance we are trying to strike is in giving you enough news and perspective without overloading you. We also want to keep your printers from running through ink, which is why the DNB doesn't have graphics or photos and part of the reason we've limited the page count. We'll keep exploring ways of improving this new publication and will consider various alternate forms of delivery.

Our website is evolving. We are more actively updating it -- and our news staff is figuring out the optimum times to post articles. Our goal and hope is that more and more readers will find Monitor articles not just via Web searches, aggregators, and referrals but that they will start on CSMonitor.com and will stay there a little while (at the bottom of CSMonitor.com is a link that shows you how to make us your home page).

We realize that the site needs improvement. We have a new content management system in the works and expect to launch it in the next few weeks. When the CMS is up and running, we'll have better section pages, such as USA, World, and Culture (notice how I'm not hotlinking them right now; I'd rather you didn't visit them until they are renovated.)

Q&A from readers
Here are some questions culled from our customer service email, the comments sections of our blogs, and direct emails to yours truly:

Q: I tried to sign up for your Daily News Briefing and could not connect with the site to do so. Could you please have someone contact me and help me to get the Daily News Briefing?

A: Sorry. You may have been trying to access a bad link I had in my Connecting the Dots blog. I think that's fixed now. Try this one.

Q: Is there anyway I can get a one day or week trial before committing to a subscription to the daily briefing?
A: At present, we aren't offering a trial subscription. It is, however, only $5.75 a month.

Q: While I applaud your transition to the Internet (and the weekly newspaper) I am hoping you ditch readers' comments to particular articles here.... The comments are the kind of stuff that makes Internet news lowbrow.
A: This is a tough one. We are trying to be open to comments from the general public while moderating the worst of them. The easiest thing is to shut off comments, but I'm not sure that's a good way to invite discourse. Plus, there are many people who seem to enjoy the comments both for what they are and for the insight they provide into popular thinking. Others may simply choose not to look at the comments. We are feeling our way through this, trying to thread the needle between living in a walled garden where we only talk to ourselves and standing in the middle of Times Square during a New Year's Eve bash. It is a work in progress.

Q: What happened to the motto that used to be printed on the top of the Monitor front page?
A: The Monitor’s motto, per the request of its founder Mary Baker Eddy, has always been found on the editorial page: “First the grain, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” The phrase you’re referring to, which was contained in an editorial by Mary Baker Eddy in the first issue of the Monitor, is "The object of the Monitor is to injure no man but to bless all mankind." It was not on the front page of the Monitor until being placed there in a redesign in 1999. When we developed the format for the weekly, we found that we couldn't easily leave the phrase there. It would have been crowded because of other information we had to put at the top of the page and because the dimensions of the page were smaller than the tabloid size we had in the print daily. So we found a prominent and elegant place on Page 3, the table of contents page.

Despite the move, the "injure no man" directive from our founder is -- and will always be -- the North Star by which we guide Monitor journalism.

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