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More on The Monitor

Thanks to everyone who’s linked to, or commented on, my early experiments with a blog link per circulation metric. Now that Quinn has pointed out that LpkC can be pronounced “El Pixie”, invoking images of a suave Latin leprechaun, I like the term much better.

A journalist emailed me earlier today, asking me to speculate on why the Christian Science Monitor has such disproportionate influence in the blogosphere. Here’s what I came up with:

– CSM adopted RSS very early on, and has been a fan of blogs since at least 2001 (Dave Winer observed in June 2001 that CSM was considering introducing a set of topical weblogs. He announced that CSM was “fully supporting” RSS on October 28, 2002, very early in the weblog syndication movement.) Because CSM was early to the game , bloggers have been reading the paper online for a long time and linking to it.

– CSM has astoundingly good international coverage – they maintain bureaus in 11 countries, which radically outpaces most newspapers. In 2002, the Monitor’s editor observed that CSM’s overseas presence was larger than all but 5 other US newspapers, and was more substantial than all three major US television networks. For bloggers like me who concentrate on international affairs, CSM (along with the BBC) are precious and popular resources.

– Becaue CSM invests so heavily in overseas reporters and stringers, they use comparatively little information from AP and Reuters, which large American newspapers rely heavily on for their overseas coverage. While AP and Reuters are likely blogged more often than CSM, they get blogged under the banner of each newspaper running their stories – a Reuters story on the Democratic Republic of Congo will get a few blog mentions under the New York Times, a few under the Globe, etc. But CSM’s content is unique, and uniquely associated with the csmonitor.com site in technorati.

Moving even further into the realm of pure speculation:

CSM stories often lead with a personal story – the experience of an individual person – rather than a statement of facts about an event. (Whether this is part of the CSM stylebook or just my observation of favorite CSM correspondents, I don’t know.) This, to me, seems like a very blogggy characteristic. Bloggers tend to be interested in good stories, not simple dry facts. It’s possible that the CSM’s style of reporting national and international news is unusually well suited for bloggers to pick these stories up.

I’ll add one more piece of idle speculation: one of the conclusions I drew from my experiments with media attention is that the BBC covers the world with a substantially different attention profile than all other media sources I explored. I would speculate that a profile of CSM’s coverage would look more like the BBC’s coverage and less like CNN’s coverage (for instance), with a similar heavy emphasis on the developing world. (Unfortunately, CSM’s search engine prevents me from running my GAP scripts on it and checking this hypothesis.)

CSM and BBC are both unusual in the sense that they are not purely market-driven media entities. BBC is supported by a license fee, CSM is supported by donations, as well as ad and subscription support, and published by the Church of Christ, Scientist. In both cases, the news bureaus – while not free of financial constraints – don’t have the pressure of a for-profit company demanding increased profits either through increased revenues or lowered costs. No, this doesn’t mean that all non-profit newspapers are worth reading or that papers owned by for-profits can’t do exemplary journalism. But it’s worth thinking about and looking into further.

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