Although the Monitor is not among the largest papers, it is highly-respected ("... it has been awarded seven Pulitzer Prizes and numerous other journalistic accolades. Three Monitor editors have been elected president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors") and the move is certain to be felt throughout the publishing industry.
The Christian Science Monitor plans major changes in April 2009 that are expected to make it the first newspaper with a national audience to shift from a daily print format to an online publication that is updated continuously each day.
The changes at the Monitor will include enhancing the content on CSMonitor.com, starting weekly print and daily e-mail editions, and discontinuing the current daily print format.
The major motivators appear to be the declining circulation, together with the cost and delays inherent in printing. News organizations that want to have immediate impact cannot wait for the presses to run and the trucks to deliver tons of paper. Nor can they afford the costs associated with printing and distribution.
The Monitor will be charging a subscription fee, which they may be able to get away with, since they have a loyal audience and somewhat specialized content (it's worked for the Wall Street Journal), but most daily papers don't have sufficient loyalty among their readers and their content is freely available elsewhere. These papers will need to figure out a way to get enough advertising to pay the bills.
The weekly print edition will be competing against the newsmagazines. Good luck there, since magazine circulations are also down.