Is the End Nigh? – Print Based Religious Periodicals in Australia
In 1992, the CRA published a special section in the annual Yearbook for Australian Churches, which focused on religious periodicals. There were about 220 religious periodicals, including a handful from coordinating agencies of the major non-Christian religions. There is now a much wider diversity of periodical and web publications from Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist communities in particular, and also notably there has been development of inter-faith publications. A follow-up article in Pointers considered some of the issues facing the Christian press at the time, with five major points outlined: (1) What format to publish? (2) Declining interest in denomination foci. (3) Increasing post and distribution costs (4) Increased competition and proliferation of material (5) Changes in society and the place of the Church
According to the Australasian Religious Press Association (ARPA) Directory of Christian Press for 2010, there were just over 150 separate publications in Australia. There would be well over 200 major publications if all the Pentecostal denominations were included, as well as the denominationally-linked or independent mega-churches, which have their own publishing and media base. The majority of Christian periodicals in Australia provide either a downloadable electronic copy of their printed publication or an associated website, providing additional news and other materials.
During the last two decades most Christian denominations and organisations have maintained their printed publications, but the future brings substantial challenge to print. The two major challenges are as follows: (1) Faster internet access (2) Tablet development.
Some denominations are better placed for a longer term print publication, simply because the denomination has greater financial resources and can subsidise the on-going printing and distribution costs. There is a wide variety of patterns of subscription even in the same denomination. Some are free publications, some have a cover charge, often at a fairly nominal rate.
One of the major difficulties all denominations are facing is the perennial issue of rising costs together with decreasing income. Advertising revenue is a key consideration for many publications as there is a limit to the level of subsidy by churches.
In summary, there a number of important factors to look at when considering the future for a print periodical:
• Substantial under-writing of costs by the denomination or organisation.
• The value of the publication in terms of public relations and fund-raising.
• If non-denominational – a membership base rather than subscription.
• Being available for free and distributed through established networks.
• Access to a wide range of advertisers.
For more information see: Pointers, Volume 20, No. 2, Pages 13-16