Southern Religion

Louisiana Baptist Message to commit Web circulation suicide [Updated]

By putting up a pay wall. They have announced “it is very likely” that once their ongoing Web redesign “is complete that a subscription will be required to access all of the Baptist Message’s print content online.”

Available public figures suggest that Web users are disinterested in the publication’s content and as a result will not pay for it online. The Baptist Message has an Alexa Traffic Rank of 4,551,727 (lower numnbers are better), a Google PageRank of 4 (higher numbers are better). Page views per user and time on site per user suggest a site that is already unread by most visitors. Likewise, the persistent absence of advertising from the Message online implies that advertisers have concluded that it has no worthwhile Web audience to which to hawk their wares.

Subscription prices are a mere $14.00 a year, but the Web has plenty of examples of small payment publications that failed. The Message is already on life support and dying by degrees. It was budgeted a $426,800 subsidy for 2004 by the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Declining circulation and rising costs drove it from weekly to biweekly in 2009, and into a printed-on-paper partnership to deliver the state convention’s promotional magazine, LBClive.


There appear to be no Southern Baptist exceptions to the record of pay-wall failure. The state Baptist publication of Texas – the Texas Baptist Standard (Alexa Traffic Rank: 282,514; Google PageRank: 5) – launched an $8-a-year online multimedia product called “E3” during the first quarter of this year. And E3’s Facebook group activity suggests that it has crashed and awaits burning.

Although E3’s Facebook presence is staff-supported, it has only 202 members and 13, inactive discussions.

Success would be denoted by thousands of Facebook group members and a plethora active discussions.

E3 was foredoomed by lack of user interest, as we warned at launch. Most Baptist Standard Web visitors hit one page and leave (80% bounce rate). They tarry long enough to perhaps read that page and increasingly look at only one page. Repackaging and more heavily promoting content whose Web traffic demonstrates little marketplace appeal is a waste of money. We’ll dig a hole in our product graveyard for E3 (no charge).

The arc of on-paper Baptist state newspaper circulation has been one of inexorable decline toward disappearance, for decades (see graph below).

It is sad to see another state Southern Baptist publication propose a step which is if implemented destined to reduce the remains of their Web presence to ashes, thus accelerating their overall decline.

Circulation trends among state Southern Baptist  newspapers in aggregate are well-documented.

Circulation trends among state Southern Baptist newspapers in aggregate are well-documented. The downward trend has continued since this graph was published, carrying them below 1947 levels. Their problems are complicated by the fact that the state-by-state geographical distribution for which they were created on paper has relatively little bearing on the Web. There are multiple state organizations to cover, but advertising data indicates that the Web market is unlikely to sustain an equal number of publications, especially not as the Southern Baptist Convention itself continues to fracture.


After some discussion of Alexa, we used Compete to generate a nice interactive graph of unique users visiting the Web sites of three state Baptist publications — the Lousiana Baptist Message, the Missouri Word & Way and the N.C. Biblical Recorder.

If the underlying numbers are even within throwing range of correct, none of them should consider charging for access to their online content. Least of all the Baptist Message (to the best of our knowledge the only one of the three which is considering a pay wall). According to Compete, it attracted just under 15 unique visitors a day in October — appropriate to a good personal blog, not a publication with full-time staff, and probably several thousand times less than the visits they need to pair with compelling content before considering a pay wall.


November 14, 2009 Posted by | Publications, SBC, WWW | , , , , | 2 Comments

Pwned: OneNewsNow swallows divorce ban parody

Please look here.
Then look at the OneNewsNow story.
OneNewsNow is the American Family Association (AFA) news service and you may wish to tell them, out of kindness, It’sAJoke.
Once featured on
Sells a funny T-shirt.
Joe.My.God., maybe not AFA’s favorite blog, blew the whistle.

[H/T for the video: Madam Maracas]

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Heterosexual Ted Haggard’s ‘comeback’ with issues


Completely heterosexual Ted’s prayer-meeting comeback last week was a cause of discomfort right and left.

Haggard’s prayer meeting was planned to scale. He told The Denver they’d move to the barn (apparently didn’t have to) for a big turnout, and compared himself to Biblical figures:

“Most of the primary characters of the Bible had horrible, horrible incidents in their lives. David misused his power to murder people. He was an adulterer. And he was still a man after God’s own heart,” Haggard said.

Haggard said he never turned away from God. He said America loves a scandal, but they love a comeback even more — and that’s what he’s hoping for.

His has attracted attention from the left, where Alex Seitz-Wald has accused Haggard of lying about his pre-scandal tolerance for homosexuality. The argument is carefully made.

From the right Haggard is sometimes seen as a victim of the homosexual agenda [definitions vary] because of his fall and subsequent calls for changes in conservative Christian thought about sexuality:

… the whole issue of what attracts a person to porn, or what attracts a person to this girl or that girl, or girls and boys, or boys, or why does somebody say, “This is a pretty hairstyle” and another one thinks it’s ugly? I think THAT research is going to go on over the next 25-50 years. And I think that research has the potential of embarrassing the church as much as the earth being round did. I think that brain research is going to make the church look bad unless we update our position on how to deal with sexuality.

Haggard’s change of heart apparently did precede public exposure. Before revelations about his relationship with a male prostitute, Haggard is reported by The Jewish Week to have told Traditional Values Coalition founder and chairman Louis Sheldon that homosexuality is “genetic” in origin.

Haggard’s expressed changes include embrace of civil, same-sex unions. He said:

But actually behind the scenes, and there are lots of people that can give evidence to this, I was working for protection of rights for homosexuals. So where I fell on that politically is, I believe that the definition of marriage is a man and a woman. I believe marriage means living as a man and a wife. But I do not believe that should translate into legal privileges for heterosexual couples that are denied homosexual couples.

Haggard’s abuse of power concerns some of us a great deal more than the politics. Nothing about his comeback seems reassuring in that regard.

Haggard isn’t the poster child for former-gay, either. He calls himself “hetrosexual but with issues.” Along with an obvious ability to command an audience and, currently, defy ideological characterization.

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Churches | , | Comments Off on Heterosexual Ted Haggard’s ‘comeback’ with issues

Uh oh, Orly

Pay the $20,000 Orly Birther, or else, orders Judge Clay Land, of the US District Court in the Middle District Of Georgia [order]. TPM notes that much is unclear about the collection procedure.

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Obama, Politics | , | Comments Off on Uh oh, Orly

Texas Baptist Standard rediscovers the Texas textbook fight?

The BStd Headline: Texas textbook battles have national impact

Which we and others have endlessly explained. And?

“What we teach in the public schools matters,” [Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C.] told a group at Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas during the “Faith & Freedom Speaker Series,” sponsored by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund.

Yep. There is a fight in under way. So important a fight that in addition to those linked to above, it has attracted the attention of a Hindu expert, gatherings of geeks and, of course, atheists.

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Education, Uncategorized | , , , | Comments Off on Texas Baptist Standard rediscovers the Texas textbook fight?

‘Good the Mormons! Shame on [Catholics]’

Eduardo Peñalver, Cornell Law School professor who teaches a course on Catholic social thought and the law, writes for dotCommweal:

The Mormon Church throws its support behind a Salt Lake City law prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals in housing and employment (HT Andrew Sullivan)
. . .

Meanwhile, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. threatens to stop providing services for the homeless in response to a pending DC move to permit gay marriage, apparently (according to reports) because the law might prevent the Church from discriminating against homosexual couples in the provision of employee benefits.
. . .

Good for the Mormons! Shame on us.

His piece briefly dissects the Catholic church’s legal arguments on behalf of itself in D.C. and finds nothing of value.
Read it here.

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Law | , , , | Comments Off on ‘Good the Mormons! Shame on [Catholics]’