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The future of Baptist news

Aug 23, 2018

Earlier this month the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN) gathered in Little Rock to celebrate the work of your state newspaper and to consider strategies to keep its ministry healthy and moving forward into the future.

It goes without saying that the work of all traditional newspapers – not just those carrying Baptist news and information – has undergone a seismic shift in recent years.

While secular, for-profit newspapers have always been dependent on subscriptions and advertising revenue, Baptist newspapers have been dependent on a combination of paid subscriptions, Cooperative Program (CP) funding and advertising revenue.

This model has worked well for many Baptist newspapers – even as print readership declines – but today it faces increased challenges from rising postage and printing costs.

I’ve written in this space many times of the great reach the ABN has throughout our state through both print and digital readership. Today, digital readership – meaning those who access our newspaper through our Facebook page, other social media and at arkansasbaptist.org – has never been greater and rivals the number of our paid print subscribers.

The challenge moving forward is declining revenue of print subscribers and replacing this revenue, which supplements the cost of printing and mailing the newspaper that most of you still hold in your hands every two weeks.

For many years the CP has supplemented the cost of the print version of our newspaper. However, as you have read in news stories beginning in 2016, the ABN is receiving less and less funding beginning this year – approximately $21,000 less in 2018, and culminating in about $105,000 in total reduction in funding by 2022.

This means that in the year 2022 and following, the ABN’s budget will be approximately $105,000 less per year than in 2017.
For a small entity like the ABN, this is a significant loss in funding, but it won’t mean the end of your independent Baptist newspaper – that is, unless Arkansas Baptists cease to support it.

As we move forward, the ABN board and staff will be exploring practical and creative ways to replace the aforementioned loss of CP funding.

One way will be an increase in print subscription rates. The ABN has not raised its baseline subscription rates in more than 10 years, and we all know how much more things cost today than they did 10 years ago.

However, as mentioned, a healthy measure of innovation and creative strategies will be employed to minimize an increase in subscription rates so you and your church can continue to enjoy receiving a print version of the ABN delivered to your home if you so choose.

These are exciting days as your Baptist newspaper meets challenges and moves the work of Arkansas Baptists forward through the dissemination of news and information important to the propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in Arkansas and throughout the world.

Arkansas Baptists – working together to support our cherished Baptist newspaper heritage – will ensure that the charge of the ABN mission statement will continue today and for generations to come, which states:

“The Arkansas Baptist News (ABN) exists to assist Kingdom work by informing, inspiring and involving Arkansas Baptists through meeting needs of people, spreading the gospel, making disciples and growing God’s work in Arkansas and beyond.

“As the largest religious publication in the state, the ABN strives for journalistic integrity, fairness and balance in its reporting of Baptist and evangelical news.

“We advocate for the cause of Jesus Christ. We report the news based on our Christian worldview. We uphold high standards of journalism and Christian ethics.”

Tim Yarbrough is the editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News.

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