Duluth, Ga.—The Christian Index will transition primarily to an online presence Jan. 1, the Georgia Baptist Convention’s newsjournal has announced.
“Bowing to the pressures of an increasingly difficult economic climate with rising production and distribution costs—coupled with declining revenue from circulation and advertising—The Index will produce its final biweekly print edition on Dec. 24,” the paper reported in its Sept. 3 issue.
“But that doesn’t mean (The Index) will cease publishing,” the paper stated in a front-page news story. “It will simply move to the web with a never-ending news cycle no longer tied to print deadlines and ever-increasing mailing costs. It will also be a free product with no charge for online access.”
“This shift will free up Cooperative Program funds that will be redirected toward evangelism and church planting efforts in Georgia and far beyond its borders,” The Index stated.
The Christian Index describes itself as “the nation’s oldest continuously published Christian newspaper,” dating back to 1822 when famed missions supporter Luther Rice started it as the Columbia Star in Washington, D.C. The paper first became part of the Georgia convention in 1840; the convention sold and repurchased the paper in the following years, acquiring it for the final time in 1919.
Gerald Harris, the paper’s editor, noted in an accompanying editorial various factors that made it “increasingly inevitable that The Index would have to become an electronic publication only,” including:
n The Index “has been losing subscribers and becoming more dependent on the Cooperative Program” during recent years.
n “The cost of newsprint and postage has continued to increase. By going to an online edition only we will save almost $320,000 annually in printing and mailing costs.”
n “More and more people are reading the news on their smartphones, tablets, and computers.”
In 2000, The Index shifted from a weekly with 12-16 pages to a bi-weekly publication of 16-24 pages. Later financial pressures, including mailing costs that exceeded the printing costs, pared the page count back to 12-16, the paper recounted.
Last year, The Index extended its online presence beyond desktop computers to a variety of platforms such as smartphones and tablets.
Harris, in his editorial, noted the online Index “will allow us to produce more up-to-date news items by posting stories and sharing opinions on events almost as soon as they happen. News alerts featuring political, ethical, and cultural issues can also be posted on The Index website expeditiously.”
In a print context, Harris said The Index will provide a weekly synopsis that churches can download and print for those who prefer a paper copy. (BP)