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Christianity Today’s Books & Culture
Survives the Chopping Block

                                              ©2013 Religion News Service

Print publications across the board are struggling to find a financial formula to help them survive — or praying for a deep-pocketed savior to rescue them the way Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is doing with The Washington Post.

Religious publications are also feeling the pinch, and the latest evidence was a dire warning from the Christian literary magazine Books & Culture that it could shut down in 2014 if it didn’t reach its $250,000 fundraising goal on September 9.

The magazine survived the chopping block, receiving just above the amount needed to continue in 2014. The publication has pledges of $110,000 a year until 2018.

Since June, the bimonthly publication has been trying to raise $250,000, which it says it needs to cover operating costs for 2014. Last week, John Wilson, Books & Culture’s sole editor, tweeted that the next issue would be the last if he didn’t come up with about half of the amount.

“Anyone who has been following the publishing world at all in the last decade or more is aware of the tremendous pressures that there are,” Wilson said.

Books & Culture started in 1995 under the umbrella organization of Christianity Today, which publishes the magazine founded by Billy Graham as well as many other print and online media aimed at evangelicals and the wider public.

Since it started, Books & Culture has been hailed for showcasing high-quality essays by top-shelf writers, and for providing evidence of robust evangelical engagement with philosophy, the arts and other cultural and intellectual pursuits.

Like many intellectual magazines and journals, Books & Culture has a small but passionate readership. The magazine publishes articles on a wide range of cultural categories, including science and poetry and fiction, and on subjects ranging from human waste disposal to Amish romance novels. Its editorial board and contributing editors have included Notre Dame history professor Mark Noll, Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch and Duke Divinity School professor Lauren Winner.

A one-year subscription of six issues costs a new Books & Culture subscriber about $30.

In the past, Books & Culture, which has about 9,000 subscribers and costs $550,000 to $570,000 per year to publish, has been able to sustain itself through advertising and subscriptions, along with nearly equal contributions from its parent organization and outside funders. Those funders include the Pew Charitable Trusts, Baylor University and Indiana Wesleyan University.

But Christianity Today has sustained serious financial setbacks in recent years. In 2009, it closed four publications and laid off about a quarter of its staff.

Over the course of Books & Culture’s 18-year lifespan, Christianity Today has contributed between $1 million and $2 million to keep the magazine afloat, a subsidy the organization decided it could no longer afford. With about $11.4 million in revenue, Christianity Today ran a $1.2 million deficit in 2012, according to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

As it sought help from the general public this time around, Christianity Today still seeks a long-term solution, not a stopgap on the way to an inevitable demise.


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