Religious broadcasters feel the heat from new media

Just as booksellers, newspapers, the film and music industries are feeling the heat from ipods, video streaming and e-books, Christian broadcasters are finding their audiences going to new media sources for their inspiration. And Christian broadcasters are not getting the steady stream of donations that they used to get when Christian radio and TV was the only show in town. One thing you don’t get from a downloaded video sermon is a pitch for donations.

The Religious News Service says:

The industry shows signs of contraction at a time when its future is fraught with uncertainty. And it’s not just the economic downturn that is causing turmoil: last year, a study found that the percentage of megachurches with a radio ministry dropped from 44 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2008. Likewise, the percentage with television ministries dropped from 38 percent to 23 percent.

For programs that are still on the air, the challenge is attracting younger audiences who will give as consistently as their parents and grandparents. Cracking that puzzle will require experimentation, but few feel they can take significant risks in today’s climate marked by razor-thin margins.

“The industry is at a crossroads,” says Paul Creasman, associate professor of communications at Southern Wesleyan University in Central, S.C., and a former Christian radio personality and producer. “The audience is dwindling, and they have to figure out what to do. But the Web is not the answer because older audiences don’t use the Internet… and younger audiences will go to the Web for content, but they’ll probably be less likely to donate.”

Moving content online may be broadcasting’s future, but it’s a nerve-wracking endeavor that doesn’t necessarily pay the bills of the present.

“Everyone (in religious broadcasting) is doing it,” Parshalls said. “And everyone is asking each other: `Are you making money at it? Because we’re not.“‘

Read it here.

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