Two religious magazines that trace their roots to the nineteenth century have fallen victim to changing market trends. The Christian Herald has ceased publication as a general-interest magazine with its May–June edition. And the denominational magazine American Baptist folded with the printing of its July–August issue.

Until its demise, the American Baptist claimed to be “the oldest religious magazine with continuous publication in the Western Hemisphere,” tracing its launch to 1803 as the Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Magazine.

Executive editor Philip Jenks said American Baptist’s circulation had been declining 3 to 5 percent a year, but dropped from 44,000 last October to 24,000 by the magazine’s final days. Jenks said American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. will begin receiving in September a 16-page newsletter called American Baptists in Mission in place of the American Baptist.

Christian Herald publisher Ed Morgan said his company intends to resume publishing someday. “We call this a suspension, not a finality,” he said. “The general-interest Christian magazine market is well served, and we did not have a well-developed niche.”

Though Christian Herald’s ad revenue jumped 138 percent in 1991, and its deficit was reduced by more than 60 percent, the magazine still dropped in circulation over the last year from 170,000 to 115,000 subscribers, Morgan said. The magazine has published at a loss for more than ten years.

The Christian Herald Association has been more successful with the Family Bookshelf, a book club with a membership of between 80,000 and 100,000.

Change Of Focus

The demise of such tradition-laden magazines may be a sign of the times as many church members now seem to focus more interest on their local church than ...

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