The most consistent complaint I hear from readers of Christianity Today is about the amount of advertising we carry:
"When a magazine, especially one reaching the Christian community, chooses to fill almost 50 percent of its magazine with paid advertising, something is wrong."
"I protest all this junk you are now including in your issues (enclosed is all the card stock from the latest issue). You're not being fair to me by sending me less magazine and more junk mail and charging me for it."
Others have questioned our integrity and our ability to report news objectively because we run "glossy color ads" or simply because we carry advertisements for major Christian institutions.
I bring this up because you hold in your hands one of the thickest issues we have ever produced. It contains 78 pages of advertising, plus "bound-in" and "blown-in" card stock. So in case this leads you to take pen in hand (or finger to keyboard), I thought I would, first, explain the role of ads in CT.
First, ads never replace articles, nor do readers pay for the ads. In fact, more advertising pages mean more articles, because we have a 55 percent limit on ad pages in any one issue. Because CT's advertising account executives were so zealous, this issue includes 28 pages of editorial content above our minimum commitment. Thanks to our advertisers, the majority of issues for this year have an increased number of editorial pages. Also, because advertising accounts for 60 percent of CT's revenue, you pay significantly less for your subscription than you would if we had less advertising. So the net result of all those ads is more articles at a reduced price.
Second, CT's ads are not in opposition to our editorial mission but are an extension of it. Our advertisers do not sell cars and deodorant. Their ads provide information about seminaries, graduate schools, books, Bibles, missions, and other Christian enterprises. Ads that are grossly inconsistent with our editorial mission, we reject.
Third, we preserve our editorial integrity by keeping the traditional wall between the advertising and editorial departments high. Our news department is focused on the essential task of providing the best reporting of religion news for evangelical leaders. If a story reflects negatively on an advertiser, and the information is important to our readers, we publish it.
I, too, get annoyed at some ads. Small ads often break up otherwise cleanly designed pages. And we are still discussing the "appropriate" amount of card stock. Still, I know that CT can offer more and better articles because of our ads.
I look forward to your letter.
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