Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Catholic Press Speaks Out

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Catholic Press Speaks Out

Article excerpt

THE 647 PUBLICATIONS of the Catholic Press Association are catching up to their mainstream counterparts in learning the grim economic realities of their business, a spokesman said at the groups's Los Angeles convention.

"Just look at our program," suggested CPA executive director Owen P. McGovern. "We are striving to be more professional while increasing our revenue."

The convention panels to which he referred were described as "Bootcamps" and bore such titles as "The Editor as Business Manager," "Ways to Make Money for Diocesan Newspapers," "Improving Your Customer Service/Fulfillment Operation," and "Using Computer Technology to Increase Advertising Sales."

McGovern said the Catholic press is facing the same problems as its mainstream counterparts: rising newsprint costs, declining ad revenue and increased competition for attention from broadcasters.

"I tell members they have to respect the business competition," McGovern said. Only lately, he added, have some Catholic newspapers hired business and advertising managers.

One recent innovation - not new to general circulation newspapers but a milestone in Catholic publications - is the introduction of a "one order-one bill" advertising network.

The network can draw from a formidable array of newspapers and magazines. CPA figures for 1995 released at the May 30-June 1 conference show a total of 647 Catholic newspapers, magazines, newsletters and foreign languages publications in the U.S. and Canada. Their total circulation, virtually all paid, is approximately 26.5 million.

The U.S. mix includes 197 non-daily newspapers, 166 of them published by local dioceses, five independent national papers and 13 Eastern Rite publications. Their aggregate circulation is almost six million. In Canada, there are 11 diocesan papers and two national ones, adding up to a circulation of 137,800.

In all, there are 274 CPA magazines here and in Canada for a total circulation of nearly 16 million.

Serving CPA members is the Catholic News Service (CNS), which lists 300 subscribers for a wide spectrum of church-related stories.

The Catholic press in general is facing "tough times," according to CAP president Anthony J. Spence, editor in chief of the Tennessee Register in Nashville.

"That's the dinosaur in the living room", said Spence, a former microbiologist turned journalist. "The Catholic press is by no means insulated from the economic problems of the secular press. Personnel and paper cost are skyrocketing like crazy and postal rates are unforgiving."

Not only is CPA advising members on the latest ways to market their publications but the newspapers and magazines are, like the general press, exploring alternative sources of revenue, Spence said.

He noted that most diocesan newspapers are expected to pay their own way. However, since the diocese is the publisher "there is a certain degree of partnership" between the church and a paper's lay editors and managers, Spence explained.

This means, he went on, that a diocese may provide some financial support, usually in the form of buying copies and distributing them to parishioners.

"But generally we are expected to be self-supporting and most of us are or we would be out of business," Spence asserted.

There have been casualties in recent years, he recalled, notably the Monitor, San Francisco's oldest Catholic paper, which folded in the mid-1980s. …

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