The Florida Baptist Witness, the 132-year-old news journal of the Florida Baptist Convention, will reduce its frequency from every other week to once a month beginning in 2017.
The Baptist state newspaper will also begin publishing news stories online when they are produced, rather than when the print publication is mailed, to accommodate a growing online readership unaccustomed to waiting to receive information.
Florida Baptist Witness Executive Editor Kevin Bumgarner announced changes approved recently by the newspaper’s board of directors in a blog Oct. 20.
Bumgarner said the number of pages in each issue will increase from an average of 16 pages to 28 and the website will be redesigned to deliver news in a timely manner.
The print edition, Bumgarner said, “will be designed to give you a better understanding of what the news meant, along with a host of exclusive features that will not be appearing on our website — except for paying subscribers.”
In 2013 the Witness reported a circulation of 37,000, sixth largest of the 42 publications then making up the Association of State Baptist Papers.
The denominational press has suffered alongside the rest of print media with waning influence in recent decades. Baptist state newspapers, which reached 1.8 million subscribing households in 1977, now report a combined circulation of about 655,000. Just four state Baptist papers — in Alabama, Kentucky, New Mexico and Oklahoma — still publish weekly.
Many historic Baptist newspapers are revisiting their traditional business model.
The nation’s oldest Baptist paper, the 193-year-old Christian Index in Georgia, ceased print publication at the beginning of this year and is available online only.
The Baptist Standard in Texas, which went to digital-only delivery in 2012, last year cut staff by nearly half in a series of cost-cutting measures.
Virginia’s Religious Herald, founded in 1828, merged with Associated Baptist Press to become Baptist News Global in 2014.