Media Analysis: Christian mags in lifestyle change

US-style Christian lifestyle monthlies are making a name for themselves in the UK. As Christmas nears, Robyn Lewis examines three publications, and asks how PROs should engage with other Christian media.

Christianity shot onto the front pages last Friday when the Daily Mail launched a ‘campaign for a real Christmas'. The news­paper splashed with a story that Christian and Muslim leaders were to ‘unite to save the festive season from political correctness', and called for the ‘Christian meaning of Christmas to be restored'.

Already fired up by British Airways' decision to ban a check-in staffer from visibly wearing a crucifix on duty, the Christian community - rallied by its own media - was again on the offensive.

Despite the increasingly multicultural make-up of the British population, Church of England remains by far the most ticked box on census forms.

Lifestyle influx
Christian publishing has a strong history in the UK - the Church Times was established in 1863 - and has been buoyed by the launch of lifestyle magazines already popular across the Atlantic.

In the US, publications such as Christianity Today and Charisma have popularity levels that titles such as Christianity Inspire and New Life Newspaper (see below) hope to replicate in the UK. Meanwhile, ‘lifestyle' content is becoming increasingly visible within the traditional religious news titles.

‘We are covering more and more lifestyle issues,' says Church Times managing editor Paul Hadley. ‘Our readers are more and more interested in reading about life outside of church services.'

Hadley adds that environmental issues and ‘living ethically' are also increasingly important for his readers.

Similar titles, such as The Catholic Herald, are also interested in such subjects, including ‘a broad range from the arts, which we cover from a Catholic point of view', according to the paper's editor, Luke Coppen.

‘They don't have to be religious works,' Coppen adds.

Other significant titles in this sector include The Methodist Recorder, Youthwork, The Tablet, Joy and Third Way (which is set to relaunch early next year).

Hannah Curry, press and media manager at Christian charitable movement Faithworks, says: ‘PROs need to do their homework because while the market as a whole is a large one, with all the different denominations and groups, there are lots of small publications rather than one main title.'

Editor John Buckeridge
Circulation 16,000
Frequency Monthly
Publisher Christian Communications Partnership
T 020 7316 1450

How are you different? We offer a mix of news, analysis, culture, resource features and stories about the ups and downs of what it means to live each day as a follower of Jesus. It's not easy to be a Christian in the UK right now; we tell stories of gritty struggle and heartache, as well as good news.

Who are your target audience? Typical readers are local church activists - many are ministers, and a third run a home group. We also attract lots of volunteer youth and community leaders and Sunday school teachers.

What do you want from PROs? I am always looking for great stories. My readers are also very interested in cultural analysis - for example, films that grapple with moral issues. Next March a major film is coming out that tells the story of William Wilberforce (who, with others, helped to get parliament to outlaw the slave trade), so we have been running a major series on slavery. We are looking at how churches can engage with the issues in communities such as those in Bristol, London and Liverpool, which grew rich partly on the back of the slave trade.

Editor Russ Bravo
Circulation 65,000
Frequency Monthly
Publisher CPO
T 01903 264 556

Who reads Inspire? Inspire is distributed free in churches around the country. We launched last January after we closed another title, The Christian Herald, which had been losing circulation.

What subjects do you cover? It is intended to be an easily accessible publication that shows the positive side of what is happening in churches. We like human-interest stories, celebrities, puzzles, jokes, and so on. Inspire is a small pocket-sized magazine designed for readers to dip in and out of, a bit like Reader's Digest.

Any editorial changes planned? Not currently, though we are developing all the time. The website is becoming an increasing focus and we would like to do more celebrity interviews next year.

How can PROs get involved? I think the biggest opportunity would come through giveaways, and competitions, and via films, books and music that we can review. They don't have to be Christian - we are currently giving away an England Ashes DVD, for example. Sport, fitness and health are other areas that our readers like.

New Life Newspaper
Editor Peter Wreford
Circulation 60,000
Frequency Monthly
Publisher New Life Publishing
T 0115 921 7285

Explain your content. We are an evangelistic, non-denominational magazine, bought by individual Christians as well as churches. We aim to bring the good news of Jesus Christ into every home in the country.

What is your focus? We concentrate on personal stories of people who are involved with the church, so lots of human-interest stuff. We also like to run interviews with Christian celebrities. We recently did singers Daniel O'Donnell and Aled Jones, for example.

What dealings so you have with PROs? We get very little from PROs and use little of what we do get in. Very simply, there appears to be very few people in the PR industry who specialise in this sort of thing.

What do you want from PROs? We are very limited in terms of our areas of interest and everything does have to have a Christian angle. Having said that, we would be very interested in hearing about competition ideas and would love to get more giveaways into the magazine. We would also like to link up more with high-street brands that are relevant to our readers - M&S, for example.

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