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Christian Index amasses readers from 187 countries over past month

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It’s amazing to me that people from 187 countries have read stories in The Christian Index over the past month.

There’s much interest in Georgia Baptists and the incredible work they’re doing to shine the light of the gospel into their state, nation, and world. That’s why the Index has more than 25,000 readers regularly logging onto its website.

So often, what Georgia Baptists do is cutting edge. And that’s why people want to read about it, so they can perhaps emulate the work in other places with similar results.

Articles about the work Georgia Baptists do are a boon for the Index. Our analytics show those articles attract readers like crazy. Our analytics let us know who’s reading, what they’re reading and where they’re reading it.

I thought our Index readers might be interested in some of those insights.

For example, we have readers in pretty much every city, town, and community in the state. Our analytics put the total at 3,497 locales, which, I assume, is just about every dot on the state map.

The Top 10 Georgia cities where the Index was read over the past month are, in order of readership, Atlanta, Newnan, Athens, Ashburn, Columbus, Marietta, Fayetteville, Prineville, Dallas and Forest City.

The Index is read in a number of other languages, as well. If you remember, we installed a language translator on our website a few months back to help foreign immigrants to be informed as they acclimate to a new country and learn a new language. English, of course, is the No. 1 language of our readers, followed by Chinese, Spanish and Korean.

Analytics show just more than half our readers are male and just less than half are female. Sixty-three percent read the Index on their smartphones. Thirty-one percent use computers. And six percent use tablets.

In the past month, our readers have read some 50,000 stories, fewer than usual I suspect because they were otherwise occupied during the holidays.

Oh, and I’m happy to report that, despite a perceived aversion to online news, 11 percent of our readers are 55 and older. In fact, 5.5 percent of our readers are 65 and older.

For all the positives analytics can measure, there can be just as many negatives. The truth is, the Index needs to expand our reach, and we’ve taken several steps to do that.

We created The Christian Index News Service late last year, which allows us to provide our religion articles to more than 100 secular newspapers across the state. You may be aware that the newspaper industry has been hard hit by shifts in the way Americans consume their news, and, as a result, tens of thousands of newspaper employees have lost their jobs over the past three decades. Some of the first journalists to go were religion writers. So, in a symbiotic relationship, we’re able to help newspapers by providing them with religion articles. They, in turn, help us by enabling more people to see what’s going on the world of Georgia Baptists.

On the Index website, you’ve noticed we are offering more state, national and world news. If Georgia Baptists are to engage the world, they must know what’s going on in the world. And they need a trustworthy source to provide the information they need. Our readers have learned over the past 200 years that they can trust the Index to provide nothing but unbiased news coverage.

That broader news coverage also is symbiotic in that it not only benefits readers but also builds a healthier Index.

Consider this: Broccoli provides doses of the vitamins and minerals we all need to be healthy. It’s an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, and potassium.

With something that good for you, wouldn’t you think someone would open a store or, better yet, a chain of stores that provides nothing but broccoli? As ridiculous as that might sound, that’s precisely the business model Baptist newspapers across the Southern Baptist Convention have been following for decades. They know Baptist news and features are good for people. So good, in fact, that they stock their shelves full of nothing but Baptist news and features.

Here’s what Kroger and Publix know: Lots of people buy broccoli, but not enough to keep a grocery store afloat. So, to get people to come into their stores where they can purchase broccoli, they provide lots of other items, as well. They have an entire section devoted to fresh vegetables of all types. They also sell canned vegetables and frozen vegetables.

They have sections for meat, for dairy, for fruit, for baked goods, for drinks, for common household items, for medications, and, because of that, here’s what happens: More people come into their stores, see the broccoli, and take it take home.

It’s time that Baptist state newspapers catch on to that principle. More people will be exposed to Baptist news and features if they’re reading newspapers that offers a broad assortment of state, national and world news.

The truth is, our Baptist state newspapers have nearly done themselves by refusing to change their model. Readership has been on a steady decline among Baptist state newspapers for a very long time.

I personally believe that what Baptist newspapers do matters, that what they do carries eternal ramifications. It’s time that we rethink a worn-out business model.

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