For everybody? Or nobody?

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I cringe when I hear the answer “everybody” in response to the question as to a magazine’s audience. Even worse was the response one novice editor gave: “Everybody in the whole world, saved and unsaved.”

Really? How do you produce a magazine that everyone in every country throughout the world will want to read, regardless of their attitude toward the Christian faith?

In fact, a magazine that is for everyone is actually for no one. Why? An editor producing a magazine for a specific audience will use the language best understood by that audience, as well as the examples and metaphors to which they can relate.

She will pick topics about which that audience cares and wants to read. For Christians, those topics may include daily devotions, how to pray more effectively, or how to share their faith with non-Christian relatives and friends. Non-Christians would not appreciate those topics, but might like to read stories that incorporate elements of the Christian faith or demonstrate the power of God in daily life.

Age makes a difference, too. I was asked to review a new children’s magazine produced by budding young theology students in Romania. I was surprised to see text-heavy theological articles sporting words like “incarnation” and “justification.” While I appreciated their enthusiasm and their desire to communicate the pure Gospel to these middle school children, I had to point out that they might want to use language and concepts easily understood by children. Less text and more illustrations would be more appealing to children than column after column of dense copy.

The editor who doesn’t want to go to the trouble to research the audience in order to determine how best to communicate with the reader is writing only for himself and his magazine will not last long.

On the other hand, the editor who really wishes to communicate will want to know his audience intimately and will make sure his writers understand how best to reach the readers. The magazine’s appearance will attract that specific audience with colors, fonts, illustrations, and page layouts designed to draw in the reader and to communicate the magazine’s message. Then a member of that specific audience who picks up the magazine will look it over and say, “This is my magazine, just for me.”

MTI trainers earn top honors at EPA convention

EPA-Logo-Final-2013-RGB-300x150Seven MTI trainers hold key positions in 11 Christian publications singled out for awards this month at the annual convention of the Evangelical Press Association.

Awards of Excellence, the highest honor, went to Leadership Journal, edited by Marshall Shelley; Christianity Today and Christianity Today Online, edited by Mark Galli; and, edited by Matthew Branaugh. also won an award of merit in another category.

Other publications in the group led by Branaugh which won awards of merit include Church Law & Tax Report,, and Church Finance Today, with Chris Lutes.

Awards of Merit also went to Outreach, edited by James Long and, a campus publication of Palm Beach Atlantic University with advisor Dr. Michael Ray Smith

Two awards of merit in design went to EFCA Today and Worldwide Challenge, publications designed by Greg Breeding’s Journey Group

Together, the seven MTI trainers honored this year taught 10 MTI training events in eight countries and over the last three years led one online course and four Webinars.


For information on other awards presented at the convention:

Four ways to evaluate your magazine’s purpose statement

Kent Wilson teaches the session on Developing a Business Strategy for your magazine

You probably already have a purpose statement for your magazine, if not on paper at least in your head. But is it as good as it could be and is it accomplishing all you wish? Answer these questions to see whether your purpose statement accomplishes its goals.

1. Is it written down on paper and accessible to every staff member and every freelancer? Every person who works with your magazine in any way should know who the target audience is, what the publication is expected to do for them, and how you will do it. If this is not clear to everyone, your staff may become confused and disagree on direction, and your magazine will lose focus.

2. Is it succinct? A great purpose statement may be only one or two sentences, clearly stating who, what, and how, incorporating the audience, desired result, and method of accomplishing the result.

3. Does it guide your decisions on how and what you will publish?

4. Is it practical for decision making?

Learn more about writing an effective purpose statement in the video offered for free streaming on MTI’s Web site. The video on Strategic Planning for Magazines includes information on developing a business strategy, with help in  developing a purpose statement, a vision statement, and defining your values.

The best Christian magazines in America

Christianity Today leads’s list of the top 10 Christian magazines in America. The list includes both print and online publications with “inspiring stories, Christian world perspectives, helpful, biblical advice for shopping, parenting, cooking, and just about anything related to living your life as a Christian,” says author Mary Fairchild.

Fairchild calls Christianity Today one of the leading Christian magazines in both online and print, with “practical advice on every aspect of Christian life from entertainment to shopping, parenting and marriage resources, help with college and seminary selection, community guides, and sermon aids.” The popular publication covers world, national, church, and ministry news.

Others making the top 10 include:

Relevant Magazine, a bimonthly lifestyle magazine targeting 20-somethings who are passionate about God, spirituality, and the world they live in.

Charisma, a leading magazine for Spirit-filled Christians, offering inspiring articles, columns by well-known pastors and teachers, community forums, and news from a charismatic perspective.

Bible Study Magazine, a new bimonthly print magazine by the publishers of Logos Bible Software, delivering tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professions, historians, and archaeologists., a monthly digital publication produced by Christianity Today, is designed to strengthen and equip Christian women to fulfill God’s calling on their lives.

World Magazine, a biweekly publication committed to reporting the news from a biblical worldview, with emphasis on stories that are often under-reported or even misreported by the national media.

CCM Magazine, formerly in print and now available only on-line, covers the contemporary Christian music world. There is a free weekly e-mail newsletter and a site with music, reviews, forums, tour and concert information, special artist features, and shopping.

Christian Living, an inspirational magazine featuring human interest stories, ministry spotlights, education, health, home, fashion, food, finance, and business. Founded in 2004 with a primary audience in Metro Atlanta, it has quickly grown to nationwide prominence.

Guideposts, a monthly magazine which has been delivering inspiration and guidance to Christian readers for more than 60 years. Their mission is to “help people from all walks of life achieve their maximum personal and spiritual potential.”

Christian History & Biography,  which offers in-depth, informative articles, graphics, illustrations, timelines and maps to help trace the roots of Christianity and to chronicle the people and events that have shaped the journey of Christianity through the ages.

Someone is looking for your magazine

So you have an idea for a magazine and you’ve been thinking about it for years, mulling over the pros and cons. Sure, there are lots of cons these days with a struggling economy, news about the demise of well-known magazines, and maybe print is on it’s way out, anyway. Is anyone interested in magazines these days? Is anyone looking for the kind of magazine you’ve been dreaming about? The answer is: Maybe so!

A look at Google’s keyword tool is instructive. Over the last 12 months, the average monthly number of searches for Christian magazines for women totals 8,720. How many people are searching each month for Christian magazines for kids? 6,066. How about Christian magazines in Malayalam, a language spoken by nearly 30 million people in Kerala, a state in south India? I was surprised to find that there were a monthly average of 1,070 searches for Christian magazines in Malayalam.

For the generic term “Christian magazine” there were 40,500 average monthly searches. A lot of people are looking for Christian magazines and maybe some of them—or even a lot of them—are looking for the magazine you’ve been dreaming about. Check it out. Maybe it’s time to get to work on that new magazine.

More good news for magazines

Magazines in the U.S. are experiencing a resurgence, according to the Evangelical Press Association, quoting a report from, a magazine database. Launches of new magazine titles grew in 2011, as did total advertising revenue, notes Doug Trouten, EPA director.

Launches of new magazines grew by nearly 24 percent last year, while the number of magazines going out of business dropped by nearly 14 percent. This is good news for a magazine industry whose demise was widely predicted during the worst years of the recession. Advertising revenues, which fell off sharply in the last few years, turned the corner and began growing again, increasing 2 percent, while ad pages dropped 1 percent.

These statistics cover all publications, and may not reflect reality in the Christian magazine publishing world, which is still struggling to regain its footing after dropping at least a dozen established national publications representing hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

According to, the largest single category of new titles were food-related, followed by regional magazines. However, regional magazines was the category with the largest number of closures last year, followed by bridal magazines.