Becasue the circulation of the Free Church of Scotland publications - ‘The Record’ and ‘Free’ the youth magazine - are at best static or in decline - the Communications Committee is asking the Church to tell them whether they should continue with printed magazines in this electronic age.
The issue is raised in the Communications Commmittee report which is due to come before the General Assembly next week.
They point out that the circulation statistics for the magazines is discouraging both for the editors and for the Committee, and that it is something that should be of concern to the wider Church. However people were now making good use of the Free Church page on Facebook as well as the stream on Twitter.
The report adds: “One of the questions the Church will have to face is whether we wish to duplicate in print news items which inevitably appear instantly in electronic form. Is The Record to be a printed archive of such material? Indeed, as committees are being forced to prune their spending, perhaps the Church needs to tell the Communications Committee whether it wishes to continue with printed magazines in this electronic age?”
Concerning ‘Free’ the report states that times have changed since the teenage magazine first appeared in 1996. Now certain articles were old news by the time they were printed and distributed.
It says: “Camp photos have already been exchanged through Facebook, opinions have been sent worldwide via Twitter, and campers at opposite ends of the country are in touch constantly through texting. Youth events are often
organised on Facebook, and photos are online immediately after - or sometimes during - the event. Therefore, the Internet, email, Facebook, Twitter, texting, MSN, Skype and so on inevitably encourage a new approach to certain aspects of Free’s content. In the age of instant communication, Free can’t compete; its role has changed.”
With a circulation at just over the 900 mark the income from the magazine did not cover the cost of production. However there was still a need for Free as the Committee state that to the best of their knowledge there was no equivalent magazine anywhere in Scotland that gave Christian young people a magazine of their own that still tackles issues affecting teenagers from a Christian viewpoint.
A Free Church of Scotland spokesman said: “As has been the case right across the newspaper and magazine industry, the advances in e-communications and social media have brought challenges for print media.
“The report of the Communications Committee simply raises the point of digital and print media integration for the wider consideration of the Free Church.
“However, to suggest that the Free Church magazines will stop publication altogether is completely untrue.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there are no plans on the table to stop either of these magazines.”