I've just published my Abortion Opus -- destined to alienate pretty much everyone. Curious to hear what you think
I just got back from covering the two political conventions. I blogged up a storm.
So much to talk about! My current obsession is the the left, right and center seem to be alternating between thinking any faith-related thing coming from Palin is a scandal(!) to thinking she can do no wrong.
Well, here's my first attempt to sort out what we should be questionign her about and what's overblown:
Over at my other blog, I'm laying out some of the arguments for the book. I thought that maybe here I'd just log the more personal aspects of launching a book.
Today was day one. I just listened to my interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air and did a live chat on the Washington Post website. I've gotten good reviews so far. Phew. I'm also doing some guest blogging over at TalkingPointsMemo.com. I'm getting clobbered in the comment thread! I want to duke it out with each poster but I'm told that that's not wise.
In my first post, I addressed the concern that Beliefnet might become inhospitable to minority religions or politically liberal viewpoints. I'd now like to address the suggestion that perhaps we'll become overly commercial.
When I first had the idea for Beliefnet in 1997 I approached foundations and altruistic wealthy individuals about launching Beliefnet as a non-profit. What became clear was that EVERY funder had an agenda. One foundation wanted it to favor a particular flavor of Christianity; one wealthy individual wanted to stress a certain ideology; one wanted it to stress politics instead of spirituality. Etc.
Then I met the "greedy venture capitalists." They had an agenda too: make them money.They really didn't much care whether the site was Christian, Asatru, multifaith, highbrow, lowbrow or done with invisible ink, as long as I gave them a return on their investment. That’s the path I chose.
Is it sometimes hard to create a successful business that also meets a spiritual mission? Absolutely. But on balance, my experience is that having Beliefnet be a for-profit venture has made it easier to pursue our mission. Here's why: Beliefnet makes money if a lot of people visit us. That means we have to offer information, services and community that are genuinely useful. Period. If we don't, people will leave. And if they leave, we don't have a business.
NewsCorp takes a similar approach. They believe that the inclusive approach we've taken is part of what's made Beliefnet a successful business and it would be stupid to mess with that formula. What's more, we now have the ability to improve our offerings by using News Corp’s technology and other spiritual content.
Sometimes these things play out in surprising ways. For instance, some of you complained about the big "interstitial" ads that take over the whole screen periodically. We know they're intrusive but they're very popular with advertisers, both on Beliefnet and most other major websites. Ad revenue is how we survive. Well, on Friday I told our head of sales to reduce their frequency, to create a better user experience and improve the effectiveness for advertisers. As a small, independent company, I was always extremely reluctant to make that decision. With News Corps behind us, I felt comfortable doing it.
I'm sure there'll be other moments when business concerns might push in some way or another that is unpopular. And we'll certainly continue to make mistakes in coverage. No media outlet bats 1000 on that front. But we at Beliefnet have heard clearly what you're saying and remain committed to maintaining the same sense of inclusiveness we've always had. All I ask right now is that you give it some time, see how we do, and continue to let us know what youthink. And we'll continue to listen and do our best.
Thanks for taking the time to write, and for caring about keeping Beliefnet a special place.
It sounds like the first and most basic point to clarify is this: Beliefnet was not purchased by Fox News. We’re part of a unit called Fox Digital Media, which does not report to Fox News. Beliefnet is certainly part of the same large corporation as Fox News, in the same way that the The Wall Street Journal, Harper Collins, Rotten Tomatoes, National Geographic Channel, and Harper One is part of the same corporation.
That’s a lot of diversity within the company. For those concerned that News Corp won't tolerate viewpoints that arent conservative Christian, consider that Harper One has published Jim Wallis, Paolo Coelho, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Jean Houston, Robert Bly, the Kama Sutra, the Pagan Book of Living and Dying, the Koran and more.
As for the idea that being part of News Corp means that we're going to have to abandon our mission of tolerance and respect for a wide variety of faiths, I’d first like to call your attention to the only quote from Fox in the press release announcing this:
“Beliefnet has garnered respect for its commitment to quality, editorial strength and unbiased approach to faith and spirituality from a broad range of consumers, religious and political leaders, journalists and advertisers,” said Dan Fawcett, President of Fox Digital Media. “FEG’s goal is to leverage these characteristics across a broader media canvas and provide programming, production, advertising sales, technology and marketing expertise that will enhance an already terrific product in a rapidly growing market.”
Below is the text of a message we posted on the site a few hours ago. I thought I might use this space to answer any questions you might have. So leave your questions as a comment on this post, and I'll answer in the coming days. Thanks.
SteveDear Friends of Beliefnet,
As you may have heard, Beliefnet has experienced a major “life event.” We’ve been acquired by Fox Entertainment Group, which is part of News Corp.
This is a thrilling moment for us. As you know, News Corp and Fox own media powerhouses such as Twentieth Century Fox, MySpace, The Wall Street Journal and Fox Network. What you may not know is that they also produce an enormous amount of high quality spirituality content: Zondervan, a Christian book publisher; HarperOne (formerly Harper San Francisco), a leading multifaith spirituality publisher; Harper Collins; Fox Faith, a creator of faith-based films; and the National Geographic Channel, which airs many terrific shows on religious history.
You can read the official press release (attached) but I wanted to spend a few moments with you reflecting more personally on why we’re doing this and what it means.
We’ve been getting interest from would-be acquirers for a few years. We were in no rush to sell but I’ve always believed that Beliefnet would fully blossom with the help of a major media partner. In assessing acquirers, what did we look for? Though we wanted to obtain a fair price, as big a factor in our deliberations was whether, by selling, we could better meet our mission. We created Beliefnet primarily to make a difference, not a killing. As I explored the possibilities with News Corp., it became clear that, with their help, Beliefnet would be able to take quantum leap in what we can do. The best spiritual and religious teachers – from Rick Warren to the Dalai Lama -- pass through News Corp doors (through Harper Collins, Zondervan, Harper One and others). News Corp’s reach is enormous. Its proficiency in the areas of video, social networking and media in general is unsurpassed.
Most important, they want Beliefnet for the right reasons. They already own high-quality spiritually-oriented media companies – which are multifaith and ideologically diverse – and want Beliefnet to help those assets grow. As Dan Fawcett, the president of Fox Digital Media, said in announcing the deal, “Beliefnet has garnered respect for its commitment to quality, editorial strength and unbiased approach to faith and spirituality from a broad range of consumers, religious and political leaders, journalists and advertisers. Fox Entertainment Group’s goal is to leverage these characteristics across a broader media canvas and provide programming, production, advertising sales, technology and marketing expertise that will enhance a terrific product.”
I’ll be staying on and the staff & I will continue operating out of our current offices. Naturally, there’s always anxiety associated with change but we’re mostly excited and grateful.
Thank you for your help in getting us here and I look forward to continuing to work together as we now embark on a new journey.
UPDATE: Please check out two additional posts on my full journal that respond to some of these concerns. Thanks
As I was writing my book, and reading the assessments of early history by many religious leaders, one of the first things I noticed was that they conflated the settling of America with the founding of the United States of America.
It is actually true that the New World was settled to promote Christianity. It wasnt really envisioned as a bastion of pluralism or many faiths but specifically as an enclave of Protestantism (and then a particular flavor of protestantism at that). For some 150 years, colonials attempted to promote christianity through the state, usaully by using tax dollars to encourage an official religion.
It was at the writing of the Constitutin that the founders took a sharp turn, rejecting the approach of their forefathers.
So when we celebrate thanksgiving we have to remember that the approach to religion that the beloved Pilgrims took was explicitly rejected by Washington, Jefferson and especially Madison.
Have you seen the new Beliefnet homepage? It offers easier access to the Beliefnet Community, easier navigation, a new feature called Daily Serving (some simple thoughts and activities to nourish your soul each day), photos of the day, and a constantly updating blog roll from a veritable Spiritual A-List of experts. Check it out now.
Let me know what you think by putting a comment on this journal post.
This is so exciting! We at beliefnet have been working on creating this social network for a loooong time. We still have many bugs to get out, and areas of improvement, but we're thrilled. I've already met some extraordianry people through the network. This is going to open up a whole new way that people can express themselves and gain support for their spiritual journey.
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