Southern gospel and old new-media

I must say, it’s gratifying – in a bittersweet kinda way – to see people finally starting to say some of the same things about the sad state of mainstream media in southern gospel that I’ve been saying for years now (in fact, one of the many ancillary but not unimportant reasons I started this site was from a prolonged, low-grade fit of pique over the crummy coverage of southern gospel available to average readers … my point, mind you, wasn’t necessarily to fill that gap, just to complain about it, so there … I’ve saved you the trouble of calling me a hypocrite).

Perhaps needless to say, I couldn’t agree more with the comments about the SN’s deplorable web presence. The SN itself seems caught between two competing attitudes toward their new media operation: ignore it and hide it behind a subscription wall. For my part, though I still long for a real news site that does more than copy and paste press releases and cheerlead for the industry, my thinking has shifted, or evolved, with time to realize – even if I haven’t fully accepted it, if acceptance means being ok with it – that we’ve got exactly the kind of coverage of, and commentary about, sg that the market – that is, the southern gospel industry and audiences – wants and is willing to support. I was reminded of this when Salem, SN’s parent company, recently shut down the print edition of CCM Magazine. CCM fans don’t really care about print publications; they want a developed new media presence. Southern gospel fans, on the other hand, don’t really care about well-developed new media operations; they want a robust print edition that tells them reliably good news about their favorite artists, with lots of glossy pictures and comforting conclusions about the rewards of clean living and godly music focused on Christ and the cross in I-IV-ii-V7-I.I think we webheads tend to forget that we’re a statistically insignificant subgroup barely worth the status of “demographic segment.” I say “barely” only because there are a few signs that the industry is moving ever-so-slowly into the digital age. The SN is now publishing full editions online in addition to its web-only features. It needs work, but it’s a start. And Crossroads Music is starting to roll out some new web products, including most recently an e-store for soundtracks.

There are probably other things I’m forgetting, but I get the feeling these are more “build it and hope some day they will come” efforts than responses to pent up aching rivers of demand. Whatever the origins of these efforts, though, experience teaches us that most of these new media ventures will largely re-create the old ways of the industry’s business and publicity cultures – including the “praise report and prayer request” style of sg “journalism” – in new media formats.

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Comments

  1. Kyle wrote:

    Believe it or not, our demographic segment is actually making its presence known more than even I initially realized. If you visit enLighten’s website, their News & Views links are an RSS feed of SG blogs and the SGN site. I’m sure if the Singing News did RSS feeds, they’d be included on that list….

  2. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    All news is not fit to print.
    We have a higher standard in life.
    You won’t see fluff nor will you see dirt on my web site.
    I’ve see some of it.
    I own my site.
    I make the decision what stories I put on my site.
    Its all about lifting up the name of Jesus Christ.
    It is called discernment.

    Go here & read about discernment:
    http://www.spirithome.com/discrnmt.html#accountable

    or go here to get ideas to start your own site:
    http://dir.yahoo.com/Entertainment/News_and_Media/Magazines/Tabloids/

    You have to decide what really important in life.

  3. Zack wrote:

    I am also glad to see everyone is starting to catch up with the digital age here…I know the Dove Brothers have added a digital store for music and tracks. I have not used it yet, but I do plan on using it when there new project is up on the list for download. I really would like to see more SG artist add there music to Itunes.

  4. Revpaul wrote:

    “godly music focused on Christ and the cross in I-IV-ii-V7-I.” Nashville notation, no doubt, and I haven’t even mastered shape notes yet.

  5. Shawn wrote:

    Actually Nashville notation would be “1-4-2m-57-1.” The others are Roman Numerals used in more scholarly analysis. :-)

  6. wackythinker wrote:

    Also, Daywind has had downloadables on their website for quite some time. Check it out.

  7. Mark Crary wrote:

    I enjoy reading all the Southern Gospel Music web-site out there, and the digital age is taking SGM to new places at a 100 MPH. But. . . I’m old school, I still love making my coffee and reading the NEWSPAPER. I’ve be reading the Singing News for years, I miss the days when the singing News was a newspaper and it had FRONT PAGE news, I always enjoyed reading every page, looking at every adv and learning what was new in SGM. Now when the Singing News is in my mail box, there’s NO real news, nothing that I have not read on the web. We now have Southern Gospel Music news in real time, if something happens today, we read it today. Everyday a weekly newspaper stop’s printing, every day we lose something great. I still like setting down with my Singing News, looking at all the pages and reading the news the old fashion way, on paper and ink and if I like I can read it any time or any where.

  8. cdguy wrote:

    Mark, I’m with you. I enjoy reading paper-and-ink, but I, too, see most of the news long before it gets in old-school print form. What I miss most about SN is news. It seems like too much space is taken with advertorials — ads for upcoming concerts, disguised as news articles. What’s up with that?

  9. Charles Brady wrote:

    I think one of the biggest surprises to me personally came as a result of a survey I did among our readers a few months ago. If there is an area of real growth in the Southern Gospel market then it has to be online radio. While the majority of our readers (9738 responded to the survey) still listen to FM Radio (44%) the big shock was that over 32% listen to online radio stations which was more than AM & Satellite Radio combined. AM with 19% and Satellite radio with >2% which was about the same as those responding they don’t listen to radio at all. That being said it also made me question why all the big fuss about Satellite radio. Not many weeks go by that I don’t get a PR about some artist being on XM. I wonder if the artists really know how small that market really is.

    I did a follow-up among some of those who listened to online radio and learned that most listen at work. Several reasons were given but the vast majority fell into one of two reasons. “We can’t pick up regular radio in our building” and “I can listen and no one knows it”. I did get a kick out of the one respondent who said she got caught at work because she was humming too loud to a Booth Brothers tune in her cubical. (Or booth as she put it.)

    If you think of it the internet has changed almost everything it has touched. From banking to online bill paying to shopping to listening & watching music to newspaper & TV web sites now being heavily promoted. I even use SKYPE to make a lot of long distance calls now. It has certainly changed all of our lives and continues to do so at a rapid pace.

    Media has changed rapidly with more choices than ever for fans to get their information & it has promoted a period of excellence that has forced all the players to compete for the ever shrinking market that we serve. It has also created a bit of a problem for advertisers as to where to spend their dollars as well. I spoke with a promoter recently who advertises heavily and he was perplexed that the days of spending X dollars with the local SG Radio station would fill all the seats in the house. With so many choices for listeners these days the time has past for putting all the eggs into one basket. The same thing happened with TV. When you only had 3 major networks that 90% of the viewing public watched it was a no brainer how you spent your money. But with over 200 choices and specialty channels and online video content and now cell phone content those easy choices are history!

    Did you know that there are right now 4 times as many cell phones with internet capabilities than there are PCs? 1.3 billion currently in use. And kids today are beginning to spend more time on their cell phones than on the family PCs. Change… It’s coming… And now it’s coming at light speed!

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