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A new focus on audio content

From the September 2011 issue of The Christian Science Journal

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We’re so grateful for our readers’ and listeners’ love and support of Sentinel Radio, and want to share some upcoming changes that will take place in early 2012. These changes will offer local broadcast groups both lower costs and find new opportunities for reaching the public, as well as prepare The Christian Science Journal, Sentinel, and Herald (JSH) for the launch of the new subscription JSH Online edition.

To get a sense of the scope of these changes, you have to go back to November 2009, when over 70 broadcast groups from all over North America traveled to Boston to participate in a broadcast summit. Throughout the weekend these broadcast groups met with editors, publishers, and members of the Board of Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society (CSPS) in open discussions about Sentinel broadcast activity. They shared wonderful fruitage from their activities, along with explaining the challenges of rising costs, fewer appropriate broadcast stations, and the difficulty of quantifying the size of the real listening audience. In an effort to control costs, many of the groups had turned to non-radio alternatives such as an 800 phone line or other “dial up” services. CSPS shared similar concerns about the costs, scale, and the sustainability of the current broadcast activity. Everyone agreed that the Internet would play a growing role in the future. 

By the end of the summit, it was clear that Sentinel Radio programming was perceived as being of the highest quality and was well loved, even though the broadcast model itself was not financially sustainable for either CSPS or the local broadcast groups. Everyone at the summit agreed that CSPS should seek out a new audio model that more thoughtfully embraced the use of the Internet to reach listeners. 

The seeds planted at the meeting back in 2009 are now taking root—and are beginning to bear fruit. A new hybrid radio/Internet model, using 60-second Sentinel Radio promotions, was tested in the Washington, DC, area with measurable results and valuable lessons. They aired on major radio stations and redirected listeners to a special Sentinel Radio website, where they could listen to a podcast or download it. From this experience a new audio model has been developed that will support both JSH Online and local broadcast outreach.

In the new model, JSH editors will develop and produce a series of weekly podcasts. These, along with access to 11 years of Sentinel Radio archives, will be available to subscribers to the JSH Online edition for listening, downloading, or sharing. In addition, each week the JSH editors will include as one of the JSH Online audio features an appropriate Sentinel Radio program from the archives, prepared for rebroadcast. 

Beginning in early 2012 CSPS will post the weekly edition of Sentinel Radio featured on JSH Online, along with a Journal podcast, a Sentinel podcast, a Herald podcast, and other selected audio content to a special landing page on christianscience.com for free access. Local broadcast groups will be able to promote this christianscience.com landing page in numerous ways—and will be able to download, at no cost, the weekly Sentinel Radio feature, for airing with their local radio broadcast partners. The desire of the more than 140 broadcast committees to work together to find creative solutions has been inspiring, and CSPS is actively working to meet their immediate and ongoing need for audio programming. 

If you currently subscribe to the Sentinel Radio CD Edition, you should have already received a letter explaining how these changes will affect your subscription. 

We’re so looking forward to the role that audio content will play in the new JSH Online edition. And we know that right along with us, you—as avid listeners of JSH audio content, and readers and subscribers of the Journal, Sentinel, and Herald—are looking forward to the launch of this new resource in early 2012.

John Sparkman is Managing Publisher, Journal, Sentinel, and Heralds.

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