By putting up a pay wall. They have announced "it is very likely" that once their ongoing Web redesign "is complete that a subscription will be required to access all of the Baptist Message's print content online."
Available public figures suggest that Web users are disinterested in the publication's content and as a result will not pay for it online (their pay wall will be a real wall). The Baptist Message has an Alexa Traffic Rank of 4,551,727 (lower numnbers are better), a Google PageRank of 4 (higher numbers are better). Page views per user and time on site per user suggest a site that is already unread by most visitors. Likewise, the persistent absence of advertising from the Message online implies that advertisers have concluded that it has no worthwhile Web audience to which to hawk their wares.
Subscription prices are a mere $14.00 a year, but the Web has plenty of examples of small payment publications that failed. The Message is already on life support and dying by degrees. It was budgeted a $426,800 subsidy for 2004 by the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Declining circulation and rising costs drove it from weekly to biweekly in 2009, and into a printed-on-paper partnership to deliver the state convention's promotional magazine, LBClive.Alexa Traffic Rank: 282,514; Google PageRank: 5) - launched an $8-a-year online multimedia product called "E3" during the first quarter of this year. And E3's Facebook group activity suggests that it has crashed and awaits burning.
Success would be denoted by thousands of Facebook group members and a plethora active discussions.
E3 was foredoomed by lack of user interest, as we warned at launch. Most Baptist Standard Web visitors hit one page and leave (80% bounce rate). They tarry long enough to perhaps read that page and increasingly look at only one page. Repackaging and more heavily promoting content whose Web traffic demonstrates little marketplace appeal is a waste of money. We'll dig a hole in our product graveyard for E3 (no charge).
The arc of on-paper Baptist state newspaper circulation has been one of inexorable decline toward disappearance, for decades (see graph below).
It is sad to see another state Southern Baptist publication propose a step which is if implemented destined to reduce the remains of their Web presence to ashes, thus accelerating their overall decline.
After some online discussion of Alexa, we used Compete to generate a limited-value interactive graph of unique users visiting the Web sites of three state Baptist publications -- the Lousiana Baptist Message, the Missouri Word & Way and the N.C. Biblical Recorder.
If the underlying numbers are even within throwing range of correct, none of those sites should consider putting up a Web paywall. Least of all the Baptist Message (to the best of our knowledge the only one of the three which is considering a paywall). According to Compete, it attracted just under 15 unique visitors a day in October -- appropriate to a good personal blog, not a publication with full-time staff, and probably several thousand times less than the visits they need to pair with compelling content before considering a paywall.