By Dennis Sadowski
In a twist for most Catholic media, Jesuit-run America Media has unveiled a widespread marketing campaign to highlight its flagship magazine and its array of digital platforms to new audiences.
Introduced March 14, the #OwnYourFaith campaign opened with advertisements in the print and online versions of the Wall Street Journal, radio stations in select markets and “street marketing” through efforts such as widespread placement of posters to reach people in the course of everyday life.
Jesuit Father Matt Malone, president and editor in chief of America Media, described the campaign as the last piece of a strategic plan that saw the magazine invest in staff, reconfigure its editorial content, introduce a daily emailed newsletter, and add digital platforms to deliver news, information, analysis and commentary.
Developed in collaboration with Venables Bell and Partners in San Francisco, the campaign is designed to introduce America Media — primarily to Catholics but also those who have interest in Catholic viewpoints on news and issues of the day.
Widespread, creative advertising is something not widely practice by Catholic media, Father Malone acknowledged.
“We thought, let’s take a different approach. We live in a different world now. Just the fact that we’re doing it differently we hope will get people’s attention,” he said.
Initially, ads and social media posts are appearing in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Chicago, communities Father Malone identified as have significant numbers of engaged Catholics — those who are committed to their faith, regularly attend Mass, care about social issues and “have some affinity to the Jesuits.”
The goal is to build interest in the magazine and related online content in order to attract younger readers and viewers who want to know what’s being said about key issues by those most active in the church.
The magazine’s subscription base still skews to those in their 70s while the average viewer of all content has shifted younger, to those in their late 40s and early 50s, Father Malone said.
“The kind of editorial (content) that America has, which is committed to be a platform where we have a diversity of Catholic voices, (is) needed now more than ever in the church and in the world,” he said.
In addition, he said, America Media has long felt there is an untapped audience looking for the kind of thoughtful and engaged content it produces.
“Over the years, relative to the size of the population that we could serve, our (magazine circulation) numbers historically have been relatively small because the Catholic media didn’t really market itself,” he explained.
“Now that we’ve spent several years getting the editorial to where we want it to be and we’ve made the investments in the platforms and in the people necessary really to lead a conversation, we want to let the world to know about it. We want to go outside the traditional Catholic media in order to do that,” said Father Malone, who has led the magazine for about a decade.
He said research has shown that graduates from Jesuit colleges and universities number some 2.5 million in the United States. It’s an audience that Father Malone and his colleagues believe can be attracted to what America Media offers.
In a column introducing the campaign posted March 14 at www.americamagazine.org, Father Malone noted that the “Catholic Church belongs to all of us, even though it may not always feel that way.”
“This great gift is not just your parish priest’s church, not only Father Matt Malone’s church, not just the U.S. bishops’ church, but Christ’s church and therefore yours. It is through him, with him and in him that we share a common baptism,” he wrote.
He also pointed to the vision of Jesuit Father John Wynne, who founded the publication in 1909 to give Catholics a voice in the country’s public debate.
At the time, Father Malone told CNS, Father Wynne imagined a daily publication. Today, he added, “we basically are.”
“We publish five or six articles every day and then they go out in a newsletter at the end of the day to more than 150,000 people; 150,000 is three times more than average number of subscribers to us in print for the last 50 years,” Father Malone said.
The campaign will be evaluated over the next two months to determine its impact as well as whether to expand to other markets.
“At the end of the day, we’re eager to see a vibrant and diverse range of voices and outlets within the Catholic media,” he said. “We want that to continue.”