Since you’re holding in your hands the second to last physical issue of CCM, this go-round, we’re exploring the timely subject of magazines going online. We’ll join a growing list of publications—other music mags, Christian mags and just about everything else—that are moving off the page and onto your computer screen.

First, a confession: I love magazines. I subscribe to, well, too many of them to keep up with—travel, music and entertainment, news, Wired and, of course, CCM. The portability, readability, accessibility and visual appeal of a print publication have made that the medium of choice for many. But publishing online has its own considerable list of advantages: it can be easily, instantly updated or corrected, offers freedom from length restrictions, and incorporates other mediums (links, files, video, etc.) in ways that a page can’t match.

For this CSI: CCM project, we turn to Jackie Marushka, publicity queen (actual title: VP Public Relations) for Provident Music Group. She’s been getting press for Third Day, Smitty, Jars, et al, for the last eight years.

She says the biggest motivator behind this transition is timeliness: “I see the consumer wanting real-time info—whether it’s coverage of news or entertainment or what their favorite celebrity is doing at the moment. Life moves quickly, and print publications are not able to keep up. I log on every morning and get my news and weather, which is updated over something that was written last night,” as the morning paper was.

There’s also, Marushka says, the “early adopter” appeal of being first on the scene with new info—or a new song.

“Younger readers want to access information first. If you’re first to hear about something, there’s a little bit of a cool factor in coming across new music or a film or a news story that’s just breaking.”

Money is another big factor: it costs a lot to layout, print and distribute publications. “Advertising dollars aren’t as attainable as they have been,” she says. “Businesses are being more selective, looking online and elsewhere they can match where their consumers are.”

For her artists and others, the move online opens up new opportunities to connect with fans, a development we’ve covered here before. Beyond just the traditional Q&A, interview-based feature or review, the web “allows the artist to get creative with video, audio, blogs, etc.” One of her acts, progressive rock band Leeland, will grab a video camera and take fans on a virtual walk backstage. Another, Third Day, has a huge online community where fans can connect with others, plan to gather at the band’s shows and relate over the message boards. In sum, the options available online can help move a consumer or buyer into a fan, Marushka says.

Though many publications (notably this one and Paste) help the reader discover new music by including sampler CDs, the discovery process is much easier on the Web—and easily married with an online feature. “Music sells music,” says Marushka. “I rarely will buy an album without hearing it or having it recommended to me by a friend I trust.” There’s that community thing again. And it’s a whole lot easier to be a tastemaker in a paper and plastic-free medium.

“Business is changing across the board; the economy is not in the greatest shape,” she says. “We’re all having to be thoughtful about where we spend our money. The shift from print to online is what’s going to happen in the future in a lot of areas because of the cost savings.” My money says print publications will be around for a long time, but certainly technology and economics have irrevocably changed magazine publishing, just as they have the music business.

“CCM, in print, has such a history and a legacy that’s going to be missed,” concludes Marushka. “But it has an opportunity to meet new readers online and introduce more artists to a bigger group of people.”

Amen to that. And here’s to many more years of your favorite Christian music magazine in cyberspace.

Beau Black teaches English for Weatherford College and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University near his home in Fort Worth, Texas. He has written about the Christian music industry for more than a decade.

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