Improvements coming to your Witness in 2017

Kevin BumgarnerThe Board of Directors of your Florida Baptist Witness recently approved a series of recommendations that will allow us to make significant improvements to the official news source of the Florida Baptist State Convention in 2017.

Starting in January, we plan to take all of the content we generate that has a specific time element attached to it and make it available to readers on our website as soon as the content is produced. And the content that we push to the web in our news/blogs section will continue to be available at no charge.

What exactly do I mean?

When we are told, for instance, about the uniting of Comunidade Batista Brasileira de Orlando and First Baptist Church Windermere, we will let our readers know the news via our website as soon as we finish the story. The same will be said for stories about leaders who are being nominated to serve in various Florida Baptist State Convention positions, such as Marvin Pittman, Javier Sotolongo and Paul Purvis. When First Baptist Church Islamorada’s food ministry gets a sizable grant from Publix Super Markets Charities, we will seek to tell you in the most timely manner possible.

I picked these three examples because they all appeared in a recent print edition, and we said nothing about them on our website before you received the news in print.

But readers—especially younger readers—expect greater immediacy from their news sources. They have been trained they do not have to wait for information, and if we are to capture millennials and those in Gen Z who have an allegiance to Florida Baptists then we must do a better job of meeting those expectations.

Of course, we think all readers will benefit by knowing about relevant information as soon as it is available.

Using technology to give you more timely access to news is not the only change being planned for our website. We also are in the process of adding video news content as a complementary component of the most important stories in every print edition.

For instance, when we interview a dozen or so people for our print-edition cover stories, we also want to add a video clip from at least one of those interviews and post it on our website. It, too, will be free on our website, and will serve the important purpose of helping those who do not subscribe to the Witness get a taste of what they are missing. And, again, video will help us be more relevant in the eyes of the next generation of Witness readers. For those of you who already are loyal subscribers to our print edition, we will let you know when a print-edition story has a related video link on our website so you, too, are able to take full advantage of everything our website has to offer.

To make everyone’s online experience more enjoyable, we will be working on a redesign of our website in the first quarter of 2017. I’ll be sharing more on that improvement at a later date.

Right now, I want to talk about the improvements planned in 2017 for our print audience. Because we are going to be presenting news digitally as it happens going forward, we will be able to create a monthly tabloid-sized format for print that keeps everything you have told us you liked about the current setup while adding several more pages of additional features and expanded commentary and analysis with a Christian worldview.

For the past few years, we have averaged 16-page issues on a roughly once-every-two-weeks schedule. Starting in January, we will give you a monthly publication that allows you to dive deeper into the news and get more of it. We anticipate the average page count of each issue in 2017 to be 28 pages, or nearly twice the size of this year’s average print edition.

Some features, such as our eight exclusive columnists and Bible study writers, will remain available only to print subscribers.

Many of our print stories will be designed to help give you a better understanding of the news we broke throughout the month on our website.

For instance, we will often come back to stories such as the uniting of Comunidade Batista Brasileira de Orlando and First Baptist Church Windermere and explain why it is happening, what will be changing and what will remain the same. We may also take a look to see if this is happening on a more or less frequent basis.

When we told you online who was being nominated to serve in various Florida Baptist State Convention positions, print readers will benefit from stories that contain interviews with these people. During the Southern Baptist Convention and Florida Baptist State Convention meetings, we will be giving you real-time updates online, and in print we will come back and give you a complete overview of the actions taken along with exclusive interviews with key decision-makers.
In other words, our website will be designed to get you news in a timely manner. And our print edition will be designed to give you a better understanding of what the news meant, along with a host of exclusive features that will not be appearing on our website—except for paying subscribers.

We also will be adding a Q&A feature with key Florida Baptist leaders and a page designed to help you see what you’ve been missing if you haven’t been on our website or interacting with us on social media. That page also will contain stand-alone graphics designed to give you a snapshot look at data important to Florida Baptists or Southern Baptists.

Your print edition also will be getting a cleaner, more modern, look to showcase the new content and expanded coverage.

All of that will debut with our January 2017 issue, which should be delivered to your home or church office the week before Christmas. We know you’ll have a lot going on at that time, so please keep us readily accessible through January so you have plenty of time to thoroughly enjoy the richness of our expanded coverage and new features.

These are important days in the life of the ministry of your Florida Baptist Witness. As always, I welcome your feedback on anything we are doing or that you would like to see us do. And I am forever grateful for your continued prayers and financial support that make this ministry possible.

Florida Baptist Witness Executive Editor Kevin Bumgarner can be reached in the office at 904-596-3171, via email at and on Twitter @FBW_editor. He also is available on Facebook,Google+ and LinkedIn.

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