Back in 1970, as a young minister working in Melbourne, Australia, I read a book titled Future Shock. The author, futurist Alvin Toffler, forecast that the next few decades would bring unprecedented change, and that this would have a disorienting effect on those who would live through them.
As a young man with my career ahead of me, I found this fascinating. If Toffler was right, we could expect the remainder of the 20th century to be turbulent, and the wise approach would be to prepare for change, however unsettling that might be.
Some have suggested that the days of print magazines are numbered. They may be right.
In 1994 I had the opportunity to interview Alvin Toffler in Los Angeles. He was easy to talk to, and the interview seemed more like a friendly discussion. Before I left, I asked him to sign a copy of his latest book that I had brought with me. I have it before me now, and I still appreciate what he wrote: “For John Halford, who has also thought hard about tomorrow.”
I still try to think hard about tomorrow—especially what “tomorrow” might mean in my field of magazine journalism. The advances in electronic publishing have revolutionized the way we produce and publish printed literature.
And still the changes keep coming, as the methods of communication become ever more innovative and sophisticated. Some have suggested that the days of printed magazines and books are numbered, as more and more people get their information electronically. That may well be the case; Amazon recently reported that it had sold more books electronically through its Kindle reading device than had been bought as hard copy.
In this tumultuous climate, many magazines have gone out of business, and others have made some drastic changes. Publishers are realizing that a print magazine must be thought of as just one component of an interactive and flexible media package. For example, US News and World Report, once printed weekly, is now a monthly magazine with Internet support. Although I suspect that the days of print magazines and newspapers are not yet over, “ezines”—magazines that only exist electronically—are already a fact of life.
So my colleagues and I at Grace Communion International, publisher of the magazine, have been thinking hard about tomorrow.
We have had to face the fact that the costs of advertising, renewal, printing and mailing have prevented Christian Odyssey from becoming a viable general audience outreach publication. Even to continue printing and mailing the magazine to our current readership, especially considering the fact that it is available free of charge on our website, is simply taking up too much of the total budget we have available for media. We have to recognize that other avenues of communication are more cost effective for Christian instruction and inspiration aimed at the general public. So it is time to make some changes.
We have decided to more effectively meet the needs of our members and supporters by focusing the editorial content of Christian Odyssey not only on a positive and practical Christian perspective on the everyday issues facing ordinary people, as we do now, but also on news of people and events in GCI around the world. So, beginning with the December/January issue, the editorial goals of Christian Odyssey will be to:
- Foster hope, joy and a sense of community in its readers.
- Lead readers to deeper understanding of God, their faith and their church.
- Explore the challenges and opportunities facing today’s Christians.
- Inspire readers to embrace the gospel and live a grace-centered life in Jesus Christ.
- Inform readers in a positive and inspiring way about the people and events of Grace Communion International.
The December/January issue will also feature a new design to reflect the new editorial policy. The magazine will continue to be available to everyone free of charge on our websites at ChristianOdyssey.org and at gci.org. The print version will be mailed to all GCI donors, both to those who donate to a local congregation as well as to those who donate directly to the denominational headquarters in Glendora, California.
So now I had better head this ship into port for the refit. We hope to have the redesigned magazine ready to mail to you in late November.