In a statement board chair Botond Fejes wrote: “Arriving at this conclusion has been a difficult process for the board. Its members have struggled with this responsibility for a considerable time. The continued publication of the Record, in its present configuration, was simply not sustainable … therefore, we are sadly constrained to allow this ebb in the fortunes of the Presbyterian Record to run its course.”David Harris, the publisher and editor, said the magazine was not able to transition from a sub-based model to a magazine based on philanthropy, despite great support from donors.
“Our donors have been fantastic,” said Harris. “Over the past 12 years, they have given us almost $1.5 million. Without that support, the magazine would have folded years ago. Over the past 25 years, readership has been declining at an average rate of 2,000 subscribers a year, while the denomination itself—the magazine’s sole market—has been declining at a rate of about 2,800 members a year."Publishing an online version is not practical, said Harris.
“Salaries, not printing and postage, are the biggest costs at a small magazine like the Record,” he said. “You need excellent staff whether a publication is online or print. And the Record could not expect to generate significant online revenue.”The magazine posted a loss of $141,425 at the end of 2015 on a budget of $900.000, but the loss for 2016 is projected to be nearly a quarter of a million dollars. To carry on, it would have to raise an additional $75,000 this year and about $250,000 next.
In 1975, the magazine had a circulation of 88,000 but by 2000, it had fallen to 50,000 and is continuing to slide since to approximately 10,000 today. The Presbyterian Church has lost about a third of its members this century. In 2015 alone, 16 congregations were shuttered.
“Besides the fall in denominational numbers, the financial crisis of 2007-2008 was definitely a major factor,” said Harris. “Many—perhaps most—Presbyterians are on a fixed income. They saw their net worth fall, their pension income decline, and congregations needed their money just to keep up the buildings and ministers’ salaries.
“The magazine became an expendable luxury under the circumstances.”