Pope's Popularity Boosts Fortunes of Religious Media

Image: Pope's Popularity Boosts Fortunes of Religious Media A newsstand vendor holds the new Italian magazine Il Mio Papa published by Mondadori in Rome.

Thursday, 13 Mar 2014 11:32 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Religious newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters have seen a boom in revenue since the election of Pope Francis one year ago, with interest in the pontiff buoyed by his personal and telegenic approach, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Francis: Who Is Pope Francis? Book Reveals the Man

"We really have seen a 'Francis effect,'" Dennis Coday, editor of the National Catholic Reporter in Kansas City, Mo., told the Journal. The paper's monthly online page views have increased 44 percent since Pope Francis' election, he said.

Vatican Television Center, or CTV, the Vatican's broadcaster, which shadows the Pope and offers papal newscasts for both Catholic and lay broadcasters, saw its revenue increase 40 percent in 2013, allowing it to upgrade its cameras and invest in a new $2.45 million control room, according to the Journal.

"We are just working night and day to satisfy demand," Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano, head of CTV, told the Journal.

Meanwhile, last week, Mondadori SpA, the publishing house controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, launched a new weekly magazine dedicated to the Pope called II Mio Papa. Table, a British Catholic magazine, has also seen a rise in subscriptions and newsstand sales, and other Catholic publications also report increased interest and sales, according to the Journal.

Francis' warm style and tendency to speak directly to his audience may be at the root of his surging media profile, the Journal reports.

"John Paul II was someone who spoke to the media, while Benedict addressed the church," Francesco Siliato, a lecturer on the sociology of communications at Milan's Polytechnic, told the Journal. "Francis goes straight to the common people."

There also has been a surge in interest in the Pope on social media. Catholic News Service says its Facebook followers have increased tenfold in the last year, according to the Journal, and a book on Pope Francis' November manifesto, as well as publications with excerpts of his weekly audience talks, have had strong sales.

Positive comments about the Pope on Twitter have outnumbered negative ones by 5 to 1 so far, according to figures from the Pew Research Center, and the Pope's Twitter account has 12.2 million followers, the Journal reports.

Francis: Who Is Pope Francis? Book Reveals the Man

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