Rupert Murdoch buys into online religion

By Ecumenical News International
10 Dec 2007

Rupert Murdoch's global media organization News Corporation has announced it has acquired Beliefnet, said to be the largest faith and spirituality information site on the World Wide Web, for an undisclosed sum - writes Cheryl Heckler.

"Beliefnet has garnered respect for its commitment to quality, editorial strength and unbiased approach to faith and spirituality from a broad range of consumers, religious and political leaders, journalists and advertisers," said Dan Fawcett, president of Fox Digital Media, part of News Corporation, in a 4 December 2007 statement announcing the acquisition.

He said Fox wants to "leverage these characteristics across a broader media canvas" and "enhance an already terrific product in a rapidly growing market".

Beliefnet will become part of Fox Digital Media, in a move that further expands News Corporation's Internet holdings.

"Rarely has religion been more prominent in the media than today, and News Corp's interest in Beliefnet, thought to be a good advertising revenue generator, indicates how seriously this is all being taken," wrote Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent for the News Corporation-owned Times of London, on her online blog http://timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/

Founded in 1999, Beliefnet claims 3 million users each month. Its aim is to "help people find and walk a spiritual path that instils comfort, hope, clarity, strength and happiness for people who are exploring their own faith or curious about other spiritual traditions".

More than 82 million Americans and 64 percent of all Internet users search the Web for faith-related information, according to The Pew Internet Project.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the deal would offer cross-marketing opportunities between Beliefnet and Fox Faith, a year-old division within the Fox studio that targets Christian audiences with religious-themed movies.

Beliefnet (www.beliefnet) became profitable in 2002 and received US$7 million investment from venture firm Softbank in June 2005.

With acknowledgments to ENI: www.eni.ch

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Ekklesia adds: Although the Murdoch media empire is strongly identified with the religion and politics of the right, among the main Beliefnet sites is God's Politics (http://blog.beliefnet.com/godspolitics/), a group blog co-ordinated by progressive US evangelical leader Jim Wallis, whose broad-based Sojourners/Call to Renewal network is promoting a very different agenda to the tele-evangelists - and is seeking to change the character of Christian engagement in public life towards listening, open engagement and alternative or counter-cultural values.

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