The Globe is covering a new beat, and it’s not another Boston sports team. Nieman Lab’s Justin Ellis reported last week that the paper had launched a niche micro-site called “Crux,” focusing only on aspects of the Catholic faith, including lifestyle news and how the Pope and the Church handle political issues. Not only will the Globe Media-owned-and-run site feature Vatican news, it has also been designed to post quizzes and digestible chunks of content made for social sharing, Ellis found in his reporting.
It’s an interesting concept from a publication that has reported aggressively on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and an idea worth noting for newspapers that have long maintained a religion “beat” but never expanded the issues to a separate platform. The Globe‘s experiment begs the question of whether other big newsrooms should follow suit. With religion being just as much a part of many readers’ daily lives as sports, technology and food are, why shouldn’t the topic — or furthermore, a specific denomination — get its own vertical?
The birth of Crux makes me wonder what it would look like for independent, unbiased daily metros to launch religion verticals that are prevalent to their communities. As the digital space continues to create fragmentation of readers, building strong online communities requires that you provide a quality service that the reader can’t find anywhere else. Niche pubs work precisely because they are built around passionate consumers who believe in the site’s content, keep coming back for more and aren’t afraid to share the site’s content with their friends online. Mormons, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians — all would likely enjoy a space to congregate online while catching up on religious news, and they’d like the reporting to be reliable.
But of course, there’s always the problem of money. If a mid-sized paper, as opposed to a huge large-scale metro were backing a site like Crux, would it be able to monetize the site in a meaningful way? Are religion verticals a good space for native advertising? Furthermore, would Crux ever work if it weren’t associated with the Globe? Religious publications like Relevant Magazine have seen huge success in building a digital community of Christians without the support of any large news organization. Can the Globe do it, and is it a good idea? I would argue that as long as the reporting has integrity and the facts are straight — that means not getting theological concepts wrong in reporting — the paper can and should do it.
Please let us know your thoughts in the comments, and check out Crux here.