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New name of St. Anthony Messenger Press reflects broader role, says CEO

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March 27, 2012

By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

A lot has changed since the Franciscan friars of Cincinnati published the first issue of St. Anthony Messenger, a monthly publication for secular Franciscans, in 1893.

 

That publication not only launched a national magazine but a much broader outreach under the umbrella of St. Anthony Messenger Press to include print and electronic book publishing, catechetical videos, a syndicated radio program, parish resources, apps and a website.

 

To more accurately portray its outreach St. Anthony Messenger Press now has the new name Franciscan Media.

 

The name change, or rebranding as marketers call it, also puts St. Francis of Assisi front and center.

 

Franciscan Father Dan Kroger, the CEO of Franciscan Media, said the name honors the saint who is “remarkably well known … perhaps more than any other figure in the Catholic Church today.”

 

The priest knows about the saint’s appeal not only from the requests for information about him, especially near his feast day, Oct. 4, but also from the independent research Franciscan Media began last summer.

 

A key aspect of the research was to determine what customers want.

 

“We’re still pursuing the same basic strategy,” Father Kroger told Catholic News Service March 9. “But we’re much stronger, up-to-date and knowledgeable of our audience.”

 

The publishing company is used to adapting with the times. In 1970, the magazine expanded into St. Anthony Messenger Press to publish popular religious books and publications such as “Catholic Update” and “Homily Helps.”

 

Two decades later, it acquired Franciscan Communications, the Franciscan media enterprise in Los Angeles, increasing its sale of catechetical videos. It expanded its reach even further in 2003 with the acquisition of Charis Books, the Catholic imprint of Servant Publications of Ann Arbor, Mich.

 

Father Kroger, who has been at the helm of the organization since 2006, said it has always tried to reflect the Franciscan spirit of being with the people and reaching them where they are.

 

A big part of the new change, beyond just a different name, is the effort to put an increased focus on digital media. This is already in the works with the company’s e-books, Saint of the Day app for mobile phones and its online book catalogue.

 

“If we’re not out there digitally we might as well not be out there at all,” said the priest who was a longtime missionary and university professor in the Philippines. He also said the company plans to “stay ahead of game in the digital field and owes it to the church to do so.”

 

“Live television shows are the only thing we’re not doing,” he added.

 

As part of the company’s reorganization, 15 staff members lost their job. Father Kroger said this was a necessary step “to keep Franciscan Media viable in these challenging economic times.” The company now has smaller management teams to enable production to be “more efficient” as well as “being relevant and getting out the door on time,” the priest said.

 

Adjusting to these changes did not happen overnight. A note posted on Father Kroger’s door says “St. Francis, pray for us” to which someone added: “St. Anthony, you keep praying for us too.” St. Anthony, a Franciscan preacher and teacher, was one of St. Francis’ most famous disciples.

 

And although the legal name change to Franciscan Media went into effect Jan. 1, a complete shift has not yet taken place.

 

At the operation’s Cincinnati headquarters, a vinyl banner with the new name hangs over the previous outdoor sign until winter is over and a new sign will be put in its place.

 

And when callers reach the company, the automated greeting thanks callers for contacting Franciscan Media, formerly St. Anthony Messenger Press.

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