The End of Beliefnet (As We Know It)?

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Religion mega-site Beliefnet, which was recently put on the block by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., has been sold to investment group BN Media according to paidContent.

“This afternoon we are announcing that Beliefnet has been acquired by BN Media, LLC, which is the investment group behind Affinity4 and Cross Bridge Media, companies many of you know due to our successful working relationships with them over the past year.  This course of events begins a new chapter for Beliefnet, and it’s one that I am confident will enable us to continue our growth and prosperity alongside an organization that is so well-versed in our category and committed to our mission of being the leading provider of inspiration and faith-based content in a multi-faith environment.”

Unsurprisingly, layoffs are now happening (so they can “continue growing”, naturally). But who, exactly, is BN Media? What’s their agenda? While there were concerns that Rupert Murdoch would steer Beliefnet in a more conservative direction, those fears were diminished somewhat by the fact that News Corp. is a vast (largely) secular media empire. But BN Media seems to be a different sort of owner, if their two largest initiatives, Affinity4 and Cross Bridge, are any indication. In short, it seems they are a conservative “family friendly” Christian group. All you have to do is pay attention to all the subtle buzz-words.

“Cross Bridge is committed to providing high quality, inspirational programming and resources, bridging the gaps in current mainstream media, while conveying uplifting messages and nurturing positive outlooks … Through our partnership with FOX Networks Group of News Corporation, Cross Bridge is integrating value-based legacy media programming with an interactive, new media experience.”

“What groups do you support? We work with many charities and ministries and other organizations such as booster clubs. Most promote, support and protect traditional family values and religious and constitutional freedoms. Click here for a listing of some of our charities and ministries.”

When you do click to see what groups Affinity4 supports, it’s a who’s who of conservative Christian organizations. Focus on the Family, Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Trinity Broadcasting Network, Promise Keepers, Concerned Women for America, and Christian Broadcasting Network, to name just a sampling. Now, BN Media, and its holdings, can support whomever they like, but it doesn’t paint a very rosy picture of future interfaith interactions and diverse viewpoints on Beliefnet. How long will the new pay-masters tolerate a Pagan blog? Not to mention all the New Age stuff. Will Rev. Barry Lynn soon find himself increasingly uncomfortable?

Aside from concerns over Beliefnet’s new owners scrubbing the site clean and “family friendly”, the big issue is if Beliefnet can ever get its mojo back in an increasingly crowded field. With PatheosReligion Dispatchesthe Huffington Post’s religion sectionCNN‘s just-launched Belief Blog, and the Newsweek/Washington Post-supported On Faith all looking to draw folks interested in religious news and views, will Beliefnet end up like MySpace (another News Corp. acquisition)? Perennially behind the curve and slowly leaking readership/users? Whatever happens from now, I think it may be the beginning of the end of Beliefnet as we currently know it (and I feel fine).