Francis mania is lifting up the religious media.
As Pope Francis approaches the first anniversary of his election this week , his popularity is generating a boom for a media niche that rarely gathers much notice.
“We are just working night and day to satisfy demand,” said Monsignor Dario Vigano, head of the Vatican’s broadcaster, Vatican Television Center, or CTV, which shadows the pope and supplies papal newscasts and images for both Catholic and lay broadcasters. Revenue at CTV leaped 40% in 2013, as broadcasters as far afield as Tanzania now want the recordings of the pope’s weekly audiences. The windfall has allowed CVT to splash out on more modern cameras and a new €1.8 million ($2.45 million) control room.
Last week—on Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent — MondadoriMN.MI +2.66% SpA, the publishing house controlled by the family of media magnate-turned-politician Silvio Berlusconi, launched a new weekly dedicated to the pope. The magazine, Il Mio Papa, which will initially cost 50 euro cents a copy, will include a pullout centerfold with Francis quotes and will print three million copies for its first month of publication.
Interest in the papacy exploded after Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation last year, and it carried through the conclave that elected Pope Francis. But Pope Francis’s heartwarmingly human—and telegenic—gestures, such as washing prisoners’ feet on Good Friday and taking selfies with fans in St. Peter’s Square, have kept interest high. (See a timeline of the ope’s life and career.)
“We really have seen a ‘Francis effect,’” said Dennis Coday, editor of the National Catholic Reporter in Kansas City, Mo., whose monthly online page views have soared 44% since Pope Francis’s election.
A rise in subscriptions and newsstand sales allowed the Tablet, a British Catholic magazine, to spend more than €7,000 to send its Rome-based correspondent on the papal plane to cover World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro last July. It has also hired a stringer to cover Latin America, the home turf of the Argentine pontiff.
“We wouldn’t have normally done the Brazil trip as it is colossally expensive,” said editor Catherine Pepinster.
Pope Francis’s huge cross-over appeal also has drawn the mainstream media. He was put on the cover of Time magazine as 2013 Person of the Year, and he was the first pontiff to make the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. A Rolling Stone spokeswoman said that the pope issue, which was in January, sold above average.