Bible Gateway up for grabs & GospelCom to close

GospelCom

Wherein I lament the passing of one of the Christian Web’s greatest and most popular Websites.

One year ago I interviewed for a job at Gospel Communications. There was an opening for a training specialist and I happily made it through the various rounds of interviews and reference checks. In the end, I was invited to Muskegon to visit the offices of GospelCom in order to give a trial-run 15-minute presentation to Brian Atkinson and his team of intrepid Web wonks. There were two other applicants before me, also giving presentations, showing their mad training skills. I didn’t get the job.

At first I was both disappointed and pleased. I did a fair enough job with my presentation that I was invited (and paid!) to give a followup, expanded presentation at last year’s Internet Ministry conference (“Relationship Blogging” and “Integrity on the Internet“). That was great fun. But, still, I didn’t land the gig, and I would’ve been happy to: GospelCom has been a great organization, and ever since I visited their offices for the first time back in the late 90′s I’ve been impressed with how effectively they dominated the Christian ministry hosting space and totally ruled the online Bible application concept.

But now, I’m filled with a different mixture of disappointment and relief. GospelCom is closing it’s online doors. For purely selfish reasons, I am relieved: Had I landed that job I would once again be looking for work.

I am not sure whether GospelCom was the first one to put the full Bible online, but it was certainly the first to do so in a way that made sense. The text was fully searchable, it was fast, it provided relevant links to broader scriptural context, they linked verses with audio clips, they had a mind-boggling array of translations, and I think they were the first to get permission to put the massively popular New International Version (NIV) of the Bible online. Even now, I think they might be the only one to host Today’s New International Version (TNIV) as well. It has been a Godsend and a great boon to Bible students and believers everywhere. Others have imitated it, but nobody has ever come close to improving on it, much less surpassing it.

All of that is coming to a close. It’s the end of an era. Or at least it feels that way.

I’m surprised I haven’t seen this announced online anywhere. I searched fruitlessly for it today, but haven’t seen it. This, despite the front page announcement I read in last Friday’s Muskegon Chronicle:

Muskegon-based Christian media giant near close

As far as I can tell, and from whatever scuttlebutt I’ve heard, Gospel Communications itself is not closing, but that remains to be seen. At the very least, the Internet portion of GospelCom will be going away.

Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed that my GospelCom social networking contacts have quietly been updating their online resumés and some of them have already listed new jobs as their current place of employment. Former coworkers of mine have related that some Bible Societies (likely the International Bible Society, copyright holder for the NIV and TNIV) have been bidding to purchase the Bible Gateway to keep it alive in one form or another. There will likely be big news to announce on this front in the next few weeks when the secret corporate handshakes are all done.

Let’s hope and pray that our hard-laboring brothers and sisters at GospelCom land on their feet. Michigan’s economy is in the tanks right now and it will take miracles for these capable people to find jobs quickly.

Rich

[tags]bible, bible-gateway, blogrodent, brian-atkinson, brian-melles, gospel-communications, gospel-films, gospelcom, ibs, interactive-bible, international-bible-society, internet-ministry, logos-research-systems, logos-software, michigan, muskegin-michigan, muskegon, new-international-version, niv, online-bible, online-bibles, rich-tatum, sad-day, searchable-bible, social-networking, the-internet-ministry-conference, tniv, today’s-new-international-version, training, web-hosting, zondervan[/tags]

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20 Responses to Bible Gateway up for grabs & GospelCom to close

  1. Kathi says:

    Rich, http://bible.crosswalk.com/ offers the NIV, TNIV, and a bunch of other translations. Gospelcom changed their format 5 or 6 years ago and I didn’t care for the new interface at the time, so I switched to the Crosswalk version. It’s not “perfect” but definitely usable and handy!

  2. Carl Thomas says:

    Do you know why they are closing? What could their server costs be? I would love to know their traffic statistics. That, coupled with PR7 for almost the entire site means they are sitting on a gold mine. I don’t understand why they are not able to keep that type of resource afloat.

    do you have any more information?

  3. It will be a sad day if we no longer have access to BibleGateway.com I use it all the time, it is by far one of the most effective bible programs on the internet.

    I checked out the crosswalk, and it’s nice to know that it is there, but it is no where near as flexible as biblegateway. I mean multiple parallel bibles is a big plus. Plus the option to enable/disable footnotes.

    :-( sad day indeed…

  4. Rich says:

    I don’t think it’ll be going away. It’s too valuable a Web property for it not to be bought up at a reasonable price. say …. a couple million in cold cash.

    Rich

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  6. David Ker says:

    Big news. Thanks for the scoop.

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  8. Have you heard of studylight.org? I have had great success with it.

    J

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  10. Oh I’m sorry to hear this. I hope you are right and someone keeps BibleGateway up and running. I use it ALL the time and have found nothing else I like as much. Strange, isn’t it?

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  12. Rich says:

    Gospel Communications Network will be closing down on December 15, 2008.

    Rich

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  15. Rich says:

    By the way, Adam McLane has a good post about this over at his blog.

    Good Night GospelCom Alliance.

    Here’s my personal opinion. I think that the need for the Alliance may have passed. When it was created back in 1995 this thing was totally needed. Ministries struggled to find decent hosts, small ministries had no practical way to create an online presence without spending tons of cash, and there wasn’t a lot of technical support out there for people just learning. Boy how times have changed! Speaking as a member, having been to the conference, I just don’t see the need for this type of Alliance.

    Rich

  16. adam mclane says:

    It’s a little odd to me that they haven’t made any sort of public announcement. Biblegateway is a very valuable resource, and I just don’t see any way that it’d go away.

    What lead to this? Well, I think every non-profit in Michigan is struggling. I know that they invested a lot of money in developing their properties prior to the economy tanking. And my opinion is that they need a couple gazillion bucks to re-genesis Biblegateway for the next 10 years.

    I don’t think Gospel.com will be sold as a full property… that domain will likely just get a new owner, new idea. They put a lot of effort into Gospel.com and it just never took off.

    Like you, I hope all of those folks land new gigs soon!

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  19. GCI Donor says:

    Rich,
    Thanks for posting this story. What I find really interesting is how all of the word in Grand Rapids has been about Zondervan’s purchase of BibleGateway but I still haven’t seen any stories about how Gospel Communications has essentially shut it’s doors completely. We’ve been donors for over a decade and I can’t believe that they are just shutting everything down all at once. No more film sales? No more prison ministry? No more high school ministry? No more international outreach?

    I just wish somebody would get to the bottom of why all of the execs walked out in the last year leaving an old friend of the Devos family to do as he pleased. Where’s Billy Zeoli? Was it political? Financial? Illegal? It doesn’t make any sense. In talking with a few of the management at their last banquet, it sounded like there was finally some new blood with a new passion for overhauling the company’s vision and plans.

    At first we were ecstatic to hear about the sale. That is, until we heard they were shutting everything down. I don’t care how bad the finances got over the years, the fact that they have a new cash infusion and significantly less internet-related expense leaves them in a pretty good position to reorganize and rebuild from the ground up.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for Zondervan. I think BG will take off in a world that can find ways to monetize the traffic. I’m just saddened by what appears to be the untimely and illogical end of a great organization. Something fishy is going on.

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