The Catholic Directory has become the latest vehicle on the information superhighway. The 2014 edition will be released in a digital format in February.
This is a departure from the traditional hardcopy book that has been published annually by the Diocese of Buffalo for over 80 years. While the content will remain the same, how it is viewed has changed.
People can still find the Mass times of local parishes, the addresses of clergy and religious, and the Catholic institutions that serve the diocese, but instead of a physical book, the Directory will be available for download via the diocesan website (www.buffalodiocese.org) and can be conveniently viewed on computer, smartphone and tablet.
This allows viewers to do a quick search for names rather than flip through nearly 200 pages of information. The decision to shift away from the traditional format came over years of thought on the part of the editorial team.
"The real motivation is, every year more people ask for a digital, searchable copy of this, and the easiest way to do that is to take the product that we already have and create a PDF of it," said Gregg Prince, editorial team leader.
Soliciting advertisements has become difficult in recent years. Decades ago, it was not rare for one third of the Directory to be ads, selling everything from pianos to paper to poultry.
Those ads have declined greatly over the decades. Last year, four tab advertisers dropped out and could not be replaced.
"We just can't continue to put that kind of effort into soliciting advertisers for the dwindling return that we get on that," said Prince. "If we're going to go to a model that's ad free, that eliminates any kind of benefit to the diocese in terms of profit."
Cost of production and distribution comes from sales of the book. By eliminating the cost of printing the digital file can literally be given away.
Prince did a survey of pastors, directors of religious education, women religious, order priests, and employees at the Catholic Center, asking if they would use a digital-only Directory. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of the change.
"The vast majority of people said they would either print it or download it to their desktop or just use it online, or if they did print it, they would only print the sections they referred to most often," he said.
Another benefit Prince pointed out, is that people who cannot afford the $16 book will now have access to it.
To accommodate those who prefer a physical copy, a print-friendly version will also be on the diocesan website.
The Directory will be updated on a regular basis with a listing of changes made.
Anyone who wishes can print pages with changes or entire sections, then insert those pages into a three-ring binder that holds 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 inch paper.
"I understand that there are people who don't like change and I understand that people want a physical book," said Prince. "So, I expect there to be some unhappy people. All I can do for that is apologize because there are going to be exponentially more happy people to have access to the directory when they need it."