By: Richard N. Ostling, AP Religion Writer
(AP) Beliefnet.com, an Internet site aimed at feeding Americans’ interest in religion and spirituality, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Steve Waldman, Beliefnet.com‘s chairman and chief executive, said the company, which began operation in December 1999, asked for bankruptcy protection Thursday night.
To date the company has spent at least $25 million, invested by venture capital firms. Most remaining employees were laid off last week. The site continues to operate with a staff of nine, compared with more than 50 at its height.
Each month, Beliefnet.com logs 15 million “page views” from 1 million different individuals, and sends out 150 million e-mail newsletters to subscribers on various topics, Waldman said.
“The irony is … the importance of religion on the Internet has continued to grow,” he said, more than ever since Sept. 11. “There is a tremendous appetite for independent information and ideas about religion and spirituality, and a multi-faith approach.”
Unlike most such Internet offerings, Beliefnet.com spans all creeds and is independent of religious sponsorship, though it posts links to many faith options.
Waldman said Beliefnet.com, like other Internet firms, is a victim of a severe advertising recession. He expressed confidence the company will survive in some form. During bankruptcy reorganization, Beliefnet.com will seek new investment or purchase by media companies or individuals, or a combination thereof, he said.
This week, Waldman added the CEO title to his duties as editor. Sujay Jhaveri has been promoted to president, succeeding the departing Doug McFarland, former general manager of Media Metrix, the Internet ratings firm.
Beliefnet.com will continue a partnership helping ABC News cover religion and a joint book publishing deal with Rodale Press.