- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2009

It’s 16 years old, and it has the Bible in 100 translations. What else would a Web site called www.BibleGateway.com have to do?

Joseph Park, a self-described “serial entrepreneur” who just joined the site as chief executive officer, wants the site to be “not only [a] place where you go to read the Bible online, but also to study the Bible and learn more about the Bible.”

In short, BibleGateway.com, which Mr. Park says attracts 6 million unique visitors monthly, is in for an upgrade. Call it, perhaps, being “born again,” again.

Religious searching online has long been popular, and the tens of thousands of Web sites devoted to religion would suggest that hasn’t changed. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that “nearly two-thirds of online Americans use the Internet for faith-related reasons,” a figure that represented about 82 million Americans in 2004 when the study was conducted, according to the nonprofit research and policy group.

“The days where people would carry their Bible with them … are gone,” Mr. Park said.

Instead, Bible reading will become more electronic and digital: “In long run, [it will be] replaced with people getting [the] Bible digitally from all sorts of different types of devices, whether it’s through their cell phone, eBook reader, or laptop or netbook,” Mr. Park, most recently a vice president at Amazon.com, said in a telephone interview from Seattle, where BibleGateway.com has one of its offices.

For most of its existence, BibleGateway.com was part of Gospel Communications, an evangelical nonprofit in Grand Rapids, Mich. The site’s headquarters is still there, but publisher Zondervan, a unit of HarperCollins Publishers, owns it now.

Mr. Park said a “lot of investing is needed to position BibleGateway for future growth, going forward. Operationally, we need to make investments where they haven’t been made in the past.”

He added: “One of the challenges that we see is following our customers. Whatever format they want to read the Bible or learn more about, we want to follow our customers and connect to them. Our goal is to work with all publishers, as well as ministries, that have an incredible amount of content that teaches people about the Bible.”

Along with upping the content, Mr. Park said he wants to shrink the Web site into a format that is convenient for users of mobile devices.

“Our customers are accessing or want to access the Bible through their mobile device,” he said, and that means getting an iPhone-compatible application available is “a top priority.”

Ironically, BibleGateway.com is ranked No. 1,546 in terms of Internet traffic by Alexa.com, an Amazon.com unit that measures such things. Amazon, where Mr. Park worked as a vice president, ranks No. 26. (Google is No. 1, Alexa.com reports.)

Why move 1,520 places down the ladder from Amazon? For Mr. Park, it’s partly the challenge and partly a matter of faith, as in his personal faith.

“I’m a serial entrepreneur,” he explained. “I founded two startups in my current career: Kozmo, founded in 1997, and then Askville, [which is now] wholly owned by Amazon.com, founded in 2005. I love building new businesses and, despite the fact that I’ve worked at large companies like Amazon, where I feel most at home is building new businesses and working with people who also have the same passions as I do.”

That passion for faith brought him to BibleGateway, he said. “Over [the] last three to four years, there’s been a little voice in my head that’s gotten louder; the Lord has blessed me in so many different ways, and I should do more than tithe on Sunday.”

Seeing a Zondervan search ad for a BibleGateway chief brought him to the Web site, and the portal of a new adventure, he said. The move is “an incredible opportunity to take the Bible, one of the greatest books on Earth, and leveraging the Internet to spread the Gospel throughout the world, and do that in a way that only the Internet can do. Combine that with my own personal spiritual belief; it’s something I wanted to do.”

E-mail Mark Kellner at [email protected]

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