October 23, 2007
Looking for God Online
GodTube launches a social network to its fast-growing web property.
GodTube, which inspires headlines like "The Big Guy Goes Online," launched in August and promptly became the fastest-growing web property in America. Yesterday, GodTube announced the "Video Police" and the "GodCaster", components of its new social network.
The Los Angeles Times reports that
GodTube's claim that it has become the most trafficked Christian website on the Internet is trumped only by a second boast: that by the sheer volume of video watched by its users -- 1.5 million hours last month -- it is now the world's largest broadcaster of Christian video.
Note: In case anyone is under the impression that "Christian video" is all about God, there is at least one tic-inducing video of a singing squirrel. All the videos are screened for family-friendliness before they are allowed to go live on the site. Which leads me to wonder whether someone cute reading Genesis 38, for example, would make the cut.
The singing squirrel-watching demographic and the child-reciting-Bible-verses-adoring demographic, as well as other GodTube users, are customers for a lucrative business, reports the LA Times.
Despite its partnerships with nonprofit religious organizations, GodTube is not a church. It is a media company with a thoroughly planned business model. That model includes selling both religious and secular advertising, charging subscription fees to ministries that want to broadcast more frequently and selling anonymous demographic data "off the back end" -- allowing marketers and media producers a clearer picture of who's watching their programming.
What, besides the fact that GodTube is new, could explain its fast growth? In their press release published online by the Wall Street Journal, CEO Chris Wyatt says
GodTube.com's success is proof positive that Jesus 2.0 is the wave of the future. Our entire culture is becoming internet focused. Today, people use the internet to search for practically everything they need in life -- Why not their faith?
Past statements from GodTube imply that their site could partly solve the problem of declining church attendance. The LA Times, responding to that idea, asked communications professor Heidi Campbell, "What can you get on your laptop that you can't get from the pew? The answer, according to Campbell, is more sustained and satisfying personal interaction." Which seems oddly backwards.
However, with the GodCaster's technology that enables seemingly face-on-screen to face-on-screen interaction, she may be right. Vnunet.com reports that "In its initial beta launch, the GodCaster will be available to churches and ministries around the world to stream their service online, hold a virtual Bible study, or even start an online congregation."