The church's digital outreach

The industry term for the appeal of a Web site is “sticky.” Visitors (or “eyeballs”) stick to a site if it is interesting, lively, useful, provocative and generally appealing. Conversely, the “bounce rate” refers to how frequently initial visitors navigate away from a page to a different site. Sticky is good; bouncy is bad, wries Fr James Martin in America magazine.

How bouncy or sticky are Catholic Web sites? More broadly, how well is the church using social and digital media in its mission to spread the Gospel? Since “the church” can mean many things, let’s narrow the topic down: How well are those who work in church organizations in this country using social and digital media?

First, the good news. These days almost every Catholic organization and diocese and most parishes have a firm Web presence. Available to both the devout and the doubtful, these sites are repositories of useful information.

One can check out editorials in the diocesan newspaper, follow the pastor’s blog (and read his latest homily), make donations to a favorite Catholic charity, and check on Mass times. An up-to-date Web site is as much a necessity today as a weekly parish bulletin is (or used to be).

More good news: The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has found great success in the world of social media. It has over 29,000 “fans” on Facebook, where the conference sometimes sponsors trivia contests and where fans use the page for lively discussions.

The conference also maintains its own YouTube channel and frequently updates its Twitter feed. Sample tweet: “Are you ready to spend some behind-the-scenes time w/Pope Benedict XVI at the Apostolic Palace? The grand tour.” (Note 4 tweeters: 2 save space drop XVI).

The bad news is that more than a few Catholic sites are unimaginative, difficult to navigate, full of dead links and look like they have not been redesigned since the Clinton administration.

FULL STORY Status update (America)

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