August 30, 2005

Godcasting, New York Times

Tania Ralli of the New York Times writes on the podcasting of church sermons, otherwise known as Godcasting.

"Podcasting for us has been a resurrection of radio," Father Vonhögen said. "It's the connection to a new generation."

August 28, 2005

More on the Google AdWords Experiment

In a comment to this post, Frank Johnson wonders how we’re going to measure the effectiveness of our Google AdWords campaign. So Frank, here’s your answer …

Yes, Church of the Resurrection is a large church with over 14,000 members including adults and children. And you're quite right that this makes it difficult to measure ad campaign effectiveness.

But I'm in a quite unique position. While I'm the IT Director at Resurrection, I'm also the volunteer tech guy for my wife's brand new church plant, Living Water Christian Church. Like your friend Scott's church, it too is small enough that we can find out easily what's working and what isn't. This turns out to be a great advantage from a technical perspective because I can prototype things on a very small scale at Living Water, before moving them up to beta in the big church, and then finally rolling them out in the big church. So that is our plan in this case.

For this experiment, I’m working with Chuck Russell who is also a contributor to this blog. He has experience running Google AdWords campaigns at the national, denominational level for the United Methodist Church.

We’re presently wrestling with two questions: 1) What is the objective of the campaign? 2) How will we measure the results? Now clearly these questions relate strongly to each other and to the design of the campaign.

For example, if we define success as someone hearing about us first through AdWords and subsequently attending worship, that creates some significant measurement obstacles because the Communications folks at Resurrection are reluctant to put “How did you hear about us?” on the worship sign-in sheet. (Jokingly, our Communication Director has wondered out loud about some kind of coupon strategy, a marketer’s standard technique in a situation like this, but that’s good only for a laugh.) Another difficulty with worship attendance as an objective is that it is often difficult to separate multiple influences on why someone came to worship for the first time. Someone may well have heard about us first through AdWords, but then heard about us in a number of other places before deciding to attend. By then, they’ve forgotten that AdWords was the first exposure.

So we’re considering other objectives, with other measurement methods, which will give us a way to determine effectiveness with greater confidence. For example, what if the objective is to get people to subscribe to something such as an e-mail newsletter or a podcast or a blog? Or, maybe the objective is to get them to download a PDF or watch a sermon online. Perhaps the objective will be to get them to send us a prayer request. The key here is to get people to take an action online that we can directly measure. It must be something beyond simply clicking on the AdWord itself because we’ll never know if that click was relevant or effective. We’re also planning on having a separate landing page on our website for each AdWord so we’ll be able to measure any relative differences among the AdWords.

As you can see, right now we have more questions than answers. My previous post was just to let you know we were working on this and would have results to report by sometime in November.

August 25, 2005

Resurrection gets some good local press

A positive, mostly accurate story about Church of the Resurrection appeared today in a local newspaper. It's great to get a full-length article that says nice things about the church, rather than reporting the latest scandal or controversy. I recommend the article if you would like to get a good overview of the church.

August 24, 2005

Google AdWords experiment

Frank Johnson posts today about how Pathway Church is using Google AdWords. Chuck Russell and I are preparing an experiment with AdWords at Resurrection in which we are designing a way to measure the campaign's effectiveness -- not just the number of click-throughs, but the actual number of people who take the desired action (come to worship, subscribe to a podcast, etc.) after clicking. We'll post again in a couple of months when we have concrete results to report.

Podcasting, step-by-step

Here's a simple and free way to podcast, using our Living Water podcast as the example. (Also see this earlier post when we were first learning how to do this.) If you're new to the idea of podcasting, it's simply a way to allow people to subscribe so they automatically get your new MP3 files after you upload them, without having to visit your site every time to see if a new file has been posted.

This recipe assumes you already have the audio in MP3 format. (If not ... well, that's an entirely different post.)

1. Get a free blog on Blogger (or MSN Spaces, or any similar service).

2. Create a blog post for each sermon, so that your blog looks like this: Note that the title of each post is linked to the MP3 file on your server.

3. Get a free account on Feedburner.

4. Run the Blogger feed ( through Feedburner. When you're setting up the feed in Feedburner, enable the "SmartCast" option. This will tell Feedburner to modify the Blogger feed by inserting XML enclosure tags around the MP3 links. You'll end up with a podcast feed that looks like this: Podcatchers such as iPodder and iTunes will be able to subscribe to this feed.

5. Put the podcast link on your website. I do it by linking to the blog from the church web site, and then providing the XML feed link on the blog page. This is what it looks like on the Living Water site.

Presto! A simple procedure for creating a podcast using free tools.

August 20, 2005

Richard McManus

If you're not reading Richard McManus' blog, "Read/Write Web", you should be. In a recent post, he gives more illustrations of how web sites are becoming platforms upon which other developers can build applications.

August 11, 2005

Connecting with students and young adults

I'm constantly thinking about how to reach people below the age of 35 (or thereabouts) who are outside the church. PC World published this story on a new study by comScore Networks on "Behaviors of the Blogosphere".

Some significant findings:

  • visitors to blogs tend to be younger than the average Internet user
  • visitors to blogs tend to be more active online, visiting almost twice as many Web pages as the average Internet user
  • 30 percent of all U.S. Internet users visited blog sites in the first quarter of 2005

For us, this is further evidence that blogging must be a significant part of our under 35 strategy.

August 10, 2005

All Things Considered on church podcasting

This audio story on the August 1 broadcast of All Things Considered talks about churches podcasting the weekly sermon. Living Water Christian Church for which I'm the volunteer Technical Director has been podcasting sermons for a couple of months now. The story gave me the idea that we should try to get some PR in our local community out of the fact that we're podcasting. This is a brand new, tiny little church that's surprisingly high-tech. I'll let you know if we get any local news outlets to cover it.

August 08, 2005

Hanging out online

Gardner Campbell is a college professor who blogs on technology and education. In a recent post on "A digital skill set for educators", he comments:

"I think my older students were just over the line of the divide between those who go to the Internet to find or do something and those who go to the Net to meet their friends and do the equivalent of watch TV or listen to music together." (Thanks to Richard McManus for linking this.)

As the parent of a 17 year-old daughter, this makes sense to me. When she's home, my daughter "hangs out online" all the time. She multi-tasks. She has multiple AIM windows open, listens to her Zen, and sometimes is also on the phone. The TV is probably on too (Disney Channel, ABC Family, TV Land, etc.) for background noise and an occasional chuckle. My experience as a parent resonates with Gardner's comment.

This shift in how the Internet is used has great significance for our strategies for youth ministry and young adult ministry. People in their teens and twenties are hanging out online all the time. We're working on ideas at Church of the Resurrection for how to hang out online with them and join in the theological conversation we know they're having. For this audience, only a small part of their Internet activity is about obtaining facts (what time is the movie showing?) and accomplishing tasks (buy a ticket). It's predominantly about friends and shared experience.

August 03, 2005

VOIP, Limited

Beware, as you may get what you pay for. A short learning experience with "free after rebate" VOIP ATA devices, specifically the Linksys PAP2 unit, showed me that options are limited. These units are locked to a specific provider and cannot be changed. If you would like to switch services, you are the proud owner of a new paperweight. Many people are still trying to find ways of unlocking these units of course, but to date there is no solution.

If you would like to be able to configure your ATA and switch providers, find a Linksys PAP2-NA model, or just buy a Sipura SPA-2002, which is reportedly the core the PAP2 is using.

August 01, 2005

Web 2.0 defined

Richard McManus points to Wikipedia's definition of Web 2.0. The definition lists a number of technologies/techniques that make for a 2.0 site.

  • CSS, semantically valid XHTML markup, and microformats
  • Unobtrusive Rich Application techniques (such as AJAX)
  • Syndication of data in RSS/ATOM
  • Aggregation of RSS/ATOM data
  • Clean and meaningful URLs
  • Support posting to a weblog
  • RESTian (preferred) or XML Webservice APIs
  • Some social networking aspects (share your data with friends, etc)
  • The site should not act as a "walled garden" - it should be easy to get data in and out of the system.
  • Users should own their own data on the site
  • Purely web based - most successful web 2.0 sites can be used almost entirely through the browser
What would it take to make our church websites "Web 2.0" sites?