Just yesterday James Martin posted a very good look at the status of the church’s altmedia involvement:
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 U.S. 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. In the print world, magazine editors are encouraged to redesign every five years.
Jim included in his piece 10 Do’s and Don’ts for web-savvy organizations:
Do Engage. Maintain an active presence in the digital world, including on Facebook and YouTube. It is easy to set up accounts on both. Facebook features “fan pages” for public organizations that anyone can join or “like.” Think about newer modes, too, like mobile phone apps.
Do Update. Frequently. If you are in need of new content, link to news items that people might otherwise overlook. Think sticky.
Do Tweet. It is easy to write 140-character tweets (on Scripture, spirituality, prayer, books, church news) that will help the people of God.
You can read them all — it’s a smart list, written by a guy who knows his stuff. America has one of the best and energetic magazine/blog sites around, so I will be curious to know what Martin thinks of the Vatican’s latest altmedia endeavor, which is News.va, which Pope Benedict XVI launched a few hours ago with this tweet:
Dear Friends, I just launched http://t.co/fVHpS9y Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI
I expect with World Youth Day fast-approaching the site’s going to get quite a workout, very quickly.
Papa’s got an iPad and a Twitter account. He’s not gonna get any work done, now!
Either that, or he’ll write even more!