I believe the future of the web will focus around video and our ability to interact with video. With the rise of Periscope and Meerkat, we’re seeing more platforms appear with the idea of delivering you video at a moment’s notice. It’s a whole new world and it’s affecting the church as well.
That’s why it’s important for churches to start investigating these platforms and determine how they can use them to grow God’s Kingdom. For a moment, I want to focus on one aspect of these new video platforms, the online campus.
I’ve written a lot about online campuses. I’ve talked about their flaws, their challenges, and what you need to think through before starting one. Today, I want to share what we’re learning from our online campus.
I use the term “experiment” in this post title because it’s new for us and our audience. The idea of including a chat feature changes the nature of what we’re offering. It’s been fun to see this shift with our audience and talk to our viewers online.
Personally, I’m learning that my introverted nature is something that I’ve got to push through in order to be the host of the online campus. It’s a stretch for me, but I welcome the challenge.
Here are a few other things we’ve learned along the way.
Online Campus Numbers Can Lie
I had a boss who used to stay “Figures never lie, but liars always figure.”. Numbers are a funny thing. On one hand, we can use them to show them some really substantial growth for our online campus. On the other hand, we have to determine what that numbers really mean. You see, capturing online viewers can be a bit tricky. We have to figure out who’s really attending worship versus just stopping by.
So what’s the tricky part?
Well, let’s compare our online campus numbers to how we measure attendance at a physical campus. Imagine if someone walked in your church doors, peaked inside the worship service, looked around and then went home. Would you count that person in your worship attendance? I doubt it.
That’s the issue with online worship numbers, yes I can count the number of people who load the video player on their device (page views), but I have no idea of how long they watched for. Five minutes? Thirty seconds? The whole hour? In other words, it’s hard to see how many people are actually attending the full worship service.
Our best solution at this point is to monitor the live viewer numbers throughout the worship service (Church Online shows you this number at the top of your browser). During the worship service, I take note of this number and keep an eye of any fluctuations. Currently, it seems that about 65% of those who load the page stay for majority of the worship service (again this is not entirely accurate).
Majority of Our Audience is an Older Demographic
If you were to talk to a majority of our church members about our online campus they would tell that it’s the people who watch are probably young adults.
We’ll they would be wrong.
Using Google’s audience report from Google Analytics, we found that our number one viewer is typically over 55 and female. I can attest to this as the majority of conversations I have with our viewers in the chat seem to be senior adults who need technical help.
I think there is a notion that because of the popularity of online video (YouTube, Facebook, etc…), that video on the web is mostly viewed by young adults. While I think it’s true that young adults are a large consumer of media online, we’re seeing more senior adults embrace online platforms for video.
As the community around our church continues to grow older, I imagine that our online worship service will become part of our ministry to shut-ins. This brings a whole new set of challenges and opportunities, as we not only need to determine who to create a user-friendly experience for them online, we’ll also need to determine how to provide tech support for these senior adults.
Online Chat is a Cultural Shift
While I’d like to think our church is friendly to visitors, it’s one thing to talk to people face to face, it’s a completely different thing to talk to people in the chat room. Sure, people use online chat for customer support, but as part of worship service? For some people, this is a pretty big leap.
The first time we launched our online chat, the response wasn’t great. However, it’s beginning to grow over time. Granted, a lot the chat is in regards to tech support, but we’re starting to have the same consistent names appear week to week. Seeing those names is comforting as it reminds our viewers that they’re not watching alone.
What We’re Working Next
Custom Videos – Currently, we produce a short announcement video for the beginning of each of our worship services. Soon we will begin to produce one just for our online worship attendees. We’ll highlight what’s going on at each of our campuses.
Better Metrics – I don’t have an immediate answer, however, we’ll need to find a better way of figuring who’s watching and how long they’re watching for.
New platforms – We’re looking into launching apps for the Roku and AppleTV. My hope is that these apps provide an easier user experience those who are less technically inclined.
What About Your Online Campus?
Do you run an online campus for your church? What are the challenges you face? What have you learned? Click here to share below about your online campus.