Archive for Sunday, January 6, 2008

GodTube flock goes forth with online videos

January 6, 2008

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GodTube

— It makes sense that a Web site exists called GodTube.com. Its theme is "Broadcast Him."

It features the anti-rap video, a Bible-themed parody of Sir Mix-a-lot's 1992 dance hit, now renamed "Baby Got Book," that has been viewed more than 600,000 times. More than 300,000 people have viewed a pretty funny 1-minute 16-second religious take on the "I'm a Mac - I'm a PC" TV commercials.

GodTube, purchased for $400 in 2006 by a Dallas divinity school student, is an obvious takeoff on the wildly popular YouTube.com video-sharing site. And what pop culture trend isn't a copy of something these days? Even the Bible says, "For there is no new thing under the sun."

But when you consider that GodTube is ranked as the fastest growing Web site and that it's drawing the kind of traffic that major corporations only dream of, suddenly it shines a heavenly light on things.

The brainchild of Christopher Wyatt - a graduate student at Dallas Theological Seminary, a pastoral understudy at megachurch Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, a former reality show producer for CBS, and Web software developer for social networking sites - GodTube has no connection to YouTube.

But like the secular site, it is rooted in the free posting and sharing of videos and other digital media.

The site also bills itself as an online community, and already has more than 200,000 members, a Facebook-esque social network, 800,000 hours of video footage from local church services worldwide, virtual Bible studies, a video Bible, live broadcasts of religious services and concerts, and even a digital, virtual prayer wall that launched on Dec. 17.

Last month, GodTube broke a new barrier by launching Godcaster, a program that allows churches to stream live video during services or religious programs directly to the Web site.

And after just four months in existence, GodTube.com has already broken records, drawing more than 4 million visitors per month in August and September, about five million in October, and more than six million in November, according to ComScore, a Web traffic tracking outfit.

Wyatt says that while he started GodTube.com out of a sense of urgency, he isn't surprised at the site's success.

"I was reading an Internet survey last year that said in 2025 about half as many people would be going to church compared to the year 2000," says Wyatt, who is preparing for his ordination as a minister under the tutelage of Bob Coy, pastor at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale.

"If this was the automotive industry you'd expect alarm bells to go off and for this to be front page news that consumers were predicting they would stop using a product after so many years.

"I did some investigating. I found the youth of America were the key. They don't respond to direct mail, e-mail solicitation, or banner ads. They respond to social networks, video file sharing. And I knew that if we could present God and church in those formats we could reach those disenchanted youth."

Wyatt's theory caught fire. GodTube recently announced a partnership with 50 churches and religious ministries, from the Crystal Cathedral in California, to Liberty University in Virginia, to Illinois-based Total Christian Television network, to Calvary Chapel and Coral Ridge Ministries in Fort Lauderdale.

The union, Wyatt says, has allowed GodTube to reach more viewers each day than every other Christian-themed television broadcast and Web posting combined.

For all its good intentions, GodTube is a business - a privately run corporation that so far has taken in "millions of dollars in investments," Wyatt says. "We're not turning a profit yet. But things are heading that way."

In addition to advertising revenue, GodTube makes money by charging a fee for ministries to stream live video of services or other religious programs.

"We give churches and ministries 30 minutes free, and then charge $19.95 for each 30 minutes after that," Wyatt says. "In one week they can record that service and erase and re-record as much as they want, within that fee. I like to tell people the cost is less than that of a Big Mac a day."

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