Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with family, friends, and most importantly, Jesus. I love this time of year because it’s a time of optimism and fresh starts. More than any other time of year, in January we believe in the possibility of what could be.
Now I’m sure you’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks there has been no shortage of articles, blogs, and TV shows containing 2007 predictions. They range from the dire like Pat Robertson’s prediction of a terrorist attack to the wacky (the Spice Girls will reunite.) I promise not to scare you with doomsday forecasts, and while it’s tempting I’ll resist the urge to humor you with outrageous possibilities.
In fact, I’m kind of cool to the whole prediction thing, but I believe that success often comes from anticipating a trend and putting yourself in a position to ride the wave. My hope is that by talking about some of the current trends related to Christianity and the Internet that you can position yourself to ride one or more of these waves in 2007. So, here are 5 predictions for 2007 and their implications for Christian ministry.
Online video will go mainstream
Prediction: One of the biggest stories of 2006 was the rise of video sharing site YouTube and it’s subsequent purchase by Google. In many respects, online audio and video went mainstream in 2006. However, I believe in 2007 Google is going to take online video to a whole new level when they monotize (make money from) YouTube. It won’t be long before Google rolls out a new system that places ads at the front of YouTube videos and then splits the ad revenues with the video producer just as their adSense system does for bloggers today. Advertisers will be able to target and bid on video advertising. That will drive up advertising rates. That will generate lots of money for video producers. That will cause the TV networks to clamor to partner with YouTube instead of suing it for copyright infringement. And before you know it you’ll be able to watch nearly every TV show online.
Implications: In Christian circles (church and ministry sites), online audio and video is still in the early adopters stage. While few churches and ministries will benefit directly from this trend, as more individuals become accustomed to watching video online, churches and ministries will begin to incorporate audio and video into their websites. In 2007, we’ll see audio and video of church services, introductory videos, and podcasting become common.
Web 2.0 will continue its momentum
Prediction: Another huge event of 2006 was the rise social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Web 2.0 (aka social networking sites aka the interactive web) hit it big in 2006. Some are saying social networking sites are just a fad that will begin to fade, but I believe the fundamental principles behind social networking sits are sound and will only continue to grow in popularity. Web 2.0 technologies like blogs, social networking sites, video sharing sites, and so on level the playing field and give everyone a voice to share their ideas and creations.
Implications: Organizations with websites that allow people to interact and participate in what’s happening on the site will grow in popularity and help people stay connected with the organization. It’s already common to find church, ministry, and business websites with interactive components like forums, blogs, and polls. Some are beginning to allow registered users to upload photos, add links, rate and comment on web pages, articles, and products. The more you can involve visitors/users the more likely they are to return.
Content management systems will increase dramatically in popularity
Prediction: As more websites become interactive and allow users to participate and contribute to the content and discussion on the website, content management systems (CMS) are continuing to grow in popularity. A content management system facilitates all of a website’s functionality – static pages, forums, calendar, newsletters, photo galleries, shopping carts, and more – into a single system. The simplicity that comes with a single administrative interface and single user registration system makes them appealing to webmasters and users and will cause them to become increasingly popular in 2007.
Implications: Organizations that do not utilize a CMS will be left with a website that is static like a brochure rather than interactive, or they will try to implement new technology in a cumbersome piecemeal approach. Organizations with a CMS-based website will be able to better engage people with web interactive web 2.0 functionality, will be able to keep people in their organizations better informed, and will find it easier to add new technology to their site as it becomes available.
People will search online for everything
Prediction: Initially the web was primarily an informational resource, like an online encyclopedia. But in the past couple of years search engines have developed specialized search engines for almost everything. There are product searches, news searches, image searches, video searches, book searches, and more. In 2006 the biggest strides were made in local search. Now people are just about as likely to look online as in the phone book for a local business or service. In 2007, the scales will tip decidedly towards online search over the phone book.
Implications: A lot of small local businesses believe they really don’t need a website, but the truth of the matter is that when people are looking for a restaurant, a nail salon, or a locksmith, they are more likely search online than anywhere else. The bottom line is that every business, every ministry, and every non-profit organization should have a website.
Additionally, the value of optimizing a website for search engines cannot be underestimated. In particular, it’s vital for local businesses to be optimized for local searches. Whether you’re in business to make money or in ministry to help people, the more people who find your site the more successful you’ll be in your endeavor.
Organizations will have to inform people on their terms
Prediction: Web pages, email, opt-in newsletters, forums, blogs, podcasts, video casts, IM, text messaging, voice over IP… Seems like every 5 minutes there is new forum of electronic communication made available. When communication forms were limited, the individual was forced to get information in the few ways organizations made it available. But today people are constantly being bombarded with information and with all these new forms of communication the scales have been tipping in the other direction towards the individual. Now, it’s organizations that have to ask themselves, “How do we need to communicate in order to be heard by individuals?” In 2007, Microsoft will roll out its Windows Vista operating system to the world. It includes support for RSS, which will take RSS mainstream and further tip the scales giving the individual the capability to receive information on their terms.
Implications: Most churches and ministries still rely on verbal and printed announcements to get information to people. A fair number are making it a priority to keep their websites up to date with the latest information about events and opportunities. That’s important because the website is the first place a lot of people go when they are looking for information. But that doesn’t solve the problem of getting information to a person who is not looking for it. That’s why it’s vital for churches, ministries, and businesses to publish a regular opt-in e-newsletter. In 2007 it will also become increasingly important that the newsletter include an RSS feed for those who like to receive their news that way.
OurChurch.Com will take over the Internet
OK, I so I couldn’t resist one wacky prediction. But we here at OurChurch.Com have plans in the works to stay out in front of all of these trends and help you to ride the waves. In the next few months you can expect announcements about the new web builder we have under development, new search optimization services, new Custom CMS Express services, new advertising services, and more.
So, what do you think? Am I right on the money or did I spend too much time in the holiday egg nog? Post a comment and share your 2007 predictions.