Religion and the Blogosphere

Well, on the heels of a busy week, it seems appropriate that I finally am able to post about a new report on religion bloggers. Over at The Immanent Frame, they posted an article about “The new landscape of the religion blogosphere“.

Certainly, those of us in COG and ex-COG circles can relate to the following:

Religion blogs, as such, have not necessarily been at the forefront of the blogosphere as a whole; for instance, few of those that this report focuses on are in the very highest echelons of rank and influence (blogging about religion from time to time, on the other hand, certainly occurs there). Still, in hardly so much as a decade, religion blogs have already come and gone, debuted and declined, mutated and morphed.

The article goes into some history and background about blogs, and then goes on to tell us that the level of discourse in blogs is not comparable to print. I’ve argued that for some time. Having been through Usenet, discussion boards, blogs and Facebook, I can attest that the limits of the various media can be frustrating to meaningful discussion on occasion. However, over time, a collection of articles and discussions can still serve much the same purpose.

Because of all the background discussion, though, almost half of the article isn’t about religious blogs at all, but more geared towards blogs, their authors, their influence and academic status in general.

One thing that is interesting is that Pharyngula gets a mention, because it isn’t so much a religious blog as it is an anti-religion blog. It tops out in Technorati, but it oddly isn’t even in Alexa rankings. In fact, it was on TV not too long ago (sorry, forget what program it was).

One of the driving forces for religious blogs is that the bloggers “simply saw a need.” Indeed, I like to visit different blogs precisely because most of them fill a specific niche that is either not replicated or tangentially replicated somewhere else. On a smaller scale, I have seen this in the COG universe. However, there probably is more replication in this smaller universe than in, say, the Protestant sphere precisely because it is smaller.

Here is the question, though: How well will the COGs adapt to the new media? Frankly, it appears some groups are still in the dark ages. Even those who have tried to be more cutting edge, like UCG, have made some mistakes along the way. Others, like PCG, have concentrated more on “webzine” formats with external SEO help (don’t try to deny it, as I’ve already reported on this). Some, like LCG, seem to be stuck in print and webcast mode, and so probably have more to lose in this regard. Some, because they smaller organizations, like ICG, were already using some of the newer forms of technology.

It isn’t that all of these media forms don’t have their own strengths and weaknesses. However, at some point, you have to ask what your audience is and how are you trying to reach them? Those that are media savvy certainly have an advantage at reaching a larger, younger audience at less cost.

I think it remains to be seen, though, who the media winners will be because technology continually changes. However, those that are cutting edge today are probably better positioned to jump on new opportunities tomorrow.

0 Comments

  1. The problem with using the Internet is that it's (most emphatically) not a broadcast medium. For the most part, you don't see something unless you go looking for it, or things like it. So unless you're looking specifically for the message we're publishing, you're very unlikely to stumble onto it.

    How many people who responded to The World Tomorrow did so because they were actively looking for information on, say, Sabbath-keeping vs. those who were flipping through channels looking for something to watch and stumbled onto it, and got hooked?

    Thinking we can do effective proclamation through the Internet alone is akin to thinking that getting our literature on the shelves of every public library is going to get people to start checking it out and reading it.

  2. John D Carmack

    @Rob K: I agree with you … for today. However, the future, IMO, is not in broadcast TV. At some point, it will be a lot like landline phones — quickly disappearing from people's homes.

    I've many a time have stumbled upon something of interest when looking for something else. The problem with the library analogy is that you have to drive to get there, whereas the Internet is everywhere a device is, including most cell phones. It's more like having a vast library in your pocket, on your desktop and/or in your backpack. And, I'm ignoring some rare devices like refrigerators that know when you are low on milk and such.

  3. ucgmikebennett

    Thanks John. I read an interesting post from Erik Sass, a "secular coastal media type," predicting the fifth Great Awakening coming through social media (see http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=126264). I admit I have made some blunders in my attempts at social media (like last weekend!), but I still think it can be a powerful tool to help spread the good news of the Kingdom of God.

  4. John D Carmack

    @ucgmikebennett: Thanks for the comment and link, Mike. If you don't blunder once in a while, then are you really doing anything worthwhile?

  5. Personally, I don't think Mike Bennett blundered at all. Unless the "blunder" was in not waiting for approval from higher-ups to post what he already knew — and even then, that would seem more along the line of a corporate blog.

    I found out today UCG has hustled out a new Home Office blog. I'd love to know if that's in response to last weekend (can't help suspecting that), or was quietly in the works all along.

  6. I totally agree that TV as we know it is going away. The proliferation of cable/satellite channels has already dramatically changed how people use TV. Nor am I saying that the Internet isn't useful to the work. It's an amazing resource, and should absolutely be used to it's fullest potential. I'm just trying to make the point that the Internet isn't a replacement for broadcast TV. Revisiting my analogy, getting our literature onto the shelves of every public library would actually be a great thing. It makes the information available to those who want it. And having the library in your pocket is even better. But we still have to pique the interest to get people to want to go look at that information. That's where the Internet isn't as useful.

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