I was checking out the impressive new www.mormon.org website, with its streaming videos and live missionary chat, and had an idea for some new technological directions for church web content.
The “user created content” aspect of web 2.0 has received a lot of attention among modern web companies. YouTube, Digg, and Blogs are all poster children of this new era. The first official public web forum of the LDS church is a great example of how the church is experimenting with tapping into that resource.
But because it is the Church of Jesus Christ, directed through priesthood authority and revelation and not a democratic worldly institution, the role of user generated content in the church’s official websites will always have limited application.
There is another part of web 2.0, however, that is equally important and can be leveraged by the church to a much greater extent: distributed content and viral marketing. There are many, many members of the church active on the web with blogs and personal websites. They represent a great opportunity for the church to leverage this web presence as a viral distribution channel for church produced content.
The new videos that are viewable on mormon.org are a good example. I think they are great. But they are only going to be seen by visitors to the mormon.org website. In other words, only those who have already been drawn to the website by other means will see them. However, if mormon.org would provide code next to them that viewers could copy and paste into their own blogs and webpages to embed the videos in their own websites, much like youtube and google videos can be, they suddenly become distributable. The church takes care of the bandwidth for the streaming video, but the videos are now available for viewing by visitors to a large number of personal websites of members—visitors who may never have come to mormon.org otherwise.
As they now stand, the videos can already be embedded into blogs and websites using the code below:
The first drawback of embedding the videos like this is that they provide no built in mechanism for directing viewers to mormon.org or sharing the videos with others. I could embed the video in the sidebar of my blog and provide a link back to the mormon.org website like this:
Ideally, though, the videos themselves should have a built in mechanism for redirecting viewers back to the website to learn more or share the video with a friend, similar to embedded videos from YouTube. At the same time, including an html link in the embed code in addition to the flash would probably be a good idea so that embedded videos would be picked up by search engines with a link back to mormon.org.
The other big problem with embedding the videos as they currently work is that they play automatically on pageload. If they are embedded in a blog post or a website sidebar, the visitors to that webpage should have to click on them to play them, otherwise they could quickly become annoying.
Eventually, code might be provided that would randomly choose one of the available videos and embed it on a webpage so that each time the page is viewed a different video is available.
By building this kind of distributed content portal, the Church will be able to display and update its content on thousands of websites each with their own audiences and each showing up in Google searches in which Mormon.org would never show up. Simulataneously, members of the church will have new, easy-to-use tools for sharing the gospel on the web.
What do you think? Would you embed mormon.org videos or other content on your blog or website?