church mobile

Live Streaming at Online Church

About 7 years ago I first started experimenting with live streaming using a platform called Mogulus (now Livestream.com).  We simply hooked up a handy-cam to a laptop and were live!  It wasn't fancy, but it worked and thanks to social media we literally doubled our audience in a moment.  I've learned a lot since this time and took almost a 5 year hiatus from live streaming.  

You might have assumed I took a step back in technology.  At the end of the day it was less about technology and more about strategy.  We felt we could create a better experience with some post edits as well as using simulated live experiences allows us to reach people in different time zones more effectively.  This strategy has served us well, but technology has changed and we feel we are now at a place to better offer both live streamed services as well as simulated live experiences.  

So today is the day that we beta test live streaming after weeks of setup and we will publicly launch next week.  While the act of live streaming itself isn't complicated, the moving parts can be.  Here are some of the steps we've had to work through:

  • Video/audio feed through the switcher and into the encoder
  • Separate audio mix as live room mix rarely sounds good through a live stream
  • Dedicated internet line to make sure there's stable bandwidth
  • Embed/Integration with Media Social
  • Countdown clock added to CommunityBible.com
  • Integration into Roku Channel and Amazon Fire TV App
  • Integration in the CBC Mobile App

I'm sure there is more, but you get the point that it's not a simple task.  Let me be clear though, the potential ministry impact is well worth the effort invested!  

I will share more in the coming weeks, but until then I would love for you to check out our Live Streamed services at OnlineChurch.com and let me know what you think.  We will be live streaming this morning at 10am, 11:30am and 1pm CST.  I hope to see you there!

I want to also say an extra thank you to the great folks at Media Fusion.  They offer the best technology at the best prices when it comes to live streaming and media distribution for churches.  Even better than the technology that they offer are the people behind the technology.  I can't recommend them enough to you and your church!

The Future of the Computer in our Pocket

When I was 16 (17 years ago now) I got my first cell phone.  I still had a beeper which was my primary form of communication and my cell phone was for emergencies only.  It had about an hour batter life and that included just being turned on (not talking the phone).  Then in college I got a color screen flip phone with a camera and color touch screen PDA.  I was high tech and even saved up enough money to buy a 1 GB flash card to store files/photos on my Palm Pilot.  I remember thinking how cool it would be if these devices could become one.  Then they did and we now have smart phones or what I better describe as computers in our pocket.  I actually think it's kind of funny that we call them phones as voice to voice communication is in no way the primary use of the device. I started with a Blackjack (before the first iPhone came out) and then quickly jumped to the iPhone as soon as I was able.  The device blew me away at the time and continues to today.  When they came out it was cool that we could take pictures, browse the internet, and talk on the phone from the same device.  Little did we know all that they would become and little do we still know all that has still yet to be developed.

My guess is that the devices themselves will not change dramatically, but we will begin to see more secondary devices that connect to them become more prevalent   I think the primary improvement that we will continue to see in the devices themselves is in battery life as the need for the phone to function all of the time will only increase.

I do envision seeing more secondary devices such as watches, glasses, headphones, cameras, etc. that seamlessly connect with the device on the go.  I will discuss this further in another post to come.

Now, it's in the apps that I get most excited.  When you look at the last 5 years the devices themselves really haven't changed significantly, it is the development of apps that continues to enhance the device and will continue to.  Here's a quick list of some of what I do on my iPhone in any given week:

  • Check and reply to Email
  • Phone calls and SMS texting
  • Calendar/Scheduling
  • Pictures & Video -  taking and sharing
  • Bible
  • Social Networking - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Google +
  • Banking - checking balances, depositing checks, transferring money
  • Web Browsing
  • Travel - booking and monitoring travel arrangements
  • News - reading news apps and blog feeds
  • Entertainment - music, games and videos
  • Maps/GPS
  • Alarm Clock
  • Shopping/Couponing
  • Home Management - controlling home AC and DVR
I suppose this list could go on and on.  It's hard to imagine life without my iPhone now as I use it constantly throughout every day. I can't imagine that becoming less, but honestly only more.  Here are some of the things that I see coming to mobile apps:
  • Wallet Replacement - I think we will use our apps not just for coupons (Groupons), but also forms of payment, insurance and identification information, event tickets and passes, etc.
  • Remote Control - I think apps will be created to control our cars (not just remote start), security systems, home appliances, and much more.
  • Seamless Integration - I think we will begin to see seamless integration between various apps and devices such as the Facebook App and Amazon App working together and the phone and computer integration being seamless without our having to even think about it.
  • Experiential development - I expect to see physical environments creating interactive experiences with the device and the user.  For instance a grocery store taking your shopping list and giving you the best path through the store or a sporting event giving you personalized directions from the parking lot to your seats and recommended refreshment options throughout the game.  
To be honest these are so hard to predict as so much has already been created, but every year even more is developed that we could have never imagined in the past.  This is scary for some, but exciting for most.
So what does this mean for the church?  Well, from my perspective it means we have a great opportunity.  The Bible App is about to reach 100 million downloads in just 5 years of existence!  Subsplash has created an affordable church app that hundreds of churches use to connect with millions of people from all over the world.  The reality is though, the church is years behind where it should be with mobile technology.  Consider some of these needs and how an app might help:
  • Kids checkin
  • First Time Guest experience
  • Bulletin costs
  • Small Group finder
  • Bible study resources
  • Online Giving
This list could go on and we won't solve all of these needs immediately, but the technology is there to do much more  than is currently being done.  I hope to be a part of meeting these needs and I don't plan to do it alone.  I hope to lock arms  with sharper minds than mine (which isn't hard to find) and see how we together can create technologies to meet the needs of the Church universal and not just our local church.
I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.  What have I missed or what opportunities do you see?

Google Analytics: Understanding Your Need for Mobile

A couple of years ago the word mobile started becoming the buzz around technology circles.  Web developers discussed the need for mobile apps or a mobile friendly website.  People often blow it off because they don't use mobile to surf the web or they embrace it blindly trusting the "experts".  With Google Analytics you can track your website and see how many people view the site on a mobile device, here's how: When you enter Google Analytics first go to the "Audience" Tab, then click "Mobile", then "Overview".  Scroll down below the graph and you will see this information:

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 8.47.43 PM
Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 8.47.43 PM

The "No" tells you how many people are viewing your site on a laptop or desktop computer.  The "Yes" tells you how many people are viewing your site on a mobile device.  My guess is that your statistics will look much like ours if you track over the past two years and the mobile number continues to grow steadily.  Because of our tracking this information we have chosen to move forward with both a mobile optimized website and a native mobile app.  I will be eager to see how these numbers change as we not just understand that mobile is important to our audience, but we optimize the web experience for those mobile users.

By the way, I noticed that around 30% of you on this blog prefer to view the site on a mobile device.  Yet another reason why I love having the Standard Theme with their natural mobile friendly functionality!

Have you gone mobile or considering the need to be more mobile friendly?  Do you see similar trends in your web analytics?