Christian Version Of YouTube
Thursday, November 1st 2007, 1:51 pm
By: News On 6
PLANO, Texas (AP) _ Chris Wyatt is on a mission.
Walking hastily through his cavernous fourth-floor headquarters in suburban Dallas, the founder of the Christian version of YouTube is searching for an available conference room.
He quickly passes reminders of his success: a group of customer service representatives on the phone, animated meetings in progress and extra office space that GodTube.com is preparing to move into. Finally settled, the nattily dressed former TV producer insists he is as surprised as anyone that the site was identified earlier this year by comScore as the fastest growing on the Web.
``I thought I was going to be a seminary student and then work maybe a couple hours a week,'' he said. ``Now I'm taking online courses because I can't get over to the seminary, I'm so busy.''
GodTube.com, a video-sharing site with Christian content, drew more than 4 million unique visitors during October.
It maintains more than 150,000 registered users with active profiles. Plans for the future include producing entertainment programs at the site's headquarters north of Dallas.
GodTube is among religion-based Web sites that closely copy popular secular models. MyChurch.org is similar to the social networking site MySpace, and Conservapedia.com is the religious right's response to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Similar sites target Muslim and Jewish audiences.
Wyatt, GodTube's CEO, is reaching more people than he could hope for in a lifetime of pulpit appearances. He points out that GodTube.com users on Sunday mornings outnumber megachurch pastor Joel Osteen's congregation in Houston.
Wyatt, 38, said the GodTube venture, supported by financial partners in business and ministry, has yet to make a profit.
He said the site earns money through banner advertising, the sale of premium services and providing data to media ministries about viewers. The site never sells personal information, he said, adding that operating the site is enormously expensive.
GodTube videos includes music, comedy and heated theological debates. Two of the most viewed include a corny rap remix called ``Baby Got Book'' and a 4-year-old girl reciting Psalm 23 from memory.
``Basically, whenever I realized she could recite it, I pulled out my digital camcorder and I put it on my blog,'' said the girl's father, Brian Mosley of Allen, Texas.
A co-worker put it on GodTube, where it has been viewed more than 4 million times. The nonprofit ministry where Mosley works, Bluefish TV, offers downloads of the video and other religious materials for sale to church leaders.
``It's neat to see our ministry get more exposure because of one clip on GodTube,'' Mosley said. ``I think for people who are looking for Web sites with Christian-specific content, it's meeting that need in a great way.''
Sid Emory, a staff member at Lake Robinson Community Church in Taylors, S.C., said he looks for ideas on GodTube that can be used in his church.
``I watch videos from all over. Most of the time I'm watching either pastors, or skits that people have done,'' he said. ``There's just a huge resource of stuff like that. I'm starting to post my own stuff.''
GodTube reviews every video uploaded and rejects those with objectionable content. Members of other religions are invited to participate on the Web site, but they cannot proselytize. Atheists are welcome, too, and they may share their point of view, ``as long as it's done respectfully.''
Wyatt, a member of First Baptist Church of Dallas, describes the site as a neutral ``Switzerland'' open to various theological viewpoints. That doesn't mean shots aren't being fired.
Videos being viewed recently include ``Why Pentecostalism is not of God,'' ``Mormonism exposed,'' and ``The papacy is NOT biblical.''
With more than 25,000 videos on the site and 300 to 500 arriving each day, some question how Wyatt can continue monitoring them all. He maintains that the job is not as difficult as it might seem. About 10 people are monitoring content at any one time, said Wyatt, who hires seminary students for the task.
``It's not really as intensive a process as you might think it is,'' Wyatt said.
Still, many videos have yet to be posted on the site.
``We are current on all our approvals,'' Wyatt said. ``However, we only support five languages and there are several hundred that have not approved because we are looking for the appropriate translators to hire part-time.''
GodTube also is expanding. The Web site announced the launch of a new social network this month along with Internet tools like ``Video Police,'' in which parents report concerns by clicking a button that brings up an interactive window to talk with a staff member.
Wyatt moved to Dallas last year to attend the nondenominational Dallas Theological Seminary. He created GodTube as a resource for churches and put a test site up early this year. The official launch was in August, when it was rated the fastest growing site.
He said he still intends to become an ordained minister, but his seminary studies have moved to the back burner.
``It was a major surprise and with a great amount of joy that I have the skill set to do this,'' he said.