With the increasing popularity of the World Wide Web as a major source for news and information, anyone with a message has the potential to be heard. This global positioning has given churches a platform for service not just to local communities, but to the nation – and even the world.
More and more ministries are looking for ways to expand their influence, and in today’s technological landscape, it is possible to build a contemporary, interactive website that invites visitors to request and create a multi-media CD with relevant information that is tailored specifically to their needs. This can function as a non-profit outreach program or a profitable e-commerce site – there are a multitude of applications. Many congregations have already created websites that feature a wide range of content – from daily devotionals, educational tracks, class descriptions, online learning centers, photographs, games, even maps or local information for newcomers to the area. Some churches are even moving full force into e-commerce that includes online bookstores, selling sermons, and setting up conferences with interactive registration.
Of course, one of the pressing questions to ask is, once website visitors have arrived, how do you make a lasting impression? The first and most important way to leave a lasting impression is to make the website memorable and user-friendly. This is accomplished through the use of cutting edge technologies, graphics, web design, inclusion of accurate and reliable information, interactive content, and anything else relevant to your visitors’ interests. The bottom line is to know who is visiting your website and why.
Reinforce the impact of their visit by following up with something that will bring to mind what they experienced when they visited your website. Because people are security-conscious, safely transmitting what is certainly precious and private information about themselves, particularly their name and address, is of paramount importance. Along with having the necessary security in place, provide them with an incentive so that they will want to entrust you with their personal, and possibly sensitive, information. A good medium for this, because of quality, versatility and cost effectiveness, is a multimedia CD. These discs are easily created in-house, using standard CDR media.
The type of software that allows website visitors to create a disc employs an interactive user interface that can be used in conjunction with an automated CD Publisher and unique software to trigger the production of a custom disc at any time – all in an unattended environment. This software can track what information is most requested, who is visiting the site, what kinds of messages and mediums are effective, and whether a targeted audience is being reached. With this information, there is no guesswork and the webmaster is able to make educated adjustments to content.
A complete system of this type, with multiple components, is often referred to as a total solution – a pairing of software and hardware to meet the current and future needs of today’s busy congregations and organizations. A total solution that combines an interactive web interface, CD or DVD publishing hardware, on disc printing, and tracking software provides the ability to accomplish multiple tasks for your web ministry, outreach programs, and member support. With the right system, jobs can be run simultaneously for a variety of projects, including internal administrative backup.
Offering website visitors the benefit of creating a customized CD can serve as outreach to many populations, including shut-ins and the elderly. This CD could include anything – video, music, sermons, photographs, conference or seminar materials, or anything else that your congregation needs. An added benefit is that the tracking software can help fine-tune content, based on the interests of website visitors – especially for e-commerce – making your website profitable rather than an endless drain on financial resources. Churches have long been accustomed to using audiocassette duplication equipment. Many are now beginning the necessary migration to CD-R. While CDs are indeed an excellent choice for high-quality audio duplication, people do not realize the hidden potential in these small round discs. The practicality and usefulness of CD-R extends far beyond simple audio duplication because, in addition to standard audio content, CDs can hold videos, digital photos, entire websites, and any other conceivable type of digital information.
This makes the CD a far more attractive and versatile option than the old Audio Cassette duplicators. With the many options in CD-R (and DVD-R) duplicators from companies like Rimage Corporation, Microboards, Telex, Primera, and others, the selection can be a little overwhelming.
Most workers and volunteers who handle audio-visual and information technology for churches are familiar with the concept of duplication – you take something, like an audio track of a sermon or musical program, and produce copy after copy of it. Publishing, on the other hand, is altogether different. When you publish to disc (CD-R or DVD-R), you actually take custom content and produce the disc – that is, record and print it – on an on-demand basis. It doesn’t matter whether you want unique content on each disc, or hundreds of the same thing – publishing gives you the flexibility to do either one with the same system, and, depending on the system, multiple jobs can be produced simultaneously.
Two proven technologies – CD-R and the World Wide Web – are coming together to provide a new way to connect with people – whether they are local church members or people around the globe. For the greatest effectiveness, an ideal solution will be a fully developed, integrated platform, rather than several components pieced together haphazardly. Look for equipment that was built to work with the software that drives the program and that will grow with your needs. For example, look for systems that are upgradeable to higher recording speeds as technology changes. This will eliminate lengthy installations and future problems. Another consideration may be the ability to change from one-color to full color label printing.
A total solution that is readily available is NetDisc, by Global Technologies Group (www.gtgi.com). This system allows you to create a customized web interface with which people can pick and choose their content. It sends the request to an automated CD (or DVD) Publisher where the information is recorded to disc and a customized label is printed directly to the surface of the CD. The printer accommodates mono or fullcolor printing directly on the disc – as well as an optional printer that creates a permanent, indelible label.
This solution can even create a customized jewel case cover with the recipient’s address – all that’s left to do is insert the CD into a mailer and send it to the requestor.
The automated element of these CD and DVD Publishers is an important factor for many church ministries that are often dependent upon volunteer workers. A web-enabled electronic publishing system, designed to deliver digital data of any type, in an on-demand, unattended environment, that also uses the proven storage technology of CD-R, would be a valuable asset to any church or ministry.
These are today’s cutting-edge technology solutions that provide unlimited possibilities for communicating messages that count.