By Tim Siglin
November 15, 2005
Podcasting from the Pulpit
Podcasting has also seen a rapid growth in the worship market segment. A recent search on PodcastAlley.com revealed that podcasters with the word “church” in them accounted for approximately 4% of the total podcasters indexed by the site (374 of 9604).
Expanding the search to the larger “Religion/Inspiration” category, though, reveals this category has almost a 12% market share, ranking fourth behind the technology, music/radio, and general categories. In terms of the number of podcasts, the category is growing rapidly too, as many churches, synagogues, and mosques create at least two choir, sermon, or lesson recordings per week.
The worship streaming market, like different religions and denominations themselves, is fragmented. It is also quite nascent: while Podcast Alley lists 794 podcasters, SermonAudio.com, an evangelical site, has over 71,000 sermons online. The site claims almost 9.2 million sermons have been downloaded since its inception in July 2000, including over 90,000 downloads within the past seven days. Even though it’s one of the largest sites for online sermons, SermonAudio.com serves only 400 churches, which is equivalent to less than one half of one percent of the total potential U.S. church market.
Education also plays a key component in the use of streaming media for many religious organizations. Many Jewish denominations require “yeshiva school,” which educates young children in the Talmud. In areas where a traditional yeshiva may not be readily available, streaming, Voice over IP, and tools such as WebEx provide the ability to create virtual yeshivas. One such school is YeshivaOnline, a Canadian virtual yeshiva headed by Rabbi Yitzchok Pollack. While many in his community do not embrace the use of computers, Pollack says he “feel strongly that we in the field of Jewish education must make a greater effort to keep abreast of the recent developments in technology and harness them for our own goals.”
Even academic institutions, which have traditionally shied away from religious debate, are using streaming to propagate harmonious dialogue between various religions. One example is the availability of streaming versions of several discussions from the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning. The Center is located at Boston College, a Jesuit Catholic university, and the streams are part of a joint partnership with WGBH, the Boston-based public television station. While these discussions are normally only aired locally, the site notes that streaming media allows the Center to reach a broader audience, and that it is the Center’s “intention in the coming months to increase use of [streaming].”