Jason Martell likes to give the people what they want.
For 15 years he has coded websites, specializing in sites where
people gather: AmericanSingles.com; JDate.com, a Jewish singles site; and
the site now known as Flux, which is a multimedia blog for the MTV crowd. Social networking before it
was called that.
This summer, he found God. Well, GodTube.com. In June, Martell, with
cofounder and CEO Chris Wyatt, launched the video-sharing
site, which they claim is the largest social network for
Christians and the first major one to go real-time.
Wyatt, a former CBS television producer and theology
student, and Martell, as GodTube’s chief technology officer,
want to spread the social networking gospel as well as the holy
kind. News or music, dating or spirituality—any company
can build an active online community, Martell says, whether the
goal is to make a sale or get a man or get an “amen.”
The best techniques for attracting visitors and luring them
back work across industries: Appeal to people’s desire for
fame, search to belong and urge to have fun.
“I gained a lot of insight at these places,” he says. “These
technologies and lines of thinking are being funneled into
GodTube.” Big Jump Media, Martell’s software
development company, which provides GodTube with its
video-sharing technology, has trademarked terms including
“Jesus 2.0” and “Godcaster” for future products and
Among the top priorities for CIOs this year are developing
new businesses and services on the Web and promoting
collaboration and knowledge management internally, according to
our latest “State of the CIO” survey. A new
business that corralled an average of 3 million unique
monthly visitors in its six months in existence—and 19
million page views in December—GodTube is worth
Baby Got Book from jaser7 on GodTube.
Drafting Social Network Techniques for GodTube
Like YouTube, anyone can post a video at
GodTube. There are 50,000 up so far. But unlike YouTube,
GodTube vets submissions so they are “safe for families,”
meaning the videos are free of sex and violence.
And like social networking site Facebook,
GodTube gives registered members e-mail, affinity groups,
personal profiles, online polls, the ability to link to
friends and track their activities and the chance to make
public posts on “walls.” On GodTube’s wall, visitors post text and video
asking others to pray or light a virtual candle for a
specific reason—the Middle East, a premature baby
named Daniel, a quick home sale.
GodTube is a little like Twitter, too. Twitter,
a so-called microblogging site, lets members type text
updates about what they’re doing, in 140 characters or less,
to their “followers.” GodTube’s take on that is video chat,
where members sign up to watch each other in streaming video
while they converse via text.
Technologies to foster online collaboration—for
example, blogs that solicit customer feedback and wikis that
allow employees to work together on projects—are gaining
traction throughout the corporate world, a recent McKinsey
& Co. survey found. Video-sharing sites offer
a “test bed” to see what inspires people to collaborate
electronically, says Jacques Bughin, a McKinsey
Companies should pay attention to what motivates people to
glom onto an online community inside and outside the corporate
walls, Bughin says, because it isn’t usually financial gain. At
a cable company McKinsey studied, more than half the employees
who contributed to an internal wiki did it to build their own
reputations and because they identified with the community, he
says. Only 20 percent did it for the chance to earn a
How GodTube Appeals to Users’ Emotions and Ego to Build
At GodTube, Martell is applying what he’s learned about
human nature to the widgets, viral applications and real-time
“shared experience” technologies he’s building.
First, he advises, tell people what to do, then praise them
when they do it. When members sign in, Martell advises,
generate a message asking them to add a friend to their lists
or go to a specific channel or group related to their activity
last visit. After they do so, congratulate them with another
message and suggest they click a link that leads them to
“Don’t just give them a bunch of choices. Encourage them to
make decisions,” Martell says. “Then pat them on the back for
completing a task. That’s one of the most successful practices
because they want positive reinforcement.”
Next, from the dating sites, Martell learned that when you
appeal to people’s vanity you not only please them but you keep
When a member checks in, he wants to know what’s happened at
the site while he was away. But not general information about
total traffic or new features. Rather, how he himself is
reflected in all the activity. At JDate, for example, Martell
helped put together stats boards where members could see how
many people, and in some cases who in particular, looked at
their profiles, who sent e-mail, what their linked friends had
done recently and who was online right then.
JDate also shows members a list of compatible partners
generated by people-match algorithms—closely held
formulas for matching two date-seekers based on items in their
profiles and answers to questions.
“When people come to a site, they don’t necessarily know why
they’re coming. They don’t know what they’re looking for,”
Martell says, “so hold their hand. Tell them who’s checking
them out and how to check other people out.”
Five Million Psalm Video Viewers Can’t Be Wrong
One way at GodTube to check people out is the video chat section. On one recent day, member
JesusSetMeFree77, a bearded GodTuber wearing a heavy gold
cross, sat at a desk in front of his digital video camera
and appeared to be studying the Bible. Some fellow chatters
in the group provided audio with their video and text,
though it was mostly ambient noise that morning instead of
conversation. Admin Mike and Admin Pam monitored the group.
Not a lot of action, but there doesn’t have to be. The
visuals let people feel connected and perhaps satisfy a
sense of voyeurism, Martell says.
In August, the average GodTube visitor spent six minutes on
the site each session, according to Compete.com, a website analytics
tracker. Now it’s up to nine. Martell says sessions
frequently last more than 30 minutes.
Pure entertainment goes a long way to increasing linger time
and page views.
GodTube’s most popular video is “Little Girl and Psalm 23,”
in which a red-haired tot in a Disney princess T-shirt stands
in her kitchen smiling as she squeaks out the six verses of
“The Lord is my shepherd.” How popular? More than 5 million
views. That’s on par with the 5.2 million views logged for the
racy YouTube video, “I Got a Crush on Obama,” by bikini model
Amber Lee Ettinger, a.k.a Obama Girl.
The more people view, the more apt they are to leave
comments—that is, participate. “Little Girl” has garnered
more than 1,500 comments. Nurture interactivity by identifying
frequent posters of high-quality content and sending them
individual messages seeking more opinions from them, advises
McKinsey’s Bughin. By doing that, you boost the number and
quality of contributions, he says.
GodTube officials won’t disclose financials but have said
they want to make a profit. For a fee, megachurches—those
with congregations of at least 25,000 members—will be
able to offer live streaming sermons on GodTube. Subscribers to
those Godcasts will be able to choose to let GodTube share
their e-mail addresses with the churches, Martell says. The
site also runs traditional banner ads, such as from Publishers
Clearinghouse and Classmates.com, and has started experimenting
with video ads from Google.
For example, in GodTube’s “Celebrities” video channel, which
discusses famous Christians and encourages visitors to post
multimedia prayers for wayward stars, one of the most viewed
clips is “A Prayer for Britney Spears.”
In the bottom left corner of the video screen, small
clickable ads rotate every 20 seconds as the 6-minute video
prayer plays. “I know she’s going through a very difficult time
with her children and rehab and car accidents and whatnot,”
says the New Jersey woman who posted the video, and up pops a
link to ringtone seller BestTones4U.net. “Deliver her from
Satan and from darkness or anything that’s troubling her. You
know more than I do, Lord,” she says, as a pitch for online
prayer requests at carepages.com appears.
GodTube doesn’t yet have in-house staff to monitor closely
the results of all of its interactive features, but plans to
add such analysts to its 20-person staff, Martell says. “The
important thing is to keep experimenting with what we know
about people and technology.”