Every so often after finding a new site I like to do the “let’s-see-what-they-really-think-about-social-media” test.
More times than not this means seeing if I can have a digi-chat with them (the higher up on the “food chain” the better) and discuss what their service, product, or business does.
This tells me a number of very key things about who they are and what they do. For starters, it tells me:
- That they are about the conversation.
- They aren’t shy about press (both the good, bad, and the potentially ugly).
- They’re accessible.
- They desire feedback so they can become a better business.
And so on. There are a number of other charmed characteristics that can be displayed, but these are just a few, and not all of them are readily ascertained all at the same time, but I think you get the picture.
When I stumbled on ConversantLife.com something immediately poked my brainmater that something was different.
I saw blogs, a googlemaps mashup and directory, a digg-like user submission and voting quarry, and a simple and elegant UI with facebook and yahoo login access.
Individually, the parts aren’t anything particularly new. As a whole? Hmm. It could really be an interesting hub for both the individual or ministry.
So, I sat down with Peter, the Director of Marketing, and CJ Casciotta, their Marketing Manager and talked through a couple thoughts. It’s worth a read to see how another site is building their business.
Screen caps (and video!) below as well.
1. So, who are you and what do you do for Conversant life?
How did you get involved? I am Peter Schumerth, the Director of Marketing for ConversantLife.com. As a start-up, we all wear a lot of hats over here. I manage all aspects of Marketing, I manage the overall strategic direction of the website and I manage and support the 45 expert blogger who write for us. I’ve been building web tools now for about 8 years and I got involved with ConversantLife.com because my father-in-law (Stan Jantz) asked me to (more on that below).
2. What’s Conversant Life all about? (Who founded, started, etc?)
The two guys who started the company are long time published authors Stan Jantz and Bruce Bickel. They have written over 65 books together, many under their “Christianity 101” brand. Both Stan and Bruce saw the need for a new way of conversing about faith. Christian bookstores are closing, younger people are reading less and less printed materials (books, magazines), and the Internet is almost the exclusive way younger people access content. Bruce and Stan recognized the growing gap between how the Christian market delivers content (primarily through books) and how younger people of faith want it (online). Conversant is about delivering engaging, trustworthy and entertaining content in a new media format that fits the life style of younger Christians
3. What is the mission and goal/purpose? What do you guys hope to achieve?
ConversantLife.com is an online hub that not only provides informed and engaging content from key spiritual leaders but also allows up-and-coming bloggers, thinkers, authors, and artists to engage a new generation of Christ followers and spiritual seekers. The word Conversant mean ‘conversation with knowledge.’ Through the use of new media technology (blogs, video, social bookmarking, podcasting) we are trying to change the way Christians communicate with each other and the way Christians access content that informs and engages their faith. We hope to develop a “conversant” life style in younger generations who are seeking a faith different than their parents…more authentic, more globally minded, more informed, more passionate and more open to conversations on serious faith issues such as gay marriage, politics, other religions, social justice, sex, the church and a whole lot more. Many times the church avoids these topics, and younger Christians have serious questions here.
4. There are a lot of other “blog networks” out there… is this another one or is this different? What makes you guys special and/or unique?
We don’t call ourselves a blog network, although that is certainly a significant part of ConversantLife.com. We call ourselves an online content hub. ConversantLife.com has three key areas that allow our users to engage their faith:
- a. BLOGS – our goal is to find younger, relevant, up-and-coming voices (experts) and aggregate them together in one place for users to access their content.
- b. SOCIAL NEWS: users can find faith news on 9 different topics: Creative Arts, Entertainment, Belief, Life With God, Global Concerns, Social Issues, Relationships, Health and Money. Users submit, vote and decide what news gets promoted to top pages
- c. UNDISCOVERED: our Indie Media channel where undiscovered musicians, filmmakers, artists and writers can share their talents with our community. It’s a place for people to get their talented content to a faith audience, who ultimately decides what is good.
Our goal is to fit the life style of a younger Christian who is interested in culture, media, new music, film, and God…and a lot more.
5. What makes you guys different from similar secular networks?
We are certainly unique in both faith and secular spaces. I really haven’t found a secular site that is doing everything we do on one site…not sure that’s a good thing either…haha. In the secular world, I call us Digg.com meets Blogger meets Facebook meets Jesus. Do you know of anything like that our there? What makes us unique, however, is our content. We have a social networking component for our users, we have Digg tools for social news, but most importantly we’ve assembled a team of content creators that drives daily amazing content. And, our users get to interact with these bloggers and engage them with Q&A. It’s so interesting to see some of the threads back and forth on our blogs. Sometimes it get’s a bit hairy, a bit heated, a bit passionate, but in the end I think both sides come away better off. It’s very ‘conversant’.
6. There’s obviously some ecommerce on the site and advertising… what’s up with that? Is that the business model currently?
Selling ads is the current business model.
7. “Inform” “Engage” “Activate” sounds cool, but what are they really getting at?
I’m glad you asked about our tagline, because it’s ready for a change. It will be the third time we’ve modified it since our launch last January. What we tell users (which will be changed on the homepage in the coming days) is ‘conversations about faith & culture’. With that said, the idea behind Inform Engage Activate is…
- a. Inform: be an informed Christian that can intelligently converse on faith and culture
- b. Engage: connect with others in conversation; have respectful conversations in love, even if you disagree on issues
- c. Activate: your faith in action, be a light, be Conversant, share your gifts and blessings in your community
8. Finally, what can we expect in the near future as the site grows? It’s got connection to facebook, but other plans to open the doors? Widgets, gadget support, etc?
As a start-up, we do have limited time and resources. We are close to launching facebook apps and embeddable widgets, but I can’t promise anything too quickly. We are going to push Undiscovered and try to get some amazing new musicians and filmmakers exposure and distribution of their songs and films. We also just launched The Bridge: bridging the world for cross-cultural service (beta). We are trying to provide a place where missionaries can share stories, create global awareness and inspire others to serve. Look to see that go global early 2009.
So take it for a spin if you’ve got some time… you might find some excellent authorities and authors to read for your particular interest and ministry.
Who knows, you may start having that “conversantlife” that they are pushing their members to have… and the more conversation the better.