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Posted November 22, 2010

Survey says dioceses getting the hang
of new media, but slowly

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Dioceses are getting the hang of a multiplatform media universe, according to the results of a survey conducted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of Communications.

The increase in media awareness is at least evident in those dioceses who responded to the survey. Of 189 U.S. diocesan communications offices surveyed, 89 returned the questionnaire.

Among those dioceses who completed the survey, "there is great variation in the use of new media," said the executive summary of the report, "Survey of Diocesan Media Usage," which was dated October 2010. The dioceses were queried earlier in the fall.

Copies of the report were available at the U.S. bishops' Nov. 15-18 general meeting in Baltimore.

"Some are just entering new media, others are immersed in it," the executive summary said. "Therefore, diocesan needs related to new media will also vary widely."

Of the 89 dioceses that returned the survey -- although not every diocese answered every question -- 70 said they posted audio files on the diocesan website, and 72 said they provided video files.

Fifty-one dioceses reported they had a "corporate presence" on Facebook, while 37 said they had such a presence on Twitter and 33 on YouTube. In each instance, it was a majority of dioceses answering the question.

By a 6-to-1 margin, dioceses do not use social media for fundraising, although one diocese said it was using a mobile phone app for fundraising.

Forty dioceses said they have staff "monitor references to the diocese and have a response plan for when a viral campaign impacts the diocese."

In another sign of Web savvy, 22 dioceses said they were using social media to improve search engine results, which would put diocesan websites higher in the list of potential websites to be visited by Web surfers looking up keywords on Google, Bing, Ask and similar sites.

A majority of dioceses said they had social media guidelines in place for diocesan and parish personnel -- 44 said they do, 34 do not -- but dioceses by a nearly 3-to-1 margin (59-20) said they did not provide training in the use of social media to diocesan or parish personnel.

"There is a strong desire to learn more about new media, as respondents requested training in numerous areas," the executive summary said. "Deepening the use of new media also requires additional resources. The most frequent request is not for additional dollars but for staff who are trained in the use of new media."

It added, "The next step in the effective use of new media is for diocesan leadership to commit to more sophisticated use of these technologies and the training and resources they will require."

Traffic to diocesan websites is varied. Two dioceses reported more than 100,000 unique visitors a month. The other 41 dioceses reported an average of 14,498 visitors a month. And 17 said they didn't have information on how many visitors came to their site.

Close to two-thirds of those dioceses responding said they offer different websites for the diocesan newspaper and for the diocese itself, "which raises the question of how well integrated they are," the summary said.

Dioceses have not yet tapped electronic readers such as Kindle or the iPad. Only a third of those answering make their publications available electronically, and more than 90 percent of those offer those publications as PDFs, an abbreviation for "portable document format," which allows for the exchange of electronic documents across systems and platforms

When it comes to seemingly old-fashioned media like radio and TV, 10 percent of the dioceses responding said they operated a radio station; the stations average 22,038 listeners. Six percent operated TV stations, with average viewership of 28,068.