Catechetical DVDs are Dead (But Do They Know It Yet?)

In an effort to expand my son’s cultural horizons I recently exposed him to a great one-two punch of classic science fiction:  the original Star Trek episode “Space Seed” and it’s silver screen sequel Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:

It wasn’t until a day or two after watching the movie that I realized I had hit a significant milestone in media use. Being a fan of classic Star Trek I own all the good movies (II, III, IV, VI, and First Contact) on DVD. And yet, when it came time to watch with my son, it didn’t even occur to me to fish out the disc and pop it into the DVD player. Instead we sat in front of the computer and loaded it on Netflix. I mentioned this on Twitter and found that I was hardly alone in this shift.

This caused me to reflect on the state of catechetical media. I’ve seen a number of big DVD releases from Catholic publishers lately (Fr. Barron’s Catholicism being the most ready example) and I’ve even ordered some for my office’s library. But if DVDs are a dying format we have to ask: what comes next?

The biggest shift in media use has been from physical media to streaming services. Just as I used Netflix to watch Wrath of Khan with my son, more and more people are forgoing physical media in favor of services that give instant access to a large library of titles. This isn’t just true of video; services such as Pandora and Spotify are replacing CD libraries for a lot of young adults. How fast is this shift happening? Let’s put it this way: I can’t remember the last CD player I owned and I don’t expect to buy another DVD player. Ever.

Will catechetical publishers be able to make this shift from discs to streaming? I’m not sure.  I don’t know the details of how media companies get their titles onto Netflix or Hulu or what sort of reimbursement they receive. Suffice to say that, given the size of their market, it will probably be difficult for Catholic catechetical publishers to get their titles onto most of the mainstream services. They may need to look for some smaller streaming providers or develop in-house solutions. This won’t necessarily solve the problem, though, since many people (and parishes) will be reluctant to pay for additional streaming services on top of whatever mainstream provider they are already shelling out their $10 per month to.

I know a few folks in Catholic publishing read my blog and I’d love to hear from them in the comments. Have your companies explored putting video content on a mainstream streaming service? If so, what would be involved? If no, why not?

For catechists and other folks: Would you (or your parish) be willing to pay for a separate streaming service for Catholic content? What about individual services from various Catholic publishers? What features would you look for in a Catholic streaming service?

Why I Mothballed My Facebook Profile

If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I recently mothballed my personal Facebook profile. Specifically, I set my profile to hidden, de-friended all but family and a few close friends, and put up a note that I would no longer be posting to the site any more. To be clear I didn’t deactivate my account; I’m still responsible for some of our diocese’s social media activities and I’m still maintaining my Jonathan F. Sullivan page, so I need access to Facebook. I’m simply no longer using it as a personal social networking outlet.

This may seem an odd move for someone who has widely encouraged the use of Facebook and other social media platforms for catechists and Catholic educators, and the irony is not lost on me. A few people have asked for the specific motivation for this action. The truth is that there’s no single reason, but a variety of factors went into this decision:

  1. Facebook’s  algorithm  stopped working for me. Over the years Facebook has tweaked and changed the way it decides what to show people on the front page. In recent months, for whatever reason, I was seeing fewer things of interest from people I wanted to see stuff from. Admittedly my friends may have been posting less interesting items, but I think the changes to the algorithm are the more likely culprit.
  2. I don’t care about political arguments. This was especially true as we approached last November’s elections, but the number of stupid, poorly informed, and  inflammatory  political posts really soured me on the Facebook experience. I have friends on both sides of the political divide and a lot of them were posting things that are unworthy of my time and attention.
  3. Facebook is the Genesis planet of social media. In  Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the Genesis planet (created by a device which takes dead planets and terraforms them into lush, living worlds) proved to be beautiful but extremely unstable, with shifting landscapes and rapidly shifting weather patterns making it all but uninhabitable. It’s an apt metaphor for Facebook’s constantly shifting privacy policies, updates, and backend changes. I’ve grown tired of relearning how to do things on the site every six months.

I want to reiterate that I am still using Facebook for public activities; it is only as a personal social networking site that I’ve abandoned it. I remain convinced that every parish should have a Facebook page to reach out to parishioners. I’m just not as convinced that Facebook is a great place to connect with friends and family anymore.