Third Way Website Gets New Look and Fresh Support (By Steve Carpenter)

Perhaps you’ve already noticed that MennoMedia’s premier website ThirdWay.com has a new look – http://thirdway.com  The website has been around since the late 1990s under the name Third Way Café. Some thought the coffee motif was getting a bit stale.1999 HomePage

(Just for fun, here’s a screen grab of the old home page. To read the print go to the Way Back Machine web archives, a great place you can find and reference most old websites.)

Over the past year we worked to freshen up Third Way and improve it’s functionality on smart phones and tablets, renaming it simply Third Way. Earlier in June, a news release announced some of the new sections and features.

ScreenShotHomePageJune3LaunchThe site engages those looking for information online about Mennonites, and serves as a portal for those seeking to live out their Christian faith through Anabaptist values such as simple living, acts of service, and an emphasis on community, justice and peace. Those five values, plus the broad topics “Mennonites” and “Jesus” are reflected in the seven sub-sections of the website.

For the first time, Third Way is offering Mennonite agencies and businesses the opportunity to become sponsors. Sponsorship of this website supports efforts to provide Anabaptist Christian values and information to a worldwide audience, and will also increase an agency’s or business’s exposure. We are thrilled that seven organizations or agencies have stepped up so far to support Third Way by becoming sponsors. There are three levels available: Site Sponsors, Section Sponsors and one Home Page Sponsor.

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Everence and Mennonite Mission Network have become Site Sponsors

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For their gift we include their logo with a hyperlink back to their agency’s home page on every page of the Third Way site. Section Sponsors get their logo on the home page and on every page of the section they sponsor. Thus far Eastern Mennonite University,

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Mennonite Foundation Canada,

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Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary

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and Mennonite Health Services

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have all stepped up as Section Sponsors.

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In addition, Conrad Grebel University is a Home Page Sponsor.

However, there are three sections still waiting for a company to sign on! The sections still available are Community, Service and Justice. If you know of a business or organization which might be interested in becoming a section sponsor of one of these three areas, the cost is $1,000 U.S. per year or $1,200 CDN. Leave a comment below or send me an email with your ideas and I’ll follow up.

Thank you for your interest. Be sure to sign up for a daily scripture, weekly media review, monthly peace story or other free inspirational emails from MennoMedia via Third Way.com by going to subscriptions.

Blessings in your work, worship and witness,

Steve Carpenter Director of Development and Church Relations

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development and Church Relations

SteveC@MennoMedia.org

Part 2: What people read first at Third Way Café

Part 2 (and check the end for a free book offer)

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In Friday’s post, we looked at what events in the news or nations propelled people to check out their questions about Mennonites or Amish at a website like Third Way Café. Today we’ll look at where they go first.

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The top traffic pages are ALWAYS the “Who are the Mennonites?” section, so we want to help people get to those pages easier and faster, and to help them find useful information instead of bouncing off in two clicks. But, there are additional, notable, well-used pages. The top five pages/sections accessed in the last year (July 28, 2012, to July 28, 2013) include these:

Overall, we average about 39,000 page views a month and 18,000 unique visitors, with about 80 percent being first time visitors to the site (with the resulting bounce rate of some 80 percent—common to other sites as well). The number of new visitors each month has increased; we used to average about 65 to 75 percent new visitors. I’m going to attribute that to more casual interest driven by things like the reality TV shows on Amish. (Again, comment please if you can think of other reasons: increase in interest from Mennonite/Amish romance books, memoirs, Naked Anabaptist, big names like Brian McLaren, More with Less cooking, etc.?)

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Third Way Café is also there helping the general populace sort out Mennonites, Moonies, Mormons, and Muslims. And yes, believe it or not, from previous studies (not online, in archives) the general public confuses all these different faith groups that they don’t much understand, that all happen to start with “M.” There is a great four-part ditty some creative folks came up with about common confusions:

Third Way Café also helps people sort out confusion between Mennonites, Amish, Conservative, Old Order, Old Order Mennonite, Hutterites, River Brethren, Swarztzentruber Amish and many more groups. (See various FAQs here.)

Both predecessor organizations of today’s MennoMedia agency have worked at these issues for a combined total of well over a century and a half: helping people understand Mennonites, Anabaptists, Amish and more. Undoubtedly crowd-sourced information (from bloggers and aggregators like Reddit etc.) will become more important for Third Way Café.

Here’s MennoMedia’s own video take helping people sort out their confusion:

Third Way Cafe website is ready for some updating and focusing (see earlier post on new directions) with better accessibility from mobile platforms (smart phones, tablets, etc.). Thirty-eight percent of our traffic comes from mobile, a number increasing every month.

Most of this interpretation of Mennonites used to come one letter, postcard or phone call at a time, and was answered by painstaking correspondence of the various agencies. Third Way Café grew out of the ministry of Mennonite Broadcasts, Inc., founded in the early 1950s which, through its over-the-air broadcast ministries, prompting inquiries from all over the U.S., Canada and the world about Mennonites and what they believed.  Even before Mennonite Publishing House and Mennonite Media/Third Way Media formally merged in 2011, Third Way Café was handling these types of electronic inquiries for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Publishing House/Network. And yes, some of the questions are still answered personally—mostly by email, but occasionally by old fashioned snail mail and landline phone.

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Angela and Erwin Rempel, volunteers,
respond to most personal inquiries to Third Way Cafe.

Menonitas.net, a sister site to Third Way Café entirely in Spanish, also receives good views from all over the world, and especially Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, the United States, and Spain, in that order. The visitors bounce from 250-500 a month, also with observable spikes.

Third Way Café has attracted support from some small Mennonite-related foundations and individual donors; like Wikipedia and other classic but popular sites, it prefers not to host ads at present (but that could change).  MennoMedia seeks to keep Third Way Café sustainable for the long term. It attracts a few clicks to the MennoMedia store but hardly enough to pay any portion of a salary.

But there is much more than the sustainability of a website at stake here: the sustainability of reliable, vetted, quality information for the general public on Mennonites, Amish and Anabaptist. What is that worth to you? What is it worth to the denominations in an era when electronic and mobile forms of communication increasingly dominate? We believe the Mennonite churches want to maintain a strong electronic presence to help the increasingly wired inquirers who come our way!

Head on over to our Facebook page for Third Way Cafe, like it, and make a comment. (We’re pushing for 1,000!) I will personally send a free copy of Ask Third Way Cafe: 50 Common and Quirky Questions about Mennonites, (Jodi Nisly Hertzler, Cascadia, 2009) to one name drawn randomly. Tell us you read Mennobytes blog, or whatever comment you care to make about Third Way Cafe and I’ll put your name in the hat, so to speak. Deadline Wed. August 7 midnight ET.

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Melodie Davis
Managing editor