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