April 23, 2015
Beyond Today Moving to Word Network
We are pleased to announce that the United Church of God is pursuing a better option for its television airtimes for Beyond Today. When ION Television reduced its Sunday morning availability for religious programming at the end of last year, we were forced to choose a weekday morning for Beyond Today, and we began airing on Friday mornings. While response has been improving over time, the Friday morning audience has not worked out as well as we desired.
Therefore, effective May 29, we have cancelled our contract with ION and signed a new agreement with a familiar network of the past: The Word Network. We will air twice per week: Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. Eastern, followed by Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. And it all begins this coming weekend, April 24 and 25! In addition, these times translate very well for our U.K., Europe and Africa audiences—which is later in the evening for them.
Word Network’s reach
The Word Network is available in over 200 countries reaching millions of viewers in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas. It reaches 86 million homes in the U.S. alone through DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Cox, Cablevision, Charter, and a host of other cable operators—and another 9 million homes on Sky TV in the U.K.
The Word Network is also provided to one million men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces in over 65 countries. And, it just expanded its reach to Latin America. Word’s website streams all programming live, and is also available to thousands of air travelers daily through “In Flight” services on selected airlines.
New streaming opportunities
As a result of moving to the Word Network, we will be spending less of our airtime budget, and so for the 2015-2016 fiscal year we are going to use a portion of it to develop and put Beyond Today on various streaming platforms and set-top television boxes to bring our video program before even more viewers. This is planned to include Roku (as currently), plus Chromecast; Amazon Fire TV; apps on Samsung, Panasonic and Google smart TVs; and various gaming consoles (many of which we are already on using YouTube).
The airtime mix will be expanded—the usual traditional broadcast/cable/satellite TV—plus new innovative streaming devices. Our airtime budget will therefore be split into two main categories—traditional broadcast/cable/satellite airtime and newer streaming “airtime” technologies—both of which have the goal to deliver our Beyond Today program to additional viewer’s TV screens.
Your prayers for the ongoing success of our various efforts to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom and for His guidance and blessing is certainly appreciated—especially for the success of these new airtimes on the Word Network.
Victor Kubik—President, and Peter Eddington—Media Operation Manager
April 16, 2015
We’re very happy to say we’re almost ready to unveil the new UCG.org website!
The media team at the United Church of God has produced a promotional video that highlights many of the upgrades and enhancements you can expect to see at UCG.org when our new mobile-first website launches.
A key change is a new Beyond Today media section that will highlight and facilitate a more aggressive preaching of the gospel of God’s Kingdom. You can expect to see the new site in three or four days time!
Peter Eddington—Operation Manager, Media and Communications Services
April 13, 2015
The Cincinnati East, Ohio, congregation of the United Church of God (UCG) is continuing its bi-weekly Bible study series “Let Us Keep the Feasts.” Tune in Wednesday, April 15, at the time of 7 p.m. EDT live via webcast.
Is it possible that God is only dealing with a few people today? There is a huge spiritual harvest to come, but what does the biblical Festival of Pentecost tell us about the plan of God? God uses the representation of the harvest of first fruits to make a powerful point as to the deep meaning of His purpose. In this study we’ll discuss the details of exactly what a first fruit is, and the responsibilities it carries. Join us for this in-depth examination of Pentecost and the first fruits.
Here is the schedule for the remainder of this series:
- April 15, 2015: First Fruits – Steve Myers
- April 29, 2015: The Power to Change – Darris McNeely
- May 13, 2015: The Holy Spirit in Us – Steve Myers
Plan to watch online. You can also view the Bible study using your smartphone Internet browser.
Peter Eddington—Media and Communications Services, UCGIA
April 7, 2015
2nd Quarter 2015
UCG.org to Re-launch with Responsive Design and Other Improvements!
The Internet team at the United Church of God is always looking for ways to improve our visitor’s experience. Over the past several months we’ve been very busy building something that we think you’ll love! We’re very happy to say we’re almost ready to unveil the new UCG.org website!
Why a new website?
The Internet is constantly shifting in capabilities, browsing habits and tons of other factors. We like to stay as current as we can—so that we’re ready to give an answer when people are searching for God’s truths. We’ve thought long and hard about the best way to organize the new site, what it should look like, and how it will function. We didn’t want just a face-lift. We wanted a change that can be expanded and improved upon for years to come—with a strong backend and thoughtful organization. We think you’re going to love it!
What Can I Expect on the new site?
- New, mobile-friendly responsive design
We’ve redesigned the site from the ground up to make it more accessible on your smart phone, tablet, television or any other device that you use. A responsive design means the site should be accessible no matter what screen size you’re on at the moment. Over 50 percent of our traffic is from mobile phones and tablets now, so it is important to us that everyone has a seamless experience when they visit the website.
- More deliberate focus on presenting who we are as a Church
The Internet has changed really quickly! For years the strategy was to put as much content on your homepage as possible so search engines could find your site and make sure that visitors could find the information they were looking for. With advances from search engines this isn’t the case anymore. We’re planning to move all gospel-preaching content off of the “United Church of God” section of the website, and really focus in on who we are as a Church.
We’re going to give visitors a much clearer way to find a congregation near them and a really good idea of what they can find when they get to services. We’ll show them our outreach efforts, sermons, and even invite them in to watch a webcast Sabbath service so they can answer God’s calling.
- More deliberate focus on presenting the gospel message
Just because you won’t see all of our media content on the “United Church of God” section anymore doesn’t mean we’re shifting focus. The new “Beyond Today” media section of the website will be better than ever!
With the coming magazine name change from The Good News to Beyond Today, our gospel message will be more findable and more robust than ever. Beyond Today is not just a television program anymore. Beyond Today is a place where people can find all the wonderful truths of God’s way of life in tons of different ways—videos, Bible studies, blogs, booklets and study aids—and all mobile-friendly and accessible to millions around the world. With a clear focus on our gospel-preaching effort, we’ll have the opportunities to reach people in many new emerging markets and emerging devices.
- New Congregation Websites
Along with the other changes we plan on slowly rolling in our local congregation websites, with tons of new features. All the sites will be searchable and findable inside the main UCG.org site now, which means a seamless experience for the user and a much better interface for the local congregation website helpers. All posted sermons given in local congregations will be findable on our main UCG.org website for everyone to hear, and we have a lot of great things in mind for those as well.
- New Members’ Website
In Quarter 3, we also plan on integrating the members’ site into the new UCG.org. It will provide a much more seamless experience for our members looking for pertinent member content.
We’ve also been keeping an eye on feedback from users and we’re deciding to sunset a few things.
- Simplified user accounts without in-site friend requests or messages
Friend requests and personal messages in-site will not be in the new website. We found a vast majority of users are not using this functionality, and there are many other options for interactivity on the Internet today.
To replace messaging we will allow any user to configure their account with a contact form so others can send them an e-mail message. All e-mail addresses will be obscured for privacy on UCG.org and the function will be able to be turned off. This lets site visitors drop a note to their favorite UCG.org authors and start to build a relationship right away. You should archive any messages you wish to keep now because when the site rolls over you will not be able to access the archived messages.
- Look for us on other devices you use!
The future of the Internet is having your website’s content on whatever device someone uses—be it a smart TV, set top box, wearable, phone, or something we haven’t even considered yet. We’ve built the new site with this in mind and hope to jump onto emerging technology as quickly as possible. Our Roku channel is the first example of this, but we want to make sure we’re available on streaming devices everywhere that people have a question about the Bible.
We look forward to everyone’s feedback as we start rolling the project out live. You can expect the first round of updates sometime in Quarter 2 of this year, and more improvements throughout the rest of 2015. We really appreciate everyone’s prayers for God’s blessing on the project and the continued support of the entire Church.
Tom Disher—Senior Web Developer & Beyond Today Media Promoter, UCGIA