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UMCom launches syndication service for church Web sites

4/18/2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)-The United Methodist Church's communications agency is introducing new syndication formats that will enable local church Web sites to make the latest denominational news available more easily.

United Methodist News Service, a part of United Methodist Communications, and UMC.org launched a series of "syndication" tools April 18 that allow Web designers and site visitors to customize the display of articles and news generated by the agency.

One such tool-called "RSS," or real simple syndication-enables designers to provide fresh, updated content without sending the reader to another site. 

UMCom launched the Internet-based service in response to daily requests from webmasters and designers for ways to tailor articles generated by the denomination's official news agency. Several syndicated offerings were already available through UMCom, and the news service and UMC.org are working to develop more on a regular basis. 

The new syndication formats, available at
http://www.umc.org/interior.asp?ptid=1&mid=7120 and http://www.umc.org/interior.asp?ptid=1&mid=2324, go beyond earlier tools that required clicking on a graphic and being directed to a Web page. Updates are made in real time on local church sites as new headlines are posted to umns.umc.org, and the formats let local church Web designers tailor the presentation.

UMCom designers say constantly updating local church Web sites with new information, stories and articles is the best way to keep and grow readership.

The United Methodist New Service will offer a variety of free syndication options: RSS feeds, text and image links, as well as a tool for local church webmasters to build syndication based upon their own needs. A webmaster can remove Web-based formatting and manipulate information without changing content for display in ways compatible to the local site. Each time umc.org or umns.umc.org is updated, the local church site is also updated.

The syndication tools were developed to better serve local churches that might not have the staffs or budgets to update their Web sites. The tools also give up-to-date news about the worldwide denomination.

The new formats also will benefit "bloggers"-or people who write online journals called "Web logs" about events, social issues, news, etc. A Web log is chronologically organized, with the latest entry appearing at the top of the page. It is updated by an individual or group of people using personal commentaries, ideas and stories typically written in the first person. Bloggers can run RSS feeds into their blogs to receive fresh information on discussion topics and the latest headlines about the United Methodist Church.

RSS and "dynamic" syndication "allow more people access to the stories of the church and they allow more people to pass those stories along to others," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, UMCom's top staff executive.

"This has the potential to greatly increase the visibility of the church and allow it to tell its stories to many more people," said Hollon, who keeps his own blog called "Perspectives" at http://homepage.mac.com/larryhol/iblog/index.html

United Methodist News Service, established in 1940, offers a wide range of media services through its Web news desk: news and feature articles, background information on current issues, weekly digests and commentary and an extensive photo gallery. A multimedia agency, UMNS provides stories in print, TV/video, audio and Web formats.

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