GLEEful about Jesus
A company specializing in niche social networking sites has launched an online Christian community. That's not so strange; what is raising some eyebrows is the nature of that new meeting place.
New York based Community Connect has launched Faithbase.com, described as "your place to meet and connect with Christians around the country".
The company, which is now 10 years old, already runs social networking sites for the black (Blackplanet.com), Asian (Asianavenue.com) and Hispanic (MiGente.com) communities. However, it's their remaining site that is causing eyebrows to raise. GLEE.com serves the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual community.
Kay Madati, the site's vice president of marketing, admitted some Christian groups had raised concerns about the relationship between the sites. But, he argued that Faithbase is "a totally independent social network for those types of consumers."
And he said that the company is going to let users decide what, if any, crossover there should be between the various communities. (Source: news.com)
The non-partisan policy applies to politics as well. Faithbase has a profile for Democrat Presidential candidate Barack Obama (who also has profiles on all other sites), with Hilary Clinton and John Edwards working on their own profiles. But Madati said the company hasn't solicited any politicians to sign up.
Religion online seems to be a hot topic for parent companies. News Corporation's Fox Entertainment Group has just bought Beliefnet, a multi-faith site which claims three million unique visitors a month. It appears they'll use the site for marketing and even distributing Fox programming, and to promote titles from two religious book publishers owned by sister company Harper Collins.
While Beliefnet's editor denied the sale was purely for profit, some site members objected to the association with Fox. One wrote "All it means is more in-your-face ads, spam in your mailbox and some corporate types who think spirituality is a commodity that's bought and sold on the 50th floor of some office tower run by caffeine addicts who whine about ratings." (Source: Internetnews.com)
The non-geographic nature of the Internet means it's ideal for targeting niche and specialty markets. But, as these two developments show, mixing religion and business will always risk causing offense, particularly in the closely connected online world.
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