Religion and New Media: The Scientology Video Channel
Scientology is a religion that is shrouded in mystery, at least for me. Admittedly, I don’t know too much about it, other then the contributions made by everyone’s favorite Martian actor, Tom Cruise. I was intrigued when I saw the banner ads for the new Scientology Video Channel being launched by the official Church.
I spent some time on the site, which contains a series of videos explaining the different tenets of the religion and quickly came to the following conclusions.
The site is very sleek and very vague. There was no mention about the financial commitment needed to ascent through the various levels of the religion. The videos are narrated by soft spoken men and women who speak in soothing tones. There are numerous shots of nature (mountains, fields and rivers) as well as individuals being coached in brightly lit, warm rooms.
The headings also focus on Human Rights, Anti Drugs, and the Way to Happiness. Very friendly, non-threatening and aligning to the issues of the day. Clever.
In one of the videos, we are informed that an auditor is “someone who listens” to your problems (funny, I always associated auditors as people who gave you problems, lol.) There are ads and links for free copies of books as well as the opportunity to leave your contact information if you wish to receive more information.
The video channel is a PR response to the slew of bad publicity aimed at the Church in the past few months.
One of Scientology’s staunchest opponents has been a group called “Anonymous” who have declared an open war.
The group has mounted several online attacks against the Church including a DoS attack which forced the organization to change hosting providers. To date, the above video has been seen on Youtube over two million times. Then there’s that pesky Tom Cruise video(s) that were leaked a few months ago. They too have racked over over two million views on Youtube.
A Question of Strategy
It’s interesting, I wonder how many hits the Scientology video channel gets and how many of those are converted into leads. Furthermore, I wonder if the Church plans to introduce features allowing users to embed videos in their own blogs or share them with friends. With the tight controls I doubt it. There need to be in perfect control is going to cost them dearly, as they will have to compete with the power of viral word of mouth. Not to mention human nature: a video of Tom Cruise jumping the couch in front of a startled Oprah will always get more eyeballs then a calm explanation of the “Auditing Process.”