Computer screens, smartphone screens, tablet screens, TV screens are a part of our daily lives, with most of us rarely more than a few feet from such a device. These devices can run all sorts of applications, some of which are useful and beneficial, but many of which are time wasters and distractions.
The Augustine Institute and Ignatius Press see the reality of the internet and the prevalence of mobile devices as an opportunity and means for evangelization, catechesis, and growth in faith. Often described as the “Catholic Netflix,” FORMED gives more than a million users access to many of the best Catholic video series, books, audio, and more—all conveniently accessed through the website FORMED.org or the FORMED mobile app.
On September 9th, FORMED relaunched with a totally revamped and updated website and mobile app. Many improvements were made to accessibility, user interface, ease of accessing, saving, and sharing content, and more.
Matt Meeks is Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer at the Augustine Institute. [Editor’s note: See CWR’s February 8, 2018 interview with Meeks, who formerly worked for Warner Bros.] He recently spoke with Catholic World Report about FORMED and its relaunch, and the mission of this wonderful resource.
Catholic World Report: How did FORMED get its start? Where did the idea come from and who was behind it?
Matt Meeks: FORMED started as a collaboration between the Augustine Institute, Ignatius Press, and Lighthouse Catholic Media as a way to connect all Catholics, parishes and Catholic organizations with the best Catholic content to help them grow and share their faith.
CWR: In the time since it began, how has FORMED changed?
Meeks: When FORMED started, we had 38,000 users. In the three years since launch that number has increased to 1,000,000 and growing. As we attracted more Catholic parishes and individual users, we’ve been able to bring in many additional content partners. In that time, we have gathered a lot of data and built features to learn what individual Catholics and parishes need. We are at a place today where we have honed our offerings and are happy to be able to provide excellence to our customers based on these learnings. As a result, today FORMED has become an ecosystem for great Catholic media with over 75 content partners the best content for families and essential resources for parishes.
Additionally, over the years, we’ve prioritized our services to Catholic parishes and have developed a variety of programs for helping parish administrators implement FORMED through our FORMED leader site and programs; these include small group study support and marketing materials and best practices to directly help pastors and directors of religious education spread the word among parishioners.
We’ve also made it easier than ever for Catholics who are not part of a parish to join FORMED with easy onboarding, offline playback on all content and all the connected apps enabling us to meet them where they are viewing content—at home and on the road.
CWR: What prompted the changes and this relaunch?
Meeks: Truly, it was our users—both content partner, parish and individual subscribers. We are committed to listening to our users and these changes reflect requests they have sent in through our leader forums and in conversation.
CWR: Fundamentally, what is the driving force behind FORMED? What is its purpose?
Meeks: The driving force behind FORMED is to connect people with Christ and his teachings and with the rich inheritance of our Catholic faith through parish life, through beautiful content, storytelling, and truth that fits within each person’s unique schedule – available in the palm of their hands and on their living room TV.
CWR: Has FORMED adapted in response to any particular demands, or any particular issues in the life of the Church? What has been the driving force behind the changes in FORMED?
Meeks: When we launched FORMED three years ago, we undertook an ambitious task to create a software startup within the Catholic Church. This was ambitious because the Church operates differently, at a different pace, with different structures and its own unique challenges. At the beginning, we knew where to start but we didn’t know where our users would lead us.
We spent three years developing a lot of software and features including group management, analytics, crowd-funding tools, etc. We’ve spent the last three years looking at the data, listening to our users, honing our technology, identifying flexible partners and developing the very best solution based on what we have been hearing. This launch is our attempt at coalescing these three years of learnings into a platform that delivers exactly what our customers have been asking for.
CWR: What are some statistics as to users, diocesan partners, content providers/publishers, traffic, etc.?
Meeks: FORMED now has 1,000,000 users and over 5,000 parishes. Last month alone, FORMED users consumed 140,000 hours of Catholic video and audio with 3.8 million pages visited. FORMED users span the globe with users from over 160 countries. Every parish in Singapore is a FORMED parish.
CWR: What about diocesan partnerships? How does that work, and how have those relationships developed?
Meeks: We now have partnerships with more than 50 dioceses around the world that provide FORMED to their parishes. FORMED gives these dioceses a beautiful and compelling resource to support their parishes’ efforts to evangelize and form the faithful.
The key to success is the training and support we offer to help their parishes promote and implement FORMED to make the most out of using it as a tool to help Catholics understand, live, and share their faith.
CWR: What sort of changes are coming to FORMED?
Meeks: Our core focus is to provide the best content delivery platform possible for our users and content partners. To do that we’ve reviewed our features, where we are directing our energy focusing everything on multi-device content delivery.
As a result, the primary changes are upgrades to the user experience to increase content discoverability, upgrades to our player, streaming capabilities and performance as well as the ability to offer nearly every connected app from desktop to tablet to mobile to television on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon, and gaming consoles like Xbox.
CWR: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Meeks: Just that in a time of fragmentation, suffering, and difficulty for Catholics, this is the greatest collaboration in the Church today and perhaps in the history of our faith. With over 50 dioceses, 5000 parishes, 75 content partners, and nearly 1 million users, we are unifying the Church in one place to explore their faith, connect with each other, with their parishes and renew the Church.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!