Vatican News app–new communications hub of ALL things Vatican

A recent consolidation of Vatican media has swallowed several old Vatican media outlets (including Vatican Radio and Pope App) into a new “network hub of Vatican communications” called Vatican News (Free) Apple | Android. What does that mean for the avid Catholic app user? If you have old Vatican news apps installed, some may have changed automatically to the re-branded app (as with the old Pope App) or just ceased to operate. In that case, download this app.

img_0911As the name suggests, this re-branded Vatican News app provides up-to-date (even live) content connecting you with not just the Pope, but the Vatican, the universal Church and (Catholic) World news in those four categories.  This app was developed and launched in Beta form in December by the Vatican’s relatively new Secretariat for Communication as the official network hub based on its  Vatican News web site. The idea was to construct a consistent, clear digital communications strategy under one portal–a laudable goal.  However…

Everything got turned into “news.” The “Vatican News” name tells it all. And therein lies the problem. Not everyone wants to engage in “news,” particularly many of those Pope App users. Here at CatholicApptitude, we saw significantly more interest in “Pope Apps” category over “Catholic News Apps” category with Pope Apps always ranking higher in user access, hands down. And there’s a reason. The warmth and charm of Pope Francis combined with his own particular brand of messaging warrants its own app for those particular users (and there are a lot of them) who want their daily dose of the Holy Father in an all encompassing package. Sure, news articles and video reports are important elements of any app dealing with Pope Francis. But in relying so heavily on “news,” the Vatican has stripped out some of the more engaging elements we had gotten accustomed to. Regrettably, gone is the pope’s calendar schedule, list of writings, (you have to jump over to the Vatican web site for that) and the galleries with the latest images and videos in one convenient place (now farmed out to social media). Also gone is the terrific option to have the app send an alert when something momentous takes place like the live Christmas and Easter messages or some event on a papal trip. (And papal trips always had their own tab in the menu). Crazy travel schedules can’t be precisely timed, so those alerts when the pope showed up late sure helped.

No longer can we forecast when something cool will happen because it lacks a timeline/schedule. So at what time here in the east coast of the United States, for example, do I tune in to hear the Pope’s live Easter message for the world? I used to know with the old Pope App. It also used to send me a push notification as it was about to occur. Yes. My Pope App reached out to me. THAT’S engagement.

The idea of combining all the separate Vatican news outlets into a single portal is long-overdue and most welcomed. But the pope isn’t about news. He’s about engagement. And people want to engage through use of separate menu tabs taking them to various avenues of encountering his particular messages. In short, he’s too big an entity for a single tab in a news portal. That said, we do appreciate coverage in the new app of the three dependable elements of the pope’s schedule (Angelus, General Audience and Santa Maria daily Mass homily). We enjoy the complete live events at which he presides. His Twitter account is easily accessible. Why is all this important?  A lot of us want to hear what he says from his own microphone and not filtered through some news outlet with an agenda (which Vatican News has morphed into, sadlysadly, and the new red color scheme won’t ever right that wrong).

But for what you get with this app, as far as the pope is concerned, it still the best “pope app” out there.

Setting the pope aside, let’s look at the other elements of the Vatican News app.

Its original news content encompasses the entire Holy See and anything concerning the universal Church that would be of interest to the masses. As you would expect, this includes news reports in text and video, press bulletins and video of events in their entirety (some of it live). The app also offers daily readings, Saint of the Day, Vatican News Radio (old Vatican Radio) programming on 11 channels (a bit difficult to switch with that tiny toggle button). The radio news reports (noted for quality content without the editorial quirkiness of the official Vatican newspaper) are offered in text and audio.

In addition to news outlets, many of the separate social media accounts associated with the Vatican are now consolidated under this new Vatican News hub. This includes Facebook (the Vatican’s page as the pope doesn’t have a Facebook page–whew!), the pope’s Twitter account (@Pontifex), YouTube and Instagram. These consolidated social media outlets have consolidated users as well, causing their engagement numbers to rise. And social media is taking on some significant content responsibilities for Vatican communications– for instance, much video has been farmed out to the YouTube portal; the old “galleries” appear to be pushed to Instagram. Let us hope these third-party entities don’t abuse their content discrimination–always a gamble when you release your control over the platform.

Back to the pope… We regret that some of the more interesting things Pope Francis says and does are still NOT included in this app. So when he accepts a clandestine meeting with an individual  or group, or says something off-the-cuff, or crazy, don’t expect to see it on this app.

6 languages: English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, German.  Requires internet service.

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Categories: Blog for Catholic Apptitude

Author:Jennifer Kane

Content Evangelist, Jennifer Kane, is a secular Carmelite (OCDS), wife, mother, grandmother and avid Catholic app user who worked for many years in marketing/communications holding degrees in Journalism/Communication (BA) and English (MA) from St. Bonaventure University. She authored the Vatican application for minor basilica status in 2016 for The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Olean, New York from which stemmed the history book of the basilica, A Place Set Apart. She previously authored the book, A Worthy and Capable Clergyman, the second part of this book in a slightly different format. She is founder and editor of the website, CatholicApptitude.org, a blog cataloging/reviewing Catholic apps for mobile devices. What began as an e-mail service to priests and seminarians looking for quality Catholic apps for mobile devices has grown into this world-wide community of Catholic app enthusiasts looking for and recommending great Catholic apps.

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