Let’s take a trip back in time.
Today is April 3, 2012. (Ah, the good old days!)
For most of us it was an unremarkable day. But not so for Fred Goldbergsteinowitz.
On that day, Fred had something to say. Fred had an extremely important message that he wanted to broadcast to the wider Jewish world. Fred felt that many people could be positively influenced by his views, if only he could reach them.
He asked me for some suggestions for getting the word out. As a web marketer, I had a few tried-and-tested ideas:
- He could post about it on his Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Fred did this but he felt that his reach was too limited to people he “knew.”
- If he really wants wide exposure, he should try to get his op-ed accepted and published by one of the big Jewish news publications, in print and online. However, Fred did not have a big name or big connections. He said the editors didn’t even answer his query emails.
- He could approach a blogger with a significant readership in the Jewish world and ask if he can do a guest post. Fred tried this but he didn’t get any bites from worthwhile blogs. One blogger said he would publish it… in about 3 months… maybe.
- As a last resort, I suggested that Fred publish his piece on his own blog. His blog was rarely updated and didn’t get many reads. But perhaps that landmark post could be an important step towards building up his blog? It takes time and a lot of hard work to build up a successful private blog, but I encouraged him to believe it could happen, one solid post at a time.
But Fred did not like this last suggestion at all.
He felt it was critical that his message reach his fellow Jews today! Publishing on his own blog to an audience of his mother, his cat and maybe one random follower from Twitter, wasn’t what he had in mind!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a magic solution to his problem.
Hope for Frustrated Jewish Opinion Writers
That was life for a frustrated, budding Jewish opinion writer circa early April 2012. But that all changed a few days later, with the launch of the Times of Israel, a news site squarely focused on Israel and the Jewish world.
In the crowded space of online Jewish news, the main thing that sets the Times of Israel (TOI) apart from its competitors is its blogs. The Times of Israel allows just about anyone to publish their views on its blog section, making it like a Jewish Huffington Post.
This is a stroke of Web publishing genius. In the Jewish world, we all know we have more opinions in the room than people and many welcome any opportunity to publicly express them. The idea of giving all Members of Tribe a platform to voice their views to a mass audience is so good that it seems incredible that no Jewish news site ever did this before.
The TOI’s meteoric rise to prominence and huge readership within a year is pretty impressive.
A few months of the TOI’s launch, I published an article on my blog called: Times of Israel Bloggers: Are You Getting Paid? The post generated a huge amount of discussion, with many people sharing their mixed feelings about this new publishing entity.
One of the main things that I questioned in that article was whether it’s good to publish your writing on the TOI blogs even though they do not pay.
They do not pay, despite the fact that they profit from your writing.
They do not pay, despite the fact that your writing helps them grow their assets as one of the most valuable Jewish publishing companies in the world.
Time has passed since that post and it’s definitely time to take another look at this question.
In my opinion, a year later, the answer has become very clear.
Why You Should Blog for the Times of Israel
Put simply: You should blog for the Times of Israel for the exposure.
The instant, mass-market exposure you can get on the TOI blogs is phenomenal.
There is simply no other way you can get that kind of broad-spectrum attention for your opinion pieces anywhere else in the Jewish world. Even when one of the other major Jewish news sites (e.g. The Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz, Israel National News) pays a top expert to write an op-ed, it’s unlikely to get the same online attention that you’ll get from being an unknown, unpaid, unedited blogger for the TOI.
This is because the TOI understands web marketing better than the other Jewish news site. About a million times better. They put your blog post in front of their huge audience and give you a decent shot at going viral.
Just think: how often to you see TOI blog posts shared on social media, as compared to articles, op-eds and blogs from the other leading Jewish news sites? A LOT more.
Nowadays, even if you have your own successful Jewish-themed blog, it cannot compare to the exposure you’ll get from blogging on the Times of Israel.
I have heard it from two of the best-known bloggers in the Jewish world that the readership and social media buzz generated by one post on the TOI blogs majorly surpassed any response they ever got from years of writing their own high-traffic blogs.
So the good news for you is that you can also tap into this exposure, even if you don’t currently have a name or following.
Those of you who have already blogged for them can testify that it’s often pretty easy to generate a good response, even if you are totally unknown.
How to Make a Million Blogging for the Times of Israel
It’s not easy to make a million blogging, even on the TOI. But you have a good shot at making at least a few thousand.
Not dollars, of course, but thousands of reads and thousands of social media shares. Whether or not you already have a name and a following, TOI makes this totally doable for any average Joe with a good idea and a decent writing style.
And if getting your message out there is important to you, that’s a big payoff.
If you are considering blogging for the Times of Israel, or are already doing so, here are a few guidelines for success:
- The Times of Israel will get exposure for you and your writing. Make the most of it by have a good image, bio and link in your author box. Failing to do this is throwing away a huge opportunity to boost your personal brand.
- If you want to almost guarantee mass readership, write about whatever debate is raging on the blogs at that time. Politics and religion are always popular. For a long time, any article containing the words “Women” and “Wall” was a sure hit. Articles idealizing or demonizing life in Israel or aliyah tend to get good mileage. However…
- Be prepared to be slammed in the comments. Especially if you are writing about any topic related to religion or politics. Your readers may feel impelled to viciously attack not only your writing style and point-of-view, but also your character, your hairdo and your grandmother’s secret herring recipe. You know those “peace circles” where people from different camps declare their wholehearted respect for each other and hug? The discussions in the TOI comments are nothing like that.
- If you haven’t got the stomach for raging debates of religion and politics, you can join the many writers who are successfully using the TOI blogs to get exposure through more personal pieces about everyday life, relationships, social commentary, humor, spirituality and personal development. Quality writing reputations are being built right now on the TOI – so what are you waiting for? (Note: you may still get attacked in the comments. The fainthearted should stay away.)
- As the TOI blog section has grown, it has become more competitive. Don’t expect instant fame with your first post, though it has certainly happened more than once.
- Don’t try use TOI blogs for blatant self-promotion. Bad idea! You can build your name simply by writing quality articles on relevant topics of interest to the Jewish world.
- Before publishing on the TOI blogs (or anywhere else on the web), imagine the following people reading your article: your child (now or in 10 years time); your potential future spouse (and their mother); your child’s potential future spouse (and their mother); your employer/client; the income tax authorities; Hashem. If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of any of the above reading your article, work on it some more before you hit “publish.” That’s my rule of thumb.
Why I Don’t Blog for the Times of Israel
So far this whole post has sounded like a PR piece for the TOI. So I just want to note that blogging for the TOI is not for everyone.
I myself do not blog for the Times of Israel (Not never, but hardly ever :))
For the time being, I’d rather make modest waves on my own cozy blog than a giant splash on the TOI.
Certainly my blog gets a fraction of the readership of the TOI blogs, but it serves my purposes very well. My goal for my blog is to create a warm, and helpful community around business and marketing in the Jewish world.
Also, I am a bit fainthearted :).
But maybe one day I’ll get over it and seize this golden opportunity.
Meanwhile, I totally encourage anyone looking for broad exposure for their ideas and writing in the Jewish world to blog for the Times of Israel.