Between them, these sites are easily attracting more than 1 million page views a month. Advertisers targeting the frum market are now buying banners on these successful sites, which link to their own websites where they sell holiday rentals in Brooklyn, new release albums, Jewish self-improvement courses, shaitels and snoods, Chinese Auction tickets, kosher pizza, etc.
Which brings us to the next point, where the lines between hashkafa and business start to get really blurry. All those advertisers trying to target the frum market previously had no option than to advertise in print publications like Hamodia, Mishpacha, Yated Ne’eman, and the local frum papers. Online advertising is relatively cheaper than print advertising and is arguably more effective (or at least it’s effectiveness is easier to evaluate). As a result, the growth of online frum publications has created a unique business problem for the print publications. On one hand, they must uphold the standard of being a print-only publication because they tend to be extra careful to maintain a glatt kosher image. On the other hand, they are ultimately businesses and they want to survive and thrive despite changing market conditions that are beyond their control. The growth of the Web has now toppled the domination of print media in the general market. Though the printed word still rules in the frum Jewish market, online publications are now making inroads into both their readership and their advertising income.
The print publications have reacted to this problem in different ways which reflect the tight corner that this hashkafic/business clash is pushing them into.
There is another aspect to this hashkafic-business problem for the frum print publications – and that is that by avoiding or restricting online publishing they miss out on the marketing boost that this could give their businesses. Online marketing tools, for example, SEO and Social Media, can be tremendously powerful ways to market any business. And the businesses that are best positioned to maximize their impact are those that by their nature publish a huge amount of quality content – i.e. newspapers and magazines.
I really enjoy reading the frum print publications, like Mishpacha and Binah and now Ami (which seems to me like the “Jewish Time Magazine.”) I think that their articles are generally well-written, entertaining and informative. If these articles were published as Web content, they would probably attract a huge amount of traffic via social media sharing and the search engines. This would be a great boost to marketing efforts of these businesses, and this has been a great source of traffic for the frum news sites.
In the meantime, what is happening to the wonderful articles published in these fine magazines? After getting passed around a few times, all the dog-eared copies get thrown in the trash. In Web terms this would be called throwing your most valuable business asset in the trash, because there is nothing more valuable on the Web than top-quality content. It will continue to grow your business and earn for you for years to come. To throw quality content in the trash in this day and age would be considered madness by anyone who knows anything about marketing. Why are years of Mishpacha and Binah articles now lost to humanity? Most of their content is timeless, and I know many people who would read it online any day of the week… but is that gonna happen?
I’ve written before about the Halachic and hashkafic challenges of web marketing. I am certainly aware of them. But business is business, and the changing realities of web publishing are creating a business problem for the newspapers and magazines. We are now seeing more and more advertisers targetting the frum market starting to move away from print media and into online advertising.
So what are the Jewish print publications doing about this growing problem that may ultimately affect their business viability?
They are aware of their problem and they are taking small and ambivalent steps to solve it. The big publications have all upgraded their Websites recently. Mishpacha now has a small archive on its site, as well as a blog written by their top writers. I’ve noticed that they also tweet a weekly promotion on Twitter, though not in the name of Mishpacha. Until recently, Hamodia had selected daily news headlines on its site but recently they started to publish the full newspaper online as a flipbook. This is certainly a half-hearted step forward – the newspaper is now online but the content is not searchable or shareable!
I can’t help but wonder if these changes are being largely spurred by the recent media frenzy surrounding the murder of Leiby Kletzky a”h in Boro Park. During that period, all the frum news sites were getting inundated with traffic from visitors seeking the very latest updates. I have a sense that this was a defining turning point in the history of Jewish publishing a Hamodia reporter suddenly got a Twitter account and made it his business to offer his own updates on the latest. He assured us that Hamodia was the first on the scene. He quickly gained followers and retweets.
But what benefit did this serve Hamodia when everyone was so hungry for news of Leiby NOW. And they wanted this minute’s latest news, not last night’s stale old news.
Ami has headlines and (drum-roll) banner ads on its new site. Even the Yated, considered by some to be the frumest of the frum, has news stories on its website and now has an email news service that costs $15 a year (and you have to go to their website to sign up). Only Binah seems to have avoided having a Web presence altogether, though I’m not sure about the significance of this is, since they are owned by Hamodia.
All of this indicates that the frum publications know that their audience is online, despite Mishpacha’s rather absurd claim on it’s website that only 23% of it’s readers have access to the internet. News flash: Frum Jews are online.
What this says about our society, I don’t know. I’m not here to analyze social trends except to say that this obviously has big ramifications for businesses targeting this market and for web marketers like myself who cater to this market.
And with that statement, I open up the floor to comments…