Jewish Journal

Jewish Blog-Con: Too Sexy for This Convention

by Orit Arfa

September 15, 2009 | 11:46 am

Orit sits next to David Kelsey of Jewcy.com (Credit: Jacob Richman)

I was definitely a minority at the Nefesh B’Nefesh International Bloggers Convention that took place on September 13 in Jerusalem: single, non-observant, disillusioned with Zionism—and sleeveless.

Among the 250 participants from across Israel, I noticed most women wore head coverings and long skirts, and most of the men wore kippahs, some beards. Naturally, given that it was organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh, most participants—except for those watching the webcast from abroad—were olim (immigrants to Israel), new and old. The major theme was “Defending Israel Online” and the star speaker was Ron Dermer, Senior Adviser to PM Netanyahu, who spoke about how blogs and social media can be better used for Israel advocacy. I haven’t been much of an Israel defender lately. Actually, through this blog, I’ve been expressing my recent disconnection to Israel and attempts to conquer Hollywood. What can I say, I’ve become a heathen.

So I don’t know how well the audience received my brief talk on the panel entitled “Social Media and the Future of the Jewish Community.”  My fellow panelists included David Kelsey of Jewcy.com, columnist/writer Yonasan (Jonathan) Rosenbaum, and Tova Serkin, Chief Business Officer of JGooders. My talk was the most self-indulgent (like my blogs). I spoke about Facebook, mostly, and how it accelerated my reentry into the Los Angeles Jewish scene when I moved back to Los Angeles from Israel about a year ago, considering that I’m not a fan of synagogues. Facebook was like my Chabad House. Through it, I created a virtual Jewish community. As a former singles columnist for the Jewish Journal, I also touched upon the revolution social media has done for Jewish dating, practically decimating the blind-dating industry by letting all of us look up our potential mates online—which is filled with its own hazards.

I felt like the community rebel, even no one made me feel this way—at least at the convention. The blog “Shiloh Musings” put me in my place, with its post-convention musings:

The panels were disproportionately Left and secular to the largely religious Right audience of JBloggers.  That’s insulting.  Ironically, it reminds me of the Likud, which gets most of its support/votes from the religiously tradional/religious and Right, though its policies when in power are extremely Left.

Benji Lovitt’s stand-up was great, but Orit Arfa was in a sense funnier.  I had to control myself from laughing when looking at my fellow bloggers as she spoke.  The grimaces and shock over her admittedly self-centered use of the media and podium were a sight to behold.  We were anthropologists observing another species.

Still, the convention was overall fun, informative, and useful, although I hope that next year they encourage a more diverse range of participants. Given the topic of defending Israel, the convention had its form of natural selection, although a few workshop dealt with topics neutral to politics or religion, like how to use twitter for distribution, how to be a better blogger, and how to monetize a blog (as the shallow, materialistic Angeleno I’ve become, maybe it’s only appropriate I focus on this last theme. Heh. Next year they might want to make a workshop on self-editing.)

Stephen Levitt of WebAds, a Jewish internet advertising company that co-organized the convention, gave a workshop on how to encourage advertising on blog sites, while acknowledging that “blogging for 95% of people who blog is not about making money off the blog.” 

The value of a blog for advertisers is determined mostly by the number of the blog’s unique visitors, which isn’t always easy to measure, although Google analytics is generally used at the standard counter. The blog should also be active, with many visitors—new and old—commenting on the posts and interacting with each other. But beware too many regulars.

“You can have five people on your blog making 50 comments a day,” he said. “You can have a lot of page views, yet there are a 100 readers going back and forth.”

Blogs are best suited for niche advertising, where advertisers relate specifically the general theme of the blog, whether it’s parenting, finance, or Jewish education.

Financial adviser Zach Miller is more pessimistic about the financial power of the blog. “Blogging makes you poor. No ifs, ands, or butts,” he said in his talk.

Blogging, however, can be one of the most effective tools for content marketing, which he defined as “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience, with the object of driving profitable consumer action.”

Miller himself closed many accounts by luring customers with the expertise he shared on his blog.

So while sitting for an hour sharing a new insight or idea may not make anyone rich directly, using a blog as an intelligent teaser for one’s business can ultimately pay off handsomely.

Most bloggers, however, are just like me, using blogs as means of therapy and venting. It may not make money, but it still saves money. It’s way cheaper than a shrink!

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