Israeli Problogging and the Israeli blogosphere – Dakar as a beginning
There are no probloggers in Israel. Not yet, anyway, and so the question of the Israeli blogosphere remains whether an Israeli problogger is even possible with a small market of about 3-4m Internet users, most of whom think blogs are for kids and that they mostly use the main portals for online browsing (Walla, Ynet, MSN).
Running a self-hosted blog
First, there's the discussion over what was termed in Israel "independent blogs" meaning self-hosted blogs with their own domain and hosting. The Israeli WordPress community has grown substantially over the past two years but still - very few bloggers take the time, effort and small change money to form their own WordPress blog as it seems to be too much of a technical hassle that's only meant for true geeks. Israeli bloggers still prefer the good old Israeli Hebrew platforms of Israblog and Tapuz, the more recent WordPress MU based - Blogli and Themarker's Cafe, over a self-hosted blog. The old blogging platforms have their advantages and serve as big communities where it's relatively easier to find and communicate with others, while those who have self-hosted blogs have to struggle harder to market themselves. But, with that said, those platforms are holding the blogs back as those communities have bad SEO and are very low on SERP, which doesn't allow the blogosphere to evolve and grow beyond those who come into those blogging communities in the first place. I strongly believe that for the Israeli blogosphere to grow, and for influential probloggers to be made possible, the Israeli blogosphere - as a first step - has to start moving into self-hosted blogs. If we assume there are tens of thousands active Israeli blogs out there, then I believe that it's fair to expect at least a thousand of those to become self-hosted blogs. If those thousand blogs set things right and work like other blogospheres around the world - they will soon enough dominate the search-engines results in their niches and will create an online influential power that can't be ignored. Problogging in such an environment will then become a lot easier.
Although I'm not an active member of the Israeli blogosphere, it still has a special place in my heart. About 7 months ago, I created a small experiment that I was hoping would serve as a home community for the Israeli self-hosted blogs, now called Blogerim.net ("Blogerim" is Hebrew for "bloggers"). Although it has yet to grow into something more than an aggregator based community, it is still home to over a 100 self-hosted Israeli blogs updated regularly. If still not good enough for promoting the Israeli self-hosted blogs, it does solve part of the problem of finding those blogs and gives them the initial SEO boost they might need by providing links to all their posts from a PR4 site. I'm hoping that the day will come when the Israeli self-hosted blogs will take advantage of this platform to make the whole community stronger.
Monetizing a self-hosted blog
With Google Adsense launching in Israel it became a heated discussion over monetizing blogs in Israel (and ethical considerations, follow the whole thing on blogdebate). I'm part of a very small minority that believes that monetizing is not shameless, and that it's sometimes even essential to keep a high quality blogging going. I also believe in full-time blogging and full-time bloggers, and those will be made possible only when it's possible to fully monetize a blog and produce a decent salary of 800-1000US$ a month. The monetizing tools for Israelis are still very limited as the main source of income possible is through Adsense, but as demand grows more tools will come out and it's a matter of time till the Israeli market will have something like Reviewme (aff), Kontera and Textlinkads (aff). I still believe that even today, with a little hard work it is possible for Israeli bloggers to reach a good side income that will allow spending more time on blogging without having to constantly worry about what it costs you.
Optimizing and marketing a self-hosted blog
Part of self-hosted blogging revolution is learning how to optimize and market your blog. When you're part of a blogging community there are limits to what you can do with the blog, but on self-hosted blogs oppurtunities are endless. SEO and SEM are essential tools for probloggers, but those are still in their infancy when it comes to the Israeli blogosphere. There are very few people who know how to do this, and even they have a hard time of doing it right in Israel.
Actually, the reason why I'm going into all this is because finally, after over a year of watching the Israeli blogosphere from the side-bench, I can see the beginning of a change. A symbol for this small change is a blog called Achi Dakar, run by Hanit who's leading the Hebrew WordPress community.
Whether she wants to or not, Achi Dakar has the highest potential for becoming the first Israeli problogger. She has what it takes to do so by combining two important qualities - taking a leader role in the community and having endless passion for learning new things and experimenting with them. In the last few months she has seriously started a change in the self-hosted blogosphere by taking a few important steps that correspond to what I wrote in this post :
- Focusing on the promotion of self-hosted blogs.
- Helping those who don't know how to setup a self-hosted blog.
- Assisting those with self-hosted blogs make the most of their platform by discussing blogging news and tools, mentioning important plugins that help create better blogs, and by offering design and usability tips.
- Creating blogosphere projects that promote blogosphere link-love and help connect between the self-hosted Israeli blogs.
- Driving the blogosphere to embrace SEO/SEM as part of their blogging efforts.
- Looking into new ways to monetize and how to use the old methods of monetizing the right way.
- Testing everything herself, opening up her blogging experience and sharing her journey with the blogosphere.
This is my small tribute to the Israeli self-hosted blogosphere and the lovely Hanit. You're doing a great job. Good luck.