Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gil Gives Up

It gives me no pleasure to announce that Gil of Hirhurim, one of our best and most consistent Jewish bloggers, has given up, thrown in the towel and jumped the shark. How else to describe his decision to shut down his blog, and move the content and archives to Rishimu?

Near as I can tell, Rishimu is just another content-aggregater, one of several sites (1, 2, 3) that attempt to build audiences, and raise advertising dollars, by bundling together other, more established bloggers. Gil compares Rishimu to the old-fashioned media, and claims that Hirhurim "will be featured on Reshimu, similar to the way a column is run in a newspaper." No doubt, that's true, but nowadays, the best newspapers all run like blogs. So what possible advantage is Gil offered by joining something as outdated as a newspaper?

More readers? Gil already has a large, and loyal audience, one of the largest in the J-blogosphere. (Note who's in fourth, or third, if you discount, "Jewish" group blogs that prefer evangelical Christians to 99 percent of the Jewish people) How many more readers can Rishimu provide? And

More comments? Hirhurim already averages close to 100 per post, and if anything Rishumu's system will inhibit the conversation. The new site requires commenters to register, and Gil hints that comments will be moderated (I don't know if this is true. I'm speculating) Still, I don't expect his comment numbers to improve dramatically, given the new obstacles to participating.

More money? I don't know if Rishimu if planning to pay its contributors, but that's something of a shaky business model. Jewish blogs aren't money makers. Our audiences aren't large enough. Our king, Luke Ford, delivers about 22,000 ad impressions per week. Sounds great, but in the real world, that's next to nothing. Profitable blogs like TalkingPointsMemo or Crooks and Liars deliver in the neighborhood of 2 million impressions per week. Kos, the king of them all, does more than FOUR million. For Rishimu, a fabulous success would be about 100,000 impressions per week. How much can you charge for an ad with that kind of audience? About $200 per week, according to this. According to this, Hirhurim's current rate is $40 per week. I can't imagine Gil made the jump for that kind of meager gain, a gain likely to be even more meager after it's shared with Rishimu's owners and other contributors. .

Now let's look at what Gil is giving up:

Readers. In the short term, anyway. Humans are creatures of habit. Not everyone is going to bother updating their readers, or remembering a new URL, and we bloggers aren't all going to change their blogrolls. In fact, if you consult my own sidebar, you will find links to discontinued and abandoned sites.

Hits Gil gets a lot of hits off the archive links he has posted on his sidebar. I know this is true, because I saw some gains myself when I added links to old posts. That's fine, and part of the game, but when Gil moves to Rishimu he'll be leaving that boost behind.

Independence Now Gil is just one of the boys in the band.

Credibility Can you trust a site that moderates comments? I don't. Only someone afraid of conversation does that. Moreover, Gil says that at Rishimu "commenters will have to... maintain a certain level of consistency and responsibility in their words. " How boring. Not to mention dry, inauthentic and cowardly. (But don't worry Hirhurim commenters. You'll be getting something delicious in exchange for registering, and subjecting yourself to moderation. A spell checker! Oooooh!!!! I'm all tingly!)

Anyway, at the end of the day I like Gil. He's always been a friend of the blog, and a straight-shooter. I think he's making a huge mistake, but I wish him luck all the same.

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