How Ops & Blogs work

This is a simple guide to the various sections within The Times of Israel’s Ops and Blogs pages.

I don’t work for The Times of Israel, but having blogged for ToI for a while I’ve found myself explaining this so I thought it helpful to put it out to a wider audience.

Let’s make this really simple: in the olden days newspapers contained three parts.

  1. News reporting
  2. Opinion pieces (and I’m going to largely ignore letters to the editor)
  3. Advertising

Number 1, news reporting, was supposed to be straight, unbiased journalism offering little or no speculation and presented without undue influence by the opinions of the writers or editors.

Number 2, opinion pieces or “op-eds” were the place where opinions on the news were expressed. Newspapers often had a stable of their own, regular, writers. They would also feature guest opinion pieces by other people deemed worth by the editors and especially the most senior editor. Many people would write and submit pieces that would be turned down or accepted and edited to make them suitable for publication.

Number 3, advertising (and classified advertising) should have no influence on 1 & 2, but these days…..

Here’s the key point: in a newspaper column inches are scarce. News and opinion pieces must fight for space yet be interesting enough to keep the eyeballs coming back to see the adverts.

The Internet Newspaper

Today things are different. If you’ve not been involved in the world of blogging and how it intersects with modern news sources, this guide might help you understand what you see at The Times of Israel.

Column inches are no longer scarce. Once you realise this you understand why The Times of Israel and other online news sites can allow almost anyone to write and publish their own opinions. This makes these “blogs” somewhat analogous to the raw submissions to the editor which newspapers used to receive privately. There is a strong overlap with “letters to the editor”.

The Times of Israel operates an open policy: they will allow almost anyone to set up a blog and write their first piece. Once an account is set up, the Ops & Blogs editor will review the first few posts but, assuming nothing outrageous, defamatory or illegal is being written, most bloggers will then be able to publish without review.

Bloggers are not offered any payment for their work and (with certain provisions about re-use) retain copyright. Bloggers are not in any way employed by ToI and this is made clear on every post.

The opinions, facts and any media content here are presented solely by the author, and The Times of Israel assumes no responsibility for them. In case of abuse, report this post.

Of course the alternative to publishing at ToI is to set up your own blog which is certainly easy and in many cases completely free. The difficulty, however, is getting people to see what you’ve written.

Once a piece is published what sets The Times of Israel apart from self publishing is the possibility for the promotion of your piece. Having your work selected to be “Featured” and/or promoted on Facebook and Twitter can make a huge difference to the size of the audience a particular post receives.

The Ops & Blogs Page opens with three visible tabs: PopularFeatured and Latest. The page opens straight to the Featured tab.

The Featured page shows blog posts and Op Eds that have been directly selected by the editors at the Times of Israel. This is the closest thing the Times of Israel has to an old style Op Ed page that you’d recognise from a print paper. The Featured posts also appear on the front page of the site in a narrow column on the left hand side.

The writing of some high profile contributors is always featured: David Horovitz (founding editor of the site) is a clear example but there are others.

The titles of articles are set by the blogger. If a piece is featured, its title may be changed and short description is added by the editors. Sometimes with some consultation, the piece may be further edited. Only then will it appear on the “Featured” page.

The editors can also choose to feature any post even more prominently on the front page of the site: this happened to my piece which ran across the front page on Yom Kippur.

The Popular page shows posts on the site currently receiving the highest viewing traffic. This list is automatically generated (as far as I know this is not affected by the editors).

The Latest page is a completely raw feed of whatever the various bloggers have chosen to publish most recently.

To the lower right on all blog pages you can find a box with the most read, talked and shared blog posts with a filter for the last day or week. This, again, is algorithmically generated depending on the traffic and social virality of each blog post.

There’s another automatically generated list shown on blog pages: “Popular Bloggers”. This is a list of the authors whose work is receiving the most views and social media attention.

The Social Side

In addition to being Featured, the real chance for greater exposure comes from being shared on social media. The Times of Israel is growing at a tremendous rate on Facebook. It passed 80,000 Facebook “likes” in September and now has more likes that any other english language source of news in Israel. It also has a tremendously high “engagement”: of the people who see Times of Israel articles online, a very high proportion choose to “like” them and share them with their friends.

All Featured posts are put onto the main Times of Israel Facebook page and sent out via Twitter. In addition, there is a newly revived page just for blog content that features a wider selection of posts.

Good Writing Can Shine

All the promotion and featuring in the world won’t ensure a bad piece gets a large audience. Sometimes posts achieve their own vitality without receiving formal attention from the editors. Some authors are capable of achieving wide readership with only their own personal followings.

It’s a brave new digital world and The Times of Israel’s Ops and Blogs page is a real marketplace of ideas. As ever, the comment section is open if you have any questions.

To contact the author follow
@brianoflondon on Twitter
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Times of Israel Ops and Blogs Marketplace

About the Author
Brian of London made aliyah from the UK to Israel in 2009. For many years he has blogged and broadcast about Israel, technology and other subjects. Most recently he's focused on the experience of driving an electric car every day. Brian has a scientific PhD but today owns a business in Israel.