Digital Media in Israel

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Israel Social Media Infographic.jpg

Contents

Background Information

Israel on the map

The state of Israel was created in 1948, with the declaration of its independence on 14 May 1948. Neighbouring Arab states invaded the very next day. Since then Israel has fought a series of wars with neighbouring Arab countries. The Palestinian Gaza conflict continues to this day, with both countries unable to reach a settlement over the land.

Located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, it borders Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan and the West Bank in the east Egypt and the Gaza Strip on the southwest.

Some 7.7 million people live in Israel today. Jews make up 76.2% of the population. Of the non-Jewish population, about 80% are Muslims, 10% are Christian, and about 10% are Druze.[1] Israel is the world's only Jewish-majority state,[2] and is the only country in the world to have revived an unspoken language.[3]

Israel has two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic. Hebrew is the primary language of the state and is spoken by the majority of the population, and Arabic is spoken by the Arab minority. Many Israelis communicate reasonably well in English, as many television programs are broadcast in this language and English is taught from the early grades in elementary school. Education is compulsory from age 5 to 16 and is free up to age 18. As a country of immigrants, many languages can be heard on the streets.[4]

Israel is the only Democracy in the Middle East.

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Digital Literacy in Israel

Internet Penetration

Number of internet users in Israel relative to rest of Middle East
comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, released an overview of Internet usage in Israel based on the comScore Media Metrix audience measurement service. The data revealed that, despite Israel’s modest market size, it has one of the most active and engaged Internet populations in the world, ranking second only behind Canada in terms of the average time spent online during the month at 38.3 hours per user in May 2010. Notably, this high engagement among Israeli Internet users is 60 percent greater than the total worldwide average of 24 hours per user.[5]

Israel has the highest percentage in the world for home computers per capita.[6] A quarter million new Internet users joined Israel's online community in 2010, according to the TIM survey for December 2010. The survey found that 82.5% of Jewish households have Internet access.[7]

Israel ranks 4th amongst internet usage rates in the Middle East, with an online population of approximately 5.3 million out of a population of an approximate 7.6 million.[8] With an internet penetration rate of 72.8%, Israel ranks 24 on the list of highest internet penetration rates around the world.[9]

The PC is the most popular platform to access the Internet; 88% of Internet users access the Internet from their PCs at least once a week. 48% access the Internet from laptops at least once a week, and 27% access the Internet from their mobile phones. Use of mobile platforms to access the Internet is especially prevalent among people aged 18-29.[10]

Top 10 Countries by Time Spent Online and Top 20 Web Properties in Israel
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Broadband Internet Penetration

Israel is very high broadband penetration rate provides great potential for triple play and digital media market developments. Bezeq, together with its satellite TV subsidiary YES, and HOT have the potential to easily deliver triple play services, as each possesses both content and delivery mechanisms.[11]

Israeli Internet content has long been a flourishing business. There have been some very successful companies, including Shopping.com, which was later sold to eBay. E-commerce by retail chains in Israel exceeded NIS8 billion in 2005, and grew 50% in 2006. A major trend in the sector is connecting the leading TV channels with the big Internet portals.[12]

Also in Israel, HOT has gained an increase in market share by offering very popular packages: multi-channel TV, broadband and fixed-line telephony. It is now also interested in adding mobile to its package via a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) licence.[13]

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Internet User Profiling

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By Age
The average Israeli internet user is 29.3 years old. In a breakdown of the demographic profile of Israeli Jewish Internet users, Internet use increases in inverse proportion to age: 84% of people aged 18-29 use the Internet, compared with 48% of people over 65. That said, the growth rate of Internet users among the elderly rose sharply in 2010.[14]

By Location
Internet users access the Internet from a variety of places. 98% surf from home and 52% of Internet users over 18 surf from work. Internet use from work is most prevalent among people aged 30-49, at 65%. 53% of teenage Internet users tend to surf with friends, and 56% surf from school.[15]

By Most Viewed
Google Sites ranked as the top property with 3.8 million visitors, aged 15 and older, accessing the property from home and work locations, representing 92 percent of the total Internet audience, followed by Facebook.com, with 3.5 million visitors (with 85% penetration). Facebook.com exhibited the highest growth among the top ten properties with an increase of 92 percent in the past year. During that time, Facebook climbed three spots in the ranking to its present #2 position.[16]

Israeli company Walla! Communications ranked third, with 3.1 million visitors, followed by another Israeli company Ynet Group (which includes Ynet.co.il, One.co.il and Winwin.co.il), while Microsoft Sites rounded out the top five with 2.8 million visitors. Approximately two-thirds of the top 20 web properties in Israel are represented by local Israeli companies.[17]

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Common Uses of the Internet

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The online population of 5,263,146 is primarily divided between Knowledge Seekers (33%) and Functionals (23%). What this essentially means is that 33% of users enjoy searching online for the latest information, while 23% see the Internet as a tool for essential tasks like emailing and online shopping. While neither of these groups are particularly interested in social networking, Israel’s Influencers, Communicators and Networkers certainly are – and they weigh in at 18%, 15% and 11% of the market respectively.[18] The percentage split is represented in the pie chart.

Statistics show that emailing is considered the most important online activity by a massive 58% of the country’s Internet users, with social media usage trailing in second place at 17%. However, the popularity of the international social network Facebook is growing in Israel, becoming the country’s second largest website in 2010 (second only to Google). This reflects a change in the way users are choosing to communicate online.[19]

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Mobile Penetration

Israel has a very dynamic telecommunications market with one of the highest mobile penetration rates in the world and one of the highest household broadband penetration rates. It is also experiencing convergence, with both the telecommunications and media markets showing early signs of being redefined. There is a very flourishing venture capital-funded ICT start-up sector with all manner of leading-edge software and equipment companies. All of the major international players including Microsoft, Cisco, Lucent, Alcatel, and Nokia have bought Israeli start-ups and their technology.[20]

Mobile data services are increasingly important in the saturated markets of Israel and the GCC countries. Data revenues are increasing. Israeli operator Cellcom stated that its revenues generated from content and value-added services increased by 55% in 2006 over the figure in 2005 and by 42% in the first quarter of 2007 compared with the first quarter of 2006.[21]

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Digital Media Platforms

Blogs

Israel has a fine collection of English speaking bloggers, some of whom are regularly called to the front line during times of huge international media interest (as in the Gaza war, for example).[22] Many Israelis have begun to see blogging as a means of telling the world "their side of the story", in the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many politicians and diplomats have also started up blogs as part of the Israel government's campain to use social media to diffuse tensions and general negative sentiments regarding Israel. Other bloggers, maintain blogs less political or controversial in nature and simply give the world their own unique take on life in the Holy Land.


J-blogosphere is the name that some members of the Jewish blogging community use to refer to themselves. Blogs with a Jewish focus are called J-blogs. A blog is generally accepted as a "J-blog", or part of the "J-blogosphere", if the blogger is Jewish and discusses Jewish political, religious, or personal themes. Mainly due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, J-blogging has become increasingly popular in Israel, and JBlog Central, The Jewish and Israeli Blog Network reports over 800 such blogs.[23]


Israeblog was the first blogging service in Hebrew. It was founded on August 25, 2001 by Yariv Habot in order to let Hebrew speaking Internet users the ability to write a blog in their mother tongue without facing encoding and text directions problems. At first it was an experimental project, but in few months it gathered few hundred passionate users and started to receive attention from the Israeli Media. On October 4, 2006, Habot announced he was selling Israblog for an undisclosed amount to Nana (later "nana10"), an Israeli portal which held business relationships with him for sometime. With over 50,000 active bloggers, It is considered the biggest blogging service in Hebrew. However the most popular blogging platform among Israeli bloggers seems to be Wordpress.[24]

Blog-offanm02.gif


Further evidence of its increasing popularity is the blogging contest "Pro-Israel Blog-Off for 2011", currently being held to showcase the blogosphere’s best pro-Israel material in a fun and exciting manner. Bloggers are invited to submit one ”pro-Israel” entry, and the winner will be decided by a combination of reader votes and panel-determined scores.


Below are some popular bloggers in Israel:

Blog Writer Blog URL
Israellycool Aussie David http://www.israellycool.com/
Israelity ISRAEL21C http://israelity.com/
Jewlicious A pool of writers http://www.jewlicious.com/
Treppenwitz David Bogner http://bogieworks.blogs.com/
What War Zone? Benji Lovitt http://www.benjilovitt.com/blog/
Oleh Girl Yael K http://olehgirl.com/
Atlas Shrugs Pamela Geller http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/
The Muqata Jameel http://muqata.blogspot.com/
OurielOhayon Ouriel Ohayon http://ouriel.typepad.com/
Six Kids and a Full Time Job Mike Eisenberg http://sixkidsandafulltimejob.blogspot.com/
Isrealli Isreali Consulate in New York http://www.isrealli.org/
Jpost Blogs The Jerusalem Post http://blogs.jpost.com/
Israel Plug Miriam Schwab http://israelplug.com/

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Microblogging

Twitter

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Only five percent of Israeli users use Twitter, while Facebook has a penetration rate of 91 percent. Twitter in Israel is not very popular relative to other countries around the world, but is slowly picking up pace. Twitter in Israel is much smaller than Facebook but this is likely to change.


One of the creative uses of Twitter was via the name @QassamCount, created by Help Us Win, an advocacy group which was used during the war for recruiting help to fight the internet media battle. Every time a Qassam rocket fell in Israel during the Gaza war, the Qassam Counter account would tweet another rocket, automatically changing the Facebook status of anyone who subscribed. The Qassam Counter became infectious. At its peak, 75,000 users from 150 countries had "donated" their Facebook status to the Qassam Counter.[25]


The Qassam Counter on Twitter and the Israel Consulate's Twitter Account


It is also interesting to note the Israeli government's use of Twitter for Public Relations and diplomacy issues. Their utilization of Twitter as part of their social media campaign to improve Israel's global image is creating an interest in the Microblogging service. The Consulate General of Israel in New York, David Saranga manages his own Twitter account, and is an active Tweeter, using the microblogging tool to further this campaign.


On 30 December 2008 the Consulate General announced that a "Citizen's Press Conference" would be held on Twitter, via its @IsraelConsulate account. The initiative to use the Twitter as a platform for a question-and-answer session with the general public was reported widely around the world, primarily for its innovative qualities. The event marked the first governmental press conference using Twitter.[26]


Top Tweeters in Israel[27]

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Twoozer

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Twoozer.com is a microblog focused on Jewish People and Israel. The microblogging site modeled after Twitter, was launched by Shlomo Wollins, a 49-year-old internet entrepreneur. Wollins is not the first to harness the power of microblogging for a niche market. However, he is the first to develop it for the Jewish public, with a plan to expand it to the Israeli market in Hebrew in the near future.

Twoozer has several Twitter traits. Posts are constrained to 140 characters or less, comments directed at someone begin with the "@" symbol and topics are marked by the "#" symbol. Unlike Twitter, however, Twoozer has a Groups function as well allowing users to target their twoozes to the specific followers of a topic, region or interest followed by fellow twoozers. After a user joins a group, he/she can send a message to it by adding an exclamation point and the group name. To further enhance the Twoozer experience, there is a throttle (limit) on the amount of posts per hour per Twoozer account, as well as a repeat twooze block. Wollins also proudly mentions that Twoozer is API friendly and works with major tools such as ping.fm, twitterfeed, and thwirl. It also allows attachments to any twoozes - including a special YouTube feature that plays a video box on the Twoozer site.

Within its first week, 1000s of Twoozes were made by 100s of Twoozers - including major personalities and well-known organizations in the Jewish world. Twoozers have joined from the Philippines to El Salvador and a new global real-time Jewish community is evolving inside the Twoozer-sphere.[28]

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Search Engines

6 Popular Search Engines in Israel:

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1. Google was ranked number one with a weekly exposure rate of 88.8% in Israel. This number is much higher than the exposure rate of Google in the developed countries, like US and France. Hitwise reported that Google's market share in the US was 72.11% in February. A report from the AT Internet Institute shows that Google's market share in France was 91.23% for February 2009.

-Google Israel-Language: Ivrit-Gain access to Israel's websites, Hebrew language sites, and Google's general database! [spider] (Mountainview, California, United States)


2. Walla -Language: Ivrit-Israel's largest site guide.
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- Walla was founded in 1995 by Gadi Hadar and Erez Philosoph, went public on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in 1998, and after merging with Israel On Line in 2001 became the most visited Web site in Israel until being overtaken by Google. Neither Yahoo nor Walla, which also offers Web-based email services, has made further details of the agreement available.[29]

- Walla! was ranked second, with a weekly exposure rate of 73.6%


Yahoo Logo.png

3. Yahoo Language: English-Israel search directory!

As reported in 2008, Sunnyvale, California-based Internet portal and search engine company Yahoo will partner with the second most popular Israeli portal Walla Communications Limited to provide Yahoo's search technology and databases using the Walla Search name, under a strategic cooperation agreement signed Monday, according to a report from Israel's leading daily newspaper Haaretz. "The search and advertising in [the] search results sector is one of the fastest growing in the world, and also in Israel.[30]


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4. Nana -Language: Ivrit - Your personal gate to the Israeli web! - Nana 10 (Hebrew: נענע 10‎), previouslly Nana (lit. Mint, used by Yemenite Jews for flavoring their Tea), is an Israeli Web portal, one of the biggest in Israeli web media.[citation needed] The website is owned by Israeli web and communication company 013 Netvision, and Israeli news Channel 10, and consist of Internet forums, which it is especially known for, news, culture sections, an Internet magazine and more. - Nana was in fourth place, with a weekly exposure rate of 32.1%[31]


5. Globes -Israel business news
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6. Bhanvad -Language: English-Web directory of Israeli sites organized by subjects! (Jersey City, New Jersey, United States)
Bhanvad logo.jpg

This is a report about the domain bhanvad.com. We estimate that bhanvad.com is worth about $41,128 USD. This site has a Google Pagerank of 4 and is active on the IP 174.34.185.138. The Alexa ranking was 39711 since the last update.[32]

Bhanvad traffic statistics.jpg


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Social Networking Sites

Social networks continue to gain ground in Israel. 76% of Internet users had a personal profile on at least one social network in December, up from 68% a year earlier. 60% of Internet users over the age of 50 has a social network profile, up from 47% in December 2009.[33]


Facebook
Top 10 Global Markets by Facebook.com percentage reach

Facebook Logo.jpg
Israel has 3,352,900 Facebook members, and the number is growing daily. Facebook was also the 2nd most viewed site by Israeli internet users. According to the comScore reports, Facebook ranked second on the list of most viwed web propertis in Israel with an internet audience of 3.5 million visitors, behind only Google. Facebook.com exhibited the highest growth among the top ten properties with an increase of 92 percent in the past year. During that time, Facebook climbed three spots in the ranking to the #2 position.[34]

Further comScore data tabulated till February 2011 reports that Israel has the second highest Facebook penetration rate in the world at 89.8% of Internet users. The figure refers to people who accessed Facebook at least once (unique online visitors), in February 2011. This put Israel second (behind only the Philippines), on the Top 10 Global Markets by Facbook.com % reach, which looks at the top global markets for Facebook.com by percent reach of unique online visitors.[35] Besides having the second highest rate of Facebook usage among Internet users, Israelis spend the second most amount of time on social networking sites, behind only Russia. Israel’s social network users spend an average of 9.2 hours on social network sites a month.[36]




LinkedIn
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Israel has 415,496 member on LinkedIn, according to data tabulated till February 2011.[37]

LinkedIn is the 11th most popular site in Israel based on a combination of average daily visitors and pageviews. 0.7% of the LinkedIn users come from Israel and they generate 0.8% of the pageviews on LinkedIn.[38]

66% of Israeli LinkedIn members are male while only 34% are women. Of the members, 16% were in managerial positions, 13% owned a business, 6% were Chief Executive Officers, 5% were Vice Presidents, 5% were Directors, and 54% were individual contributers. The distribution of ages ranged from 18 to 55+. Almost half of these member were between the ages of 25 and 35. Only 3% of the registered members were from the media industry with the biggest proportion (38%) belonging to the High Tech industry.[39]


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Video Sharing Websites

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Video sharing site YouTube has overtaken local portal Tapuz as the most popular user-generated content site in Israel, reveals a survey by TNS/Teleseker for August. The survey found that YouTube came seventh with a weekly exposure rate of 26.9% compared with 25.4% in July. Tapuz fell to eighth place with 26.6% weekly exposure rate compared with 26.6% in July. However, Tapuz's video sharing site, Tapuz Flix, rose from 9.5% in July to 10.5% in August. Most sites saw an increase in surfers compared with September 2006. The TNS survey attributes this to the increasing popularity of surfing itself. The number of people aged 13 and over who used the Internet in September 2006 totaled an estimated 3.7 million, compared with the current 3.9 million.[40] YouTube is widely used in Israel for diplomatic reasons with may diplomats and governmental departments maintaining their own YouTube channels. Examples are the the Israel Consulate's YouTube channel and the Israeli Defense Forces YouTube channel.



WeJew

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WeJew.com is the largest Jewish video sharing website on the Internet with thousands of videos about Israel and Jewish Life. Wejew.com has an estimated value of $ 15,627 USD and receives about 1,634 pageviews per day, with over 8,700 videos uploaded by nearly 5,000 members. Every video is moderated and is related to either Israel, or Jewish People or Life. Videos range from news to music to anything Jewish. The site has Google Pagerank of 4 and ranked # 313,708 in the World based on Alexa traffic ranking. WeJew.com was launched in May 2007 by Shlomo Wollins, the same creator of Twoozer.[41][42][43]


WeJew Unique Visitors.png

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Web Analytics in Israel

A search on the google search engine reveals some of the reputable and commonly known Israel web analytics companies:


ClickTale Ltd

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ClickTale is the industry leader in Customer Experience Analytics (CEA), providing businesses with revolutionary insights into their customers online behavior. Over 40,000 businesses rely on ClickTale to optimize website performance, improve usability and dramatically increase conversion rates. ClickTale tracks every mouse move, click and scroll, creating playable videos of customers’ entire browsing sessions as well as powerful visual heatmaps and behavioral reports that perfectly complement traditional web analytics. As a fully hosted subscription service, ClickTale is cost-effective and quick to set up.[44]


Key Facts for ClickTale Ltd. Major Clients: Skiddle Ltd, DiversityJobs.com, castus.co.uk, DigiGifts.com.au, Tripbase.com Year Founded: 2006 Full Time Employees: 51 - 100 Revenue: $3 million - $4,999,999 Core Practice Areas: Search Engine Optimization, Web Analytics Secondary Areas: No services available. Languages: English Key People at ClickTale Ltd. Company Representative: Dr. Tal Schwartz


Go Internet Marketing

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GO Internet Marketing is a fast growing group focused on Internet Performance Advertising, with the goal of increasing your site's revenue and online sales. We deliver performance oriented internet advertising solution.


Key facts for Go-Marketing Major Clients: Materna, Bezeq, Dan Hotels, Tradenet, Walla Tours Year Founded: 2008 Full Time Employees: 11 - 25 Revenue: $1 million - $2,999,999 Core Practice Areas: Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Management, Social Media Marketing Secondary Areas: No services available. Languages: English, Spanish [45]


LinkSymmetrics

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LinkSymmetrics was formed in 2004 by three leading professionals in the online sector. Successfully promoting many websites in a variety of fields, LinkSymmetrics brings to it the experience of both the Online Advertising Industry and the Web Development Industry to form a company that offers online marketing and promotional services catering to their customer's needs.[46]


Key facts for LinkSymmetrics Major Clients: Connect One, Nova Integrated Metrology, BOS Better Online Solutions, IVC Research Center, M-Systems Year Founded: 2001 Full Time Employees: 1 - 10 Revenue: $1 million - $2,999,999 Core Practice Areas: Search Engine Optimization, Link Building Secondary Areas: Web Analytics Languages: English


Metaform

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Metaform is a team of young specialists in the field of web technologies. They are highly experienced in most forms of web programming and design. Their specialization includes innovative know-how's. In addition, they are keen in exploring new technologies and cutting-edge solutions, thus, using various solutions and modern techniques they provide their customers with developer-independent systems with wide perspective for promotion, content development and upgrades.[47]


Key facts for Metaform Major Clients: McCann Ericcsson (Cultures), Intersol, Promo Interactive Israel, Fujifilm Israel, Eyezeek Year Founded: 2005 Full Time Employees: 1 - 10 Revenue: $250,000 - $999,000 Core Practice Areas: Web Analytics, Web Development, Site Audit Secondary Areas: Search Engine Optimization, Hosting, Marketing Automation Languages: English


Personyze

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Personyze offers the most advanced tool in the market for real-time visitor segmentation and website personalization. Personyze was founded in 2008 by a group of entrepreneurs with experience in web analysis and advertising who realized that websites should be able to offer their visitors an experience that is significantly more personal and relevant to their needs. Using Personyze, websites of all types and sizes can use over 50 Behavioral, Geographical and Historical metrics to dramatically improve their engagement with online visitors, retention and conversion rates. Personyze is a SaaS product deployed on the Amazon cloud.[48]


Key facts for Persnzye Major Clients: N/A. Year Founded: 2008 Full Time Employees: 11 - 25 Revenue: Unknown Core Practice Areas: Web Analytics, Landing Page Optimization, Conversion Enhancement (CRO) Secondary Areas: Pay Per Click Management, Social Media Marketing


Hello Nuconomy

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An Israeli web analytics startup and one of the most promising companies of the Israel Web Tour. Sahar Nechmad, co-founder and CEO of Nuconomy, to provide a comment on the investment round: "Everyone knows that analytics is the future. We are in the era of attention economy. Analytics is the power that helps you measure, understand and get the attention of consumers. A such, we believe that the combination of our platform and the WPP brands can bring advertisers and publishers the solution they need to do the next step in the digital world. This is one of the reasons we chose to take the investment from WPP instead of going with traditional VC money."[49]

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Instant Messaging

ICQ

ICQ Logo.jpg

ICQ is an instant messaging computer program, which was first developed and popularized by the Israeli company Mirabilis. It was then bought by America Online, and since April 2010 is owned by Mail.ru Group. The name ICQ is a homophone for the phrase "I seek you". This is an adaptation of the Morse code callout "CQ", which means "calling any station".

The first version of the program was released in November 1996 and ICQ became the first Internet-wide instant messaging service, later patenting the technology. AOL acquired Mirabilis on June 8, 1998, for US$407 million. In April 2010, AOL sold ICQ to Mail.ru Group for $187.5 million. According to Time Warner, ICQ has over 100 million accounts registered.[50]

ICQ Chat.jpeg

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Others

E-journals

The Seventh Eye is a communication e-journal (in Hebrew). Until recently, it has been published bimonthly, and now, it is updated daily online by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI). It is recognized as the foremost platform for evaluation and critique of the Israeli media. A variety of initiatives are underway to help the press meet the challenges of the Internet era and retain its vital role as watchdog over Israel’s embattled democracy. Additionally, IDI’s Media and Democracy project assesses and analyzes political discourse in the Israeli media in the light of the normative goals of a healthy democratic society.

For over a decade, this journal has managed to maintain its original purpose of supplying journalists with a platform for evaluating and criticizing the media’s performance, raising ethical questions, clarifying professional problems, and discussing developing processes in the Israeli media world. Over the years, the journal has gained the status of a prestigious and impartial institution, where open and constructive dialogue is held on the most current and pressing issues of concern to the Israeli media. Articles in the journal are primarily written by journalists, but also by laypersons.

In conjunction, the journal serves as a major aid for teaching communication and media studies in all institutions of higher education throughout Israel. Back issues of The Seventh Eye can be found in every university library, and its articles and investigative reports are a constant source of information for university research papers.[51]

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Market Trends

Business

Statistics in the internet usage in Israel has shown a predominant hike in social media communication. The popularity of international social networking sites like Facebook has been gaining popularity, earning it the second largest website in Israel in 2010, falling short behind Google.

As projected by Israeli venture capitalists, the internet will be the country’s most lucrative and dynamic business sector in the upcoming years. Hence many companies have been leveraging on the strong new media dominance in the country.

Magnetu.jpg

Israeli company, MagnetU innovated a social application which informs users when they are in the vicinity of people who meet their compatibility. The motivation behind this innovation lies in the company’s desire in providing a networking device which could help users forge meaningful and real-like connections. One of the functionality offered by this device is, it promises business people the ease when sourcing for business partners. MagnetU brings users together by ferreting out people who fits the requested category.

According to the CEO of MagnetU, Yaron Moradi believes that location-based social networking is a billion dollar market, and MagnetU is the greatest location-based social networking application ever.[52]

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Economy

Online Advertising

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A survey conducted by Business Data Israel found that the market for online advertising rose by 50% in 2003, to US$21m–25m, compared with US$13m–17m in 2002. The firm estimated early in 2005 that the revenue figure would increase to US$40m by the end of the year. According to press reports, the industry estimates that market size had reached US$50m in early 2006, representing more than 5% of the advertising market in Israel. The five leading Israeli portals are Walla!, MSN Israel, Y-net, Nana and Tapuz; collectively, they have more than 70% of total Internet advertising revenue, leaving less than 30% for all the other portals and business sites.

Data from the Association of Banks in Israel show that, by the end of 2005, about 2m customers had joined banks’ online services. The association said, however, that only about 400,000 had executed transactions online. Bank of Israel figures showed that in December 2005 there had been 800,000 transactions carried through the Internet, with a value of NIS 15bn. According to Bank Hapoalim, the largest bank, half of its clients’ transactions in the capital market were conducted through online orders.

According to a survey by the Israel Marketing Association, total expenditure on online advertising grew to NIS 522m in 2009, or 14% of total advertisement spending, from NIS 450m (7.1%) the year before. Online advertising was one of only two advertising channels that showed growth last year (cinema was the other), as overall spending on advertising across all media declined by 4.3% for the year. [53]

In addition to increased online advertising, the growth of e-commerce can also be attributed to a rise in the stock of personal computers (PCs). International Data Corp (IDC) estimates that there were 3.2m PCs in Israel at end-2009, up from about 2.8m at end-2008. IDC indicated that the volume of sales of PCs rose by 18.9% in 2009 from the previous year, to a total of 1m new units, including 537,000 laptops.

Internet Sector will Reach 8.5% of GDP By 2015!

The share of web services in Israel's economy is one of the highest in any country in the world. Internet economy in Israel accounts for approximately NIS 50b, according to the findings of Mckinsey.

The nation's internet sector is predicted to grow at double the pace of the overall economy, reaching an approximated NIS 85 billion by 2015, or 8.5 percent of Israel's gross domestic product, according to a report released on Wednesday by international management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

The relative level of Israel's Internet based economy was discovered to be "probably one of the highest in the world" - a tad lower than the internet economy of the United Kingdom (7.2% of the GDP), however it is noticeably higher than that of France (3.2%). In comparison to other developed economies, studies concluded that Israel enjoys a higher-than-average percentage of Internet-based net exports and investment, however Israel's share of e-commerce and government investment lags behind that of other countries.

As listed in the report, the several contributing reasons for the low rate of e-commerce, which makes up 0.5% of GDP, placing Israel in the 19th place among the 21 OECD member countries. In addition, it was stated that, net Internet-related exports reached NIS 19b. in 2009, making up 2.5% of the GDP, largely contributed by Israel’s large information and communication technology sector.

Internet-related investment was measured at 1.7% of the GDP, which put Israel well ahead of the UK (1.3%), and France (1%). The report also looked at the non-GDP impact of the Internet on society, including its effect on job growth. According to the collected data, 110,000-130,000 people, or 4% of all employed Israelis, work in jobs that can be considered part of the Internet economy – as everything from computer engineers to programmers in small startups.

Half of the small and medium businesses (SMBs) in Israel are actively leveraging the Web and have shown higher growth than those that don’t. About 80% of the jobs created in the sector over the last three years came from the Web-active. [54]

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Environment

Facebook as a channel to promote environment conservation

Eco Clip Online Facebook Contest

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The Shari Aronson Mecom Center of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) spearheaded the presentation of eco-friendly ideas through an Eco Clip online Facebook contest. Eco Clip is a groundbreaking project in various ways. Firstly, it is the first time whereby the Environment Ministry or any government ministry has actually tapped on the "wisdom of crowds" to examine viable projects that can aid in making life healthier for Israelis. Heimowitz, a graduate of Mecom Center claimed that this is the first time anyone has ever utilised Facebook for such a contest. Adding to that, he explained that the idea came from the desire to make use of the combined usage of social media and cameras for societal improvement which was first introduced by the IDC's Professor Charles Solomon, and he adapted the idea for the Israeli public.

Leveraging the power offered by social media in this avenue is nothing new to both graduates of Mecom Center, Heimowitz and Lourie. According to Lourie, a vital aspect of Eco Clip is to attract and increase users involvement in the promotion of their own ideas. Besides being an impetus to participants who have feasible and good environmental technology idea that they’ve been trying to promote to the public, Eco Clip also offers entrepreneurs some lessons on online promotion because PR firms which specializes in online promotion are collaborating with the organizers of this contest. In addition, organizers are also liaisoning with local schools and universities, so as to encourage active involvement from students. Lourie and Heimowitz have high hopes, but they admit that they are in uncharted waters; after all, Facebook isn’t exactly known as an agent of social change, and the idea of promoting socially useful ideas via the platform is relatively new. “It’s a growing experience for everyone involved – us, the IDC, and the users,” says Heimowitz. And thanks to that growing experience, the pair may just have figured out a way to make the huge Facebook platform into a force for good – while helping to solve some environmental problems, by giving some great ideas a prominent place on the internet![55]

Because I Care - Israel

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Saki-Kaki is the flagship program for Because I Care – Israel, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving environmental awareness and social kindness in Israel by strengthening the concept of respect in the hearts of Israelis.

A household name in Israel, Saki-Kaki provides dog-owners with convenient, disposable bags to clean up after their dogs via a network of eye-catching dispensary boxes on sidewalks and in parks. The program distributed over 5 million bags in 2010, and expansion continues throughout the country more than seventy-five cities, Kibbutzim and Moshavim. In 2010 they create their Facebook page and publish daily, relevant content to people interested in the core values of respect, teamwork, conflict resolution and more.[56]

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Entrepreneurship and Technopreneurship

Today, Israel is home to one of the most vibrant technology centers in the world. In 2003, the country drew a whopping USD 1.1 billion in venture capital funding, placing it behind only Boston and Silicon Valley in attracting funding for start-ups. With more than 3,000 high-tech companies and startups, Israel has the highest concentration of hi- tech companies in the world -- apart from the Silicon Valley, US. Israel is ranked #2 in the world for venture capital funds right behind the US.[57]

A survey conducted in 2007 by the IVC Research Center on most active Israeli venture capital funds, shows that the top nine funds made 75 First investments in the aggregate. Thirty-two or 43 percent were in Seed stage companies. The Internet sector attracted the largest number of First investments with 26 deals (35%), followed by the Semiconductor sector with 14 (19%). That would explain the intensity of the investments in the beginning of 2008 – funds compete with each other to make the deals as startup seek for money in face of a potential downturn in the economy.[58]

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Further surveys conducted in showed that in the first quarter of 2011, 140 Israeli high-tech companies raised $479 million from venture investors – both local and foreign. This was the highest quarterly amount raised in the last two years. Koby Simana, CEO of IVC Research Center observed that “The first quarter of 2011 brought a surprisingly large increase in capital raised by Israeli high-tech companies. The good news for Israel's high-tech industry is that it was able to meet its financing needs in large part via foreign investors, as well as non-VC Israeli investors." In Q1/2011, the internet sector was the second highest capital raising sector behind Life Sciences, raising $86 million or 18 percent, and Software with $79 million or 16 percent.[59]

With the boom of digital and social media in Israel, it is inevitable that this is a lucrative sector for budding entrepreneurs and technopreneurs to venture into.

An example of a technopreneurship venture is the company Mirabilis, an Israel company set up in 1996 by the four Israelis Arik Vardi, Yair Goldfinger, Sefi Vigiser and Amnon. it's most popular product is ICQ, a popular instant messenger. ICQ grew in popularity virally through the powerful effect of network connections and word of the mouth recommendation. Friends would encourage their friends to join so they could communicate with each other. This established a powerful network effect as prospective users strongly preferred the system where their friends were likely to be. Mirabilis was brought over by AOl for $287 million in cash on June 8, 1998 despite it having no revenue.[60]

Another example is Erel Margalit, producer: In June 2006, Erel Margalit established one of the world’s largest animation studios in the mountains of Juda. The studio located south of Jerusalem is called “Animation Lab”. Margalit and his investment company JVP have set up camp in a high-tech park where bio-technology and computer companies are transforming the biblical landscape into a new Silicon Valley.[61]

Avis Shechter, CEO of Fring and former vice president at AOL. Shechter has developed an innovative concept for mVoIP (Mobile Voice over IP).[62]

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Society

How New Media has Rejuvenated the Culture Of Mourning and Memorial in Israel

New media hass not only impacted the politics in Israel, it is changing the memorial culture in the country. With internet, people are able to express and spread their emotions through a virtual space, without having to fear embarrassment. This encourages a sense of openness when internet users are conveying their ideas or personal experiences. As a result, the people of Israel created many Israeli virtual memorial sites, and the sites received great support and steady participation from the locals.

New media has evidently expanded the sphere of mourning in Israel. According to the result of a survey, there is currently an estimate of 130 Israeli virtual memorial sites, a figure that is increasing. One of the many contributing reasons to this growing trend of virtual mourning in Israel is because, new media such as the internet facilitates the expression of emotions and it reinforces and constructs social ties between users, similar to ties of families and friendship without the need for users to be physically present. In addition, communication through the internet provides a sense of intimacy, greater accessibility and continuousness to the expression of emotion.

As a result, many Israelis are turning to virtual community for support to cope with bereavement. On the basis of an initial research, two categories of memorial sites had been distinguished. They are official sites, private and community sites. The official sites are less expressive; in contrast, private sites are more expressive as they provide more details including videos and contact links which would direct visitors to any website owned by the family members of the deceased. Other more complex sites include audio-video clips and background music.[63]

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Government

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The Israel government extensively uses social media to publish and broadcast messages and events to the public. A detailed account of many of its efforts can be found in the section Case Studies, under Digital Diplomacy. Another example is the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website which is an interactive user-friendly platform for the government to post its latest news releases events and latest videos. In addition, there is a suite of tools and services such as Twitter-Israel, Twitter-MFA, Youtube-Israel, Youtube-MFA, Flicker, Facebook, DepFM Ayalon Blog. These tools and services allow Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to use the different channels to reach out to the public. At the same time, it is an interactive platform where the public can post their comments or concerns. This can be of help to the government to better reach out and understand the concerns of the public. [64]


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The Israel government has endorsed Give Israel Your Support(GIYUS) a global digital movement of activists who campaign on behalf of Israel. GIYUS is “the online public diplomacy platform of Israel” according to a document found on a number of Israeli embassy websites and was first put into action during the 2006 Lebanon War. GIYUS is a social networking platform for busy but concerned individuals to connect, share and work together. Similar to the website for Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, GIYUS is designed to connect users and it is action-oriented. The GIYUS operation is designed to manipulate social media platforms and target pro-Israel traffic to certain articles, polls, blog posts, YouTube videos, etc.[65][66]

During the Gaza war, the Israeli Defense forces created a page on Facebook ‘I support Israel Defense Force in preventing terror attacks from Gaza’[67] – a page which currently has over 90,000 followers.[68]

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Regulations

Laws on censorship in Israel are based on British emergency regulations from 1945 that apply to domestic media, foreign newspapers and wire service transmissions from or through Israel.[69]

News censorship is the responsibility of the Israeli Military Censor. Regulations do not require all articles to be submitted for censorship prior to publication, but only those on a known list of sensitive subjects, such as nuclear weapons in Israel (for example, articles on the subjects of politics or economics may be published un-submitted). Failing to do so may cause the reporter to be cut off [70] or, in the case of foreign reporters, be barred from the country.

The list of sensitive subjects, articles on which have to be submitted to censorship prior to publication, is determined within the framework of a censorship agreement between Israeli authorities and the 'Editor's Committee', which is a body of representatives from the Israeli media. "There will be no censorship on political issues, on expressions of opinion or assessments, unless they hint on classified information."

Reporters Without Borders 2007 report on Israel states: "The country's journalists enjoy a freedom not found elsewhere in the region, but though 2006 was one of the safest years for them since the start of the second Intifada in 2000, many problems remain", mainly referring to the physical risks endured by reporters covering the conflict areas between Israel, the Palestinians and the Hizbullah in Lebanon.[71]

Mass media are vital to the inclusion of individuals and groups in public discussion of political issues, as well as to the public visibility of a plurality of voices and opinions. At the same time, ensuring the quality of political discourse in the mass media is essential to a number of democratic values, such as citizen participation, trust in democratic institutions, tolerance, and the granting of legitimacy. IDI researchers are developing research projects designed to assess the quality and character of political discourse in the Israeli media, and to explore how routine media consumption affects civic and political involvement.[72]

1. Media Consumption and Public Engagement. Have the vast technological and regulatory changes in the contemporary media environment directly contributed to a decline in citizens’ public engagement and political activity? IDI has embarked on a wide-ranging, multi-year research project, using qualitative and quantitative audience research methodologies, to investigate overall patterns of media consumption by Israelis and their connection to citizen engagement or disengagement. Key focus areas include: the role of channel multiplication and competition between media; the emergence of new genres of entertainment along with new forms of documentary and news programming; access to media technologies and levels of media literacy. This major undertaking will enable extensive international collaboration with similar projects abroad.[73]

2. Election Coverage. IDI researchers are engaged in a detailed study of the quality of the election coverage in mass media and its connection to the attitudes of citizens regarding the political system. The project includes content analysis of news reports focused on themes of competition between political leaders and parties, the centrality of personalities as opposed to policies, and the representation of the Knesset as a democratic institution. This will be supplemented by interviews with politicians, journalists, and other relevant professionals with a view to outlining potential alternatives to dominant reporting practices.[74]

3. The Internet and Democratic Discourse. Does the Internet increase citizens’ exposure to a variety of different opinions, or does it create a ‘Daily Me’ – the selective exposure of users to opinion and information sources that match their own views. Such selective exposure could pose a danger to democratic debate, fragmenting the public into homogenous spheres of opinion, encouraging political polarization, and widening knowledge gaps. IDI fellows and researchers have begun the process of exploring the political implications of selective exposure in the context of Israeli websites and Internet use. This project will be cross-fertilized with the project on media consumption and public engagement in order to discern how selective Internet exposure might be understood in relation to broader trends in the use of other media.[75]

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Controversies

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The Impact of New Media in Conservative Communities

Despite evidences from research, the impact which Internet has on religion is still rather controversial. Religious leaders and members of conservative communities still oppose the belief and acceptance towards the benefits which the internet promised and provided. Among other factors, leaders of these communities fear the possibility of an erosion of authority in the hierarchical communal systems of their religion.

The Haredim in Israel belongs to the minority who still maintains a multifaceted relationship with the majority. The Haredim believes in preserving the unique character of their community but they are not interested in fostering or building relationships with the majority, for fear of external influence. This isolation has transformed the Haredi community into an “enclave culture” (Sivan 1991). Based on an observation by scholars, it is evident that there are two parallel processes among the Haredim in recent years. These processes are, firstly, there is a process of “Haredization”, for instance, there is an enhanced in the degree of control in the rules of the religion with regards to the surrounding “temptations” of the conservative Israeli lifestyle; secondly, there is an emergence of the process “Israelization” that involves lowering the walls of isolation and embracing consumerism, leisure and adoption of communication technologies.

As a relatively new technology, the internet is a cause of discomfort and dislike among the Haredim. The existences of different approaches have differing acceptance level towards the Internet. The approach which favours acceptance with reservations reinforces that the internet fuctions as an information and service provision tool, allowing and facilitating both the horizontal and vertical mediation, providing ease of communication between community members and great sages of the generation by enabling access to vast wealth of Torah studies, and information.

On the contrary, the approach that rejects the Internet labels it as a dangerous medium that contributes to the spread of harmful information. The internet, with its vast content and anonymous communication, can expose the Haredi world to undesirable influences which would threaten traditional values.[76]

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Recommendations

1. 2011 Middle East Social Media Trends

1. Social buying heats up (more) in Middle East

  • Groupon, has recently launched a UAE site at Groupon.ae.
  • Groupon has turned down a reported $6 billion offer from Google, Groupon’s entrance into the market means we’re likely to see even more competition as businesses embrace these sites.[77]

2. Don’t forget about Google

  • 2011 will be the year which social media strikes back.
  • Middle East "Health Speaks" campaign is one example which shows commitment to building Arabic content and with their announcement that they plan to open new MENA offices this year
  • With digital advertising set to grow even more in the Middle East in both Arabic and English, Google is going to be blazing a trail in the region that others are sure to follow.[78]

3. Start learning Arabic

  • Twitter announced it would be an Arabic interface in 2011, which will help fuel increased Twitter growth in the region.
  • Carrington Malin points out that has added 5.7 million Arabic users since its Arabic interface launched in 2009, and that figure is likely to continue growing at a healthy clip.
  • The increased importance of Arabic on social networks as well as on websites means more opportunities to develop Arabic content, advertise and market to the Arabic-speaking online population.[79]


2. Ten 10 Predictions for Digital in the MiddleEast, 2011

So, what can we expect from 2011? Here is Spot On’s digital marketing forecast for 2011.

1. Broadband penetration in the Middle East will grow strongly, supporting social network growth and e-commerce development.

2. In 2011, many more marketers will embrace mobile apps spurring on local application development.

3. Tablet adoption will rise quickly in the region as multiple devices enter the market, creating new content opportunities.

4. Facebook will open up new opportunities for Arabic language marketing.

5. The swelling numbers of consumers online across MENA will force more consumer brands, retailers and consumer service companies to embrace digital.

6. The Arab world’s online shopping market will become broader-based, providing consumers with new choice and web ventures with new opportunities.

7. Online Arabic language content will remain an issue of concern for the region, but opportunities for Arabic content will continue to grow, perhaps faster than ever before.

8. Independent online media launches will continue, whilst traditional media continue to procrastinate about online.

9. A new generation of specialised blogs will emerge in the Middle East.

10. More social change and social initiatives driven by online media, with people finding new ways to work together to achieve community objectives. [80]

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Hear from the Experts

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1. Dr. Andre Oboler

Dr. Andre Oboler is the Director of the Community Internet Engagement Project at the Zionist Federation of Australia. He is a social media expert and holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Lancaster University, UK and in 2007-2008 was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Political Science at Bar-Ilan University, Israel.

Dr Oboler is co-chair of the working group on Online Antisemitism for the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism and an expert on the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism’s Internet Antisemitism Working group. He is also Chair of the IEEE Victorian Section’s Computer Society.

He is a former Legacy Heritage Fellow at NGO Monitor in Jerusalem, a member of the ROI Community and edits ZionismOnTheWeb.org – a website countering on-line hate.

Our interview with Dr. Andre Oboler on the following topics can be found here:
1. Social Media and the MeetGilad campaign
2. Social Media and Anti-Semitism 2.0
3. Social Media and the Israeli government
4. Challenges and successes with Social Media


If you want to know more about him, check out his website: http://www.oboler.com | Twitter: http://twitter.com/oboler | Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/oboler

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2. Rachel Rowland

Rachel Rowland is a 28 year old American who moved to Israel in 2006 and officially became an Israeli citizen in 2007. She has been living in Tel Aviv ever since, working various jobs including waitressing, website content writing, blogging, internet marketing, translating and editing. When she's not working her day job, she volunteers as the Social Media Director for Omanoot, a new Israeli start up company that works to promote Israel through the Arts.


Tell us about yourself and your role in Omanoot and the Israeli Social Media scene.
I have always been intrigued by social media. I had accounts with MySpace, Friendster, and finally with Facebook. In 2009, I completed one year of a Masters program at Tel Aviv University in English Literature. It was then that I realized the exponential growth of text on the Internet and the way social media is impacting language and print. I wrote one of my final seminar papers on Internet Poetry and decided it was time to start blogging. I’ve been an active blogger for about 1.5 years now and have slowly started to learn how to use social media as a tool to help promote myself online. Soon enough, I started to see traffic increase. Random people began leaving comments, and subscribing to my blog. And in the end, Omanoot’s CEO and founder Edoe Cohen stumbled upon my blog as well. I had written a post about this new Israeli start-up called Omanoot, and then posted a link to my blog on their small but growing Facebook page. Edoe immediately contacted me and asked me if I wanted to help him and his company grow via social media. I said YES. My role as Social Media director at Omanoot entails promoting Omanoot via a variety of social media outlets. I manage the Facebook posts, all tweets, any work on Wikipedia, and oversee work on the Omanoot blog. In general, Israelis are extremely active users of Facebook and Wikipedia; however, they are less fond of Twitter. In fact, of those Israelis that I know who use Twitter, nearly all of them tweet in English, rather than in Hebrew, while Facebook and Wikipedia are frequently in Hebrew. Nearly all companies in Israel have opened a Facebook page and this year has really seen the biggest explosion. It seems like all advertisements whether they be radio announcements, printed ads, billboards or flyers invite the audience to visit the company’s Facebook page. In addition, more and more are catching onto the idea of a blog. From what I know of Israeli blogs, most are written in English, although there are surprisingly few well-known and well-read blogs in Hebrew.

Could you please tell us about Omanoot and the story behind it?
Omanoot is the creation of Edoe Cohen, an Israeli-American, who believes that the Israeli art scene is lively, unique and relatively inaccessible to the global market. Moreover, he believes that the arts offer the international world a doorway into Israel and Israeli life- a doorway that promotes peaceful and productive dialogue and keeps political and religious conflict at bay. Omanoot, which means “art” in Hebrew, really began to take form when Mr.Cohen received a grant from the ROI Community of Young Jewish Innovators, a worldwide network of young social entrepreneurs created by American Jewish philanthropist Lynn Schusterman. The website makes Israeli art (film, music, literature, and visual art) accessible for cultural, educational and entertainment purposes. While the site is still in development, three of our 5-6 features are now up and running: the Film section, the Visual Arts section and the Events section. With our fully functional Film section launched in January 2011, Omanoot has been showcasing Israel’s flourishing film scene to an international, English-speaking audience. Full length films and numerous trailers along with informational pages about the director, actor and plots are available to all users. With the newest launch of our Visual Arts section, visitors now have the opportunity to browse artworks, peruse informational artists pages and explore the world of the Israeli visual arts. Customers can purchase limited edition prints as well as original artworks of photography, painting and mixed media. And finally, our Events section offers visitors a hand-picked selection of Israeli art events including gallery openings, concerts, film screenings and more. Since January, Omanoot has received exuberant attention from the media, the general public, and significantly, from the artists themselves.

How do you use social media at Omanoot to spread your message? What are your preferred tools (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc) and why?
The goal of Omanoot is to be a truly multimedia and interactive experience that promotes Israel through the arts- we promote Israeli art, Israeli artists, art events in Israel and art education on its own and as a intercultural communicational tool. We hope for our website to blossom into a dynamic user-friendly website where users can learn about Israeli art, experience it (streaming media), purchase it, and view/post upcoming art events. This is why social media is so important for Omanoot. We are about connecting with people – and connecting with them globally- about something new, something current and something ever-changing: the art world. Social media allows for us to do this. It allows for us to reach out to supporters of Israel all over the world as well as fans of art, film, photography, literature and more who may never have been exposed to the Israeli arts scene. It allows for immediate current events updates and it allows us to build a virtual international community. While we use Twitter, StumbleUpon, YouTube, Facebook and a blog, our current and strongest social media tool is Facebook. For us, Facebook is a fantastic platform to help build a growing interactive community of fans and help spark interest in the arts. We now post several daily Facebook updates with event information, current events that are relevant to Israel and the arts, links to our website (new features, highlights etc) as well as videos and photographs. These posts help bring traffic to our website, help promote our website, help spark conversation and peak new interest. In addition to our daily Facebook updates, we use Facebook to create and promote any event that is connected with Omanoot. These events can range from Omanoot-sponsored and organized film screenings or artists’ lectures to non-Omanoot-related events that we want our followers to know about. Finally, we have had several Facebook raffles and giveways which required fans to “like” a certain photo or film or post their own artistic work on their wall in order to be entered into the raffle and become eligible for a final prize. Our blog had also been an extremely strong tool which we found many people could connect to. It offered us a way to shed light on some more “fringe” artists and art events, showcase pictures and films and offer readers a more intimate “voice”. However, the blog is currently on pause, as we are working on a way to move it from its current Wordpress server and integrate it into our website.

Why do you choose social media over traditional media? Do you combine the two?
We choose social media over traditional media mainly because it is free. We are also using it because we are a website- an internet based company and social media also offers wonderful tools to boost our websites Search Engine Results Page (serp) via Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts.

What is your agenda going forward? Which is the channel that seems to be the most promising for the future?
We see Facebook and the blog as the two most promising outlets for the future. As I mentioned before, we are looking forward to integrating the blog into our website and in the meantime we are using “Facebook notes” as blog posts.

Also, once we have the blog integrated into our website and fully functional, we hope to implement strong SEO tactics to help drive more traffic to the website.

What kind of challenges do you face with your initiatives? How have you overcome these challenges?
As myself along with the entire Omanoot staff are volunteers, it’s hard to maintain a steady stream and a strong wide reaching long-term social media plan as we do what work we can in what spare time we have. In addition, we are still trying to find ourselves, finish developing all of the features of our website and find our place in the market. We are a brand new idea that is slowly but surely coming into its own. Once our website is finished, I believe it will be easier to do the real work that we will need to do to market ourselves.

What kind of experience have you had working on your initiative so far? Have you had any measurable or significant successes because of using social media? What makes this initiative worth the effort for you?

We have had unbelievably surprising success with our initiatives so far. Our blog has a steady readership, and our Facebook page has nearly 19,000 fans and our fan base is constantly growing. Via Twitter we have met various artists and non-profit companies as well as some tweeters who have become die-hard fans and helpful promoters.I look forward to only bigger and better things as the social media director of Omanoot.


If you want to know more about her, check out her blog: http://therayve.blogspot.com | Website: http://www.omanoot.com | Blog: http://blog.omanoot.com |
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Omanoot | Facebook: http://facebook.com/Omanoot

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3. Eric

Eric is the founder and editor of The Israel Situation, a popular forum for discussion of life and politics in Israel and the Middle East. He is a masters student and financial analyst in Denver, Colorado. He has traveled to Israel four times, including a semester at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is passionate about Israel activism and current events in the Middle East.


Tell us about yourself and your role in The Israel Situation and the Israeli Social Media scene.
I am the founder, owner, and editor at The Israel Situation. The site evolved from a personal blog I founded in 2007 to discuss politics and economics. As I wrote, I found that the bulk of my articles were about Israel, so I decided to dedicate the site fully to Israel. I have been through extensive trainings and classes regarding the political and social situation in Israel and the Middle East and have travelled to the region many times. My longest stay was five months at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Off of the internet, I am involved in several local Israel advocacy groups and was an active participant and leader of the Jewish and pro-Israel community at the University of Colorado.

Could you please tell us about The Israel Situation and the story behind it?
While writing about politics and the economy, I found a severe lack of honest Israel related information on the internet. Sites like Wikipedia and many news organizations, most notably major British news sources, have a strong anti-Israel bias. The selection of stories covered and media coverage portrays Israel and the Palestinians as a David and Goliath conflict. The truth is hard to come by and the complete story is rarely presented. I began writing more consistently about Israel and the conflict so people could get the whole story. Many articles on the site do not focus on the conflict at all, while other articles focus on timely security related issues.

How do you use social media at The Israel Situation to spread your message? What are your preferred tools (twitter, facebook, blogs, etc) and why?
The Israel Situation blog is the hub of my Israel effort online, but it is closely tied in to a dedicated Facebook and Twitter account. I have also been involved in other efforts such as the push to share the truth about the recent Gaza Flotilla, which was run by terrorists, not peace advocates. It is important to make it easy for your readers to leverage your site for their network. I have share buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit on the site so people can easily share.

What is your agenda going forward? Which is the channel that seems to be the most promising for the future?
My agenda is simply to tell the truth. If people knew the facts on the ground, it would be hard for them to logically be biased against Israel. It is a story of freedom and Democracy against extremism and terrorism. I will continue the blog as my main effort and hope to see the influence spread from there.

What kind of challenges do you face with your initiatives? How have you overcome these challenges?
It is a challenge to face extreme anti-Israel comments and readers and overcome the lack of knowledge about the history of the region. Israel’s history is much older than 1967 or 1948. The Jewish people have roots over 3000 years old in the region but people are focused on the short term political issues instead. I have simply worked hard to explain the truth and respond to people’s questions and comments in a positive, constructive way. I will admit that Israel has made many mistakes, but the systematic hatred from the leadership of Hamas and Fatah is much more than an accident.

What kind of experience have you had working on your initiative so far? Have you had any measurable or significant successes because of using social media? What makes this initiative worth the effort for you?
The best way for me to measure success is to look at the numbers behind the site. I have a continually growing readership and audience engagement. As long as more people keep reading and interacting with the site, I will keep writing. In Hebrew, the word Hasbara is often used to describe pro-Israel advocacy efforts. The root of the word is l’hasbir, which means “to explain.” Knowing that my explanations are being read around the world is a rewarding feeling and drives me to continue blogging and spreading the truth about life and politics in Israel and the Middle East.


If you want to know more about him, check out his website: http://www.israelsituation.com | Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/israelsituation | Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/IsraelSituation

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Case Studies

Case Study 1: Gaza Flotilla Attack

On May 31 May 2010, six ships of the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla”, organized by pro-Palestinian activists, carrying humanitarian aid, set sail for Israel, with the intention of breaking Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli naval commandos after issuing several warnings of proceeding further which went unheeded, responded by boarding the ships from speedboats and helicopters. On the MV Mavi Marmara, clashes broke out after activists violently resisted. Nine activists were killed, and dozens of activists and seven Israeli commandos were wounded. On three other ships, activists showed passive resistance, which was suppressed by Israeli forces without deaths or severe injuries, and two others were taken without incident. The activists were subsequently arrested and detained in Israel before being deported. Widespread international condemnation of the raid followed, Israel-Turkey relations were strained, and Israel subsequently eased its blockade.[81]

At the time of the incident however, which has now come to be known as the Gaza Flotilla Raid, the truth of what happened on board the ships, and who was to blame was uncertain, with both parties' versions of the story differing, and Israel disallowing foreign journalists permission to cross the blockade. However a mere day after the clash, videos began to circulate on the web with footage of the actual event, while Pro-Palestinian activists and Israelis alike turned to sites like Facebook, Twitter and blogs to make their opinions heard and share news, videos, images and views that weren’t been shown by the mainstream press. At a time when mainstream media proved to be less than informative, millions managed to get full coverage of the incident, and access to raw footage of the event through various social media streams, allowing them to reach their own conclusions.

The YouTube Debate

On YouTube, videos were shared that told both sides of the story. The Israeli Defense Force utilized its own YouTube channel to show videos of its soldiers being attacked the moment they set foot on the boat with paintball guns and pistols. Other Israeli supporters also circulated many videos showing Israel in a better light than portrayed by the mainstream press. One video depicted passengers on the ship in question violently attacking soldiers trying to board the ship. In the footage the soldiers do nothing to provoke the attack, but are beaten with metal poles, chairs and even thrown from the side of the ship.

A Pro-Palestinian video showed the story on the ship from the other side. Footage showed panic on the ship as casualties are announced and injured people are seen lying on the ground. A reporter says, “We are being hit by tear gas, stun grenades…we are being attacked from every single side.”[82]


The Facebook Debate

On Facebook, groups started to spring up as soon as news of the flotilla clash was released. On the Israeli side, two main Facebook groups formed. In less than two days, The Truth About Israel’s Defensive Actions Against The Flotilla had more than 20,000 “likes” and Gaza Flotilla – the world should know the truth had more than 27,000 “likes”. The first group called on all members to post links every hour to help spread the facts of the case, which many Israeli’s believed had not been represented fairly in media coverage. The group shared links supporting the Israeli cause, including videos that show footage of Israeli soldiers being attacked on the ship without provocation.

On the other side of the debate, pro-Palestinian groups were created as well. Outrage over the Freedom Flotilla Massacre had just over 25,000 “likes” in less than two days. The group encouraged members to protest and said that all pro-Israel comments will be deleted. One MILLION Strong To Condemn Israel’s Attack on the Gaza Flotilla had just over 10,000 members in the same span of time.[83]

The Twitter Debate

On Twitter, topics like Flotilla, Gaza Flotilla and Freedom Flotilla were trending at a rapid pace, and still continues t garner a lot of tweets.[84]


Facebook groups and Tweets that circulated after clash

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Case Study 2: Digital Diplomacy

One of the increasingly noticeable trends of the Israeli government, is its attempts at using social media to change the public opinion of Israel and placate negative sentiments towards Israel around the world. Over the past several years, Israeli government officials have achieved success by becoming the first governmental body in the world to use new media tools to create public discourse while passing along Israel's narrative. The shift to online media, and in particular, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, represents the growing trend of people turning to online sources for news and world events. This presents a unique opportunity for Israel's public diplomacy to penetrate global public opinion.
David Saranga

The campaign mastermind in developing Israel's online brand is David Saranga, the 43-year-old consul for media and public affairs. Log on to the website of the Israeli consulate of New York at www.israelfm.org, and you will find more than just guidance on visa applications. Prominently displayed on the homepage are links to Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and isRealli, the “new blog of Israel”. Diplomats’ websites tend to be staid, unexciting places, so to find these connections to social-networking sites comes as something of a surprise. These innovative web efforts are at the forefront of the consulate’s current hasbara (public information) campaign to change Israel’s image.

The New York Consulate has set up pages on MySpace, became the first government on the Facebook social network, released a Facebook application, "Holy Land Trivia", and established a YouTube channel.

YouTube online competition

Previously, if you searched for “Israel” on the video-sharing site, the vast majority of films found would be negative or anti-Zionist. Now you are just as likely to see positive depictions of the country. These are not “propaganda” films produced by the consulate, but are user-generated content.

Many of the films were submitted for a competition devised by Saranga. With a prize trip for two to New York or Israel, the online competition was open to all to create a 30-second film about Israel to be posted to YouTube. The winning films were voted on by the capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York during an basketball exhibition match between Maccabi Tel Aviv and the New York Knicks, and shown on the arena’s giant screens. The competition acted as a vehicle to generate free pro-Israeli content for YouTube — with no cost to the consulate. It was perceived to be impartial, as it was user-generated.

IsRealli Blog
IsraelliBlog.jpg
Another example is isRealli.org, Israel's official blog and the first-ever blog by a country, which was produced by the Israeli Consulate in New York in 2006. The site was launched with the stated purpose of showcasing Israel "beyond the headlines." "Our goal was to present daily life in Israel that many people are not often exposed to--if ever--such as lifestyle, fashion, culture, high-tech, among many others", said Saranga of the blog.
IsraelPolitik Blog
IsraelPolitik.jpg
"Then in May 2007, when Palestinian terror organizations increased their rocket attacks on Sderot and the international media remained silent, we decided to launch a new blog, IsraelPolitik.org, to discuss these important political issues. This site brings events in our area to worldwide attention, and adds Israel's viewpoint to political discussions from which it has often been missing," says Saranga.


Citizens’ Press Conference

The most widely reported project, described as the “crown jewel of our new media projects” was a "Citizens' Press Conference" arranged on Twitter in January 2009. Their initiative to use the Twitter microblogging service as a platform for a question-and-answer session with the general public was reported widely by media outlets around the world, primarily for its innovative qualities. The event marked the first governmental press conference using Twitter. “What led to this initiative was a realization on the second day of the Gaza operation that the information being distributed to the public anonymously was distorted and unreliable. We wanted to publicize Israel's official position, while allowing those who followed us to interact with the faces behind that information”, said Saranga.


Note: Case Study compiled from: Meet David Saranga, the man whose campaigns are rebranding Israel & The Use of New Media in Public Diplomacy

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Case Study 3: Campaign for Gilad Shalit

In Israel all citizens are required to follow mandatory army duty upon graduating from high school. On 25th June 2006 a young soldier named Gilad Shalit, aged 19 years, was kidnapped in a cross-border raid by Hamas terrorists and has been held captive since. Various social media tools have been utilized to appeal for Gilad’s release.

On the 3rd anniversary of Gilad Schalit’s kidnapping by Hamas, the Jewish Internet Defense Force organized the Tweet4Schalit campaign, encouraging Twitter users to use #Gilad as often as possible to attract attention to his plight. This initiative, succeeded in making #Gilad the 2nd most popular trend on Twitter. According to the JIDF Web site, dozens of organizations - including Lubavitch and the Zionist Federation of the UK - joined its campaign. Tweets for Shalit ranged from the demand "Free Shalit" to requests for international supervision of the case.

"Social networking is a way to inspire change and raise awareness and we plan to do just that," David Appletree, founder of the Jewish Internet Defense Force which organized the "Tweet4Shalit," said of the campaign. "We don't have to look any further than the Iran election to see Twitter's potential to accomplish this."[85]

In addition to these efforts other media networks such as YouTube and Facebook are also being used to campaign for Shalit’s release. Videos such as “Children reading for Gilad Shalit” which shows American students reading "When the Shark and the Fish First Met", the book Gilad wrote at age 11, and various blogs and Facebook pages and groups have been created, for this cause. In addition to these measures, his family runs their own campaign site. There are over 1.5 million search results in total for Gilad Shalit in Google, as well as 188,000 blog results in Google for Gilad Shalit. He has 278,933 fans on Facebook, and Facebook users often change their profile pictures in support of him.


Blogs and Facebook groups that have been created in support of Gilad Shalit


Note: To get firsthand information on one of these initiatives: the MeetGilad campaign, tune into our podcast in our Hear from the Experts section, which features an interview with Dr. Andre Oboler, part of the MeetGilad campaign. Click on the first link.


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