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Building Torah.com

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I’ve finally decided to try and tackle the Torah.com project, which I had put off for 2+ years. My fear has been that I couldn’t do the site justice, and no matter what I build on it, the content will offend certain people with different beliefs. I am not a Torah or Judaism expert, so I couldn’t contribute much to the site, and it’s not something I could just go out and hire writers.

I had a bit of an epiphany the other day, and I want to share how I plan to move forward in the next couple of weeks.

I plan to build a site that is very, very similar to DomainQuestions.com. I have found that many people visit Torah.com because they have questions about the Torah, and at Torah.com, they will be able to ask their questions.

To ensure that people know if answers are coming from legitimate sources, I plan to invite a diverse group of rabbis to become “Torah.com Rabbis.” Each will have his or her full profile listed and a special icon will designate the person’s title. This should help spur discussion and allow people to see who are experts and who may not be experts.

I plan to moderate the discussions to avoid anti-semitism or other negativity that is bound to come up. I will use a WordPress plugin to keep all questions in queue as pending review until I approve each.

I am currently generating a bit of revenue from the two affiliate links on the landing page, and I will create a few banners on the new site to also drive revenue.  I may implement a special WordPress plugin that links specific words to affiliate pages, but that will be down the road.

So… what are your thoughts on this plan? It’s taken me quite some time to move forward, but I think it’s a good idea. I’d love your feedback.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (44)

    David J Castello

    Congrats, Elliot. Smart move. Site is going to be huge.

    February 8th, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Uzoma

    You finally came up with an idea I like, Elliot. This one sounds original, and like a winner.

    February 8th, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Elliot

    @ David and Uzoma

    Thank you.

    February 8th, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    The Big Cheese

    @Elliot,

    Figure out a way to blend it with an existing social-networking and/or dating site for people of the Jewish faith (I’m assuming these are out there) – just make sure those you affiliate with aren’t tacky, or it’ll ruin what you’re trying to accomplish. I like the idea of engaging Rabbis for the project – it lends immediate legitimacy.

    – TBC

    February 8th, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Leonard Britt

    Inviting experts to contribute makes sense as it adds authority to the site. One challenge with any blog where readers comment or ask questions is administering / filtering out off-topic discussion and inflamatory language. Monetization might be a challenge. Who would you target for banner sales?

    February 8th, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Perchboy

    Great ideas, Elliot.

    You obviously have a lot of neat things to implement, but in time, you might also consider a translation section to make the site the international source for all things Torah.

    And since you’ll have guest Rabbis, I would imagine many are likely to be multi-lingual in addition to English & Hebrew.

    Best wishes!

    February 8th, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    John

    Your plan sounds solid. I think the site is going to turn out great!

    February 8th, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Michael Carter

    “torah.com rabbis” – seems misplaced to me – i might use a more generic term (eg, spiritual adviser) – you’re taking something very formal and serious (discussion of the torah) and incorporating a commercial spin – tread very lightly – just my 2 cents.

    February 8th, 2011 at 5:38 pm

      Elliot

      @ Michael

      Torah is specific to the Jewish faith, and a rabbi is a Jewish religious leader. Spiritual advisor wouldn’t make sense IMO.

      February 8th, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    The Big Cheese

    @Michael,

    You obviously haven’t seen “Fiddler-On-The-Roof” – one of my favorites, whether it be the stage-play or the movie.

    – TBC

    February 8th, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    yaron

    great idea, and a great project. good luck!

    February 8th, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Larry

    A great idea. Maybe you could add other levels of expertise such as “Torah.com Maven” and/or “Torah.com “Mahof” etc. to label people w/o formal degrees that can add other details about judaism or torah. There are also many rabinical students who would participate in something like this. My cousins used to trade “rabbi’ trading cards I seem to remember.

    February 8th, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    shai neubauer

    This one is going to be a challenge Elliot. I have seen similar projects run by both Chabad and Aish that I am sure you can learn from. The key I think will be the Rabbis that you can get for this project and the moderation is a must. I wish you much success and I will definitely be keeping an eye out on this one.

    February 8th, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Acro

    Isn’t it fun when the small niche market of domaining suddenly expands to a worldwide readership? Exactly what domainers need to focus on. Looking forward to the completed site.

    February 8th, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Mitch

    @ Elliot
    “I plan to moderate the discussions to avoid anti-semitism”

    Yes, yes, yes.

    Agree with Shai, “the moderation is a must”

    This could take up more of your time than you’d like to devote to this project.

    I would also not allow any language other than English to be displayed. (So nothing slips by.)

    February 8th, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Joe

    When I read the title “Building Torah.com”, I immediately thought of a forum, a community for Jewish users to ask and answer questions. Glad your actual project isn’t much different. Good luck with your project, Elliot, I really like it.

    February 8th, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Steve Epstein

    Great post..
    several ideas…

    Torahs are expensive for Jewish temples to buy….
    so you could put a contribute button/..so people could help other congregations….

    Torahs have covers and ornaments. ecommerce for those artists/ craftspeople/

    Etsy for torahs kind of thing.

    lastly…Torahs are painstakingly hand written and crafted…
    webcam the calligraphers….interview them…
    that way every new Torah would have a story like a custom
    harley…(just joking …God…)..

    lastly….don’t forget a little humor…. place a few Mel Brooks easter eggs on the site…at least on Purim…(or Passover for that matter…)

    Steve

    February 8th, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Landon White

    Mezel tov :-)

    February 8th, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Landon White

    And the Rabbi said …

    No Shiksa’s Allowed, Ovay!

    February 8th, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Steve M

    I hope I’m wrong, Elliot, but I see the (critically) necessary moderation duties quickly turning this into a full-time endeavor.

    There’s certainly nothing wrong with that if income weren’t a factor; but since you’re saying it is …

    Sadly; as we’ve seen time and time again; the Internet enables the tiny percentage of human animals of the world far-to-easy access to the eyes and minds of the huge majority of good-hearted human beings.

    February 8th, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Elliot

    With WordPress, all questions that show up will appear as pending review before going on site. I can then either publish or delete them at my convenience. I should only hope to get so much traffic that moderation becomes burdensome :)

    February 8th, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    The Big Cheese

    @Elliot,

    I’ll mod for you in return for free ad space for Soc.TV.

    – TBC

    February 8th, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    The Big Cheese

    To clarify: Part-time mod :)

    February 8th, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Landon White

    @ The Big Cheese
    I’ll mod for you in return for free ad space
    ———
    So would you moderate right after you have had your
    (3rd) Glass of Petite Syrah (as you said, your Daily Fav)
    to get into the divine spirit!

    February 9th, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Adam Gold

    Congratulations on your decision. It’s the ideal concept for such domain. askmoses is a perfect example.

    Good luck

    February 9th, 2011 at 12:56 am

    LS Morgan

    You have a huge responsibility with a name like this, but developing relevant partnerships should be easy as pie. You won’t have any trouble finding people to write for Torah.com, probably at no cost.

    No idea how to monetize the site without it coming off as tacky or making the whole concept feel as if it were “made for banners”. That’s going to be a real tightrope you have to walk, since it won’t take much in the way of crass commercialization on Torah.com to inspire significant opposition.

    Sometimes, the right path is to first build something meaningful and relevant to people, then figure out how to monetize it later, once the people are on board. When you go into a site with monetization as the goal (whether you openly admit it or not), it impacts the trajectory of the entire project which in turn, may lead to suboptimal decisions.

    Build sites for people, not for ads. The ads will come once the people do. Sometimes, patience and a long soak is required before monetization should even be considered.

    February 9th, 2011 at 4:49 am

    WhyPark Kelly

    I like the idea a lot! Best wishes on the new venture!

    February 9th, 2011 at 7:57 am

    AB

    Smart move E. Can’t wait to follow this project

    February 9th, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Clay Burt

    Sounds like a solid development plan.
    100% agree with the partnership/advertising potential… Have a food/recipe section, dating, artwork as mentioned in a previous comment, other services, etc. Also, if there are ipad versions you could easily resell them I would think…
    Plus, don’t forget that controversy spurs comments and visitors so if you have a section that draws on that such as a comparison area of different religion’s perspectives and offer others opinions/blog entries it might be beneficial to traffic – would probably take a lot of mod work though…
    Good luck – great plan though so I’m sure you’ll implement well!

    February 9th, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Adam Gold

    Are you planning on making the website Kosher? :) I mean in compliance with Sabbath observance? (no posts, moderation…).
    Your plan is 100% solid, and this is coming from my personal experience. As I mentioned before, I use Askmoses (dot) com all the time to find answers to my concerns. you might want to consider looking at it for ideas.

    February 9th, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Elliot

    @ Cheese

    thank you for the offer, but I am going to pass…

    @ Adam

    Will be open 24/7.

    February 9th, 2011 at 11:59 am

    The Big Cheese

    @Elliot,

    Kind of thought you’d pass on my offer.

    You should give serious consideration to Adam’s idea about making the site “Kosher”, i.e., close down the forum on the Sabbath – it’s an AWESOME marketing angle that would likely get you loads of word-of-mouth, viral marketing within the Jewish faith…think about it.

    – TBC

    February 9th, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Adam Gold

    I didn’t not mean to close the website entirely on Sabbath (even if it could be a great idea). I meant by that, limiting your activity: posting, moderating, etc.. I’m sure none of the Rabbis will be online online at the time anyway.

    February 9th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    LS Morgan

    Have you done a keyword competition analysis yet?

    (Kinda weird to be ‘competing’ in that space, but it’s a reality, I guess.)

    February 9th, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Got Jesus?

    @Uzoma – “Original” How is this original?

    @LSMorgan
    “You won’t have any trouble finding people to write for Torah.com, probably at no cost.”

    Why would any self-respecting Rabbi work for “free” on a commercial domainer site ?

    I think it’s far more complicated than this. There has to be an overall purpose. I don’t think “cleaning up misconception” is really a valid selling point. Maybe there will be some who do things for free, but I’d have to wonder why? What do they get back? Or do we believe that there’s this altruistic subject and therefore the contributions will be so also even though it’s a commercial venture?

    As a comment. The logo HAS to change. It looks like too giant nipples ready to get sucked on.

    “Milking Religion…” might work as a tag-line.

    That said, I wish you luck. I just think trying to develop in an area that you don’t understand is purely a recipe for failure and might actually lower the domain value. You’d be much better off either with minimal monetization or actually selling this to an organization that might profit from it properly knowing what they are doing.

    Where will you draw the line on discussions of Hacidic versus Modern Orthodox movements? I say YOU because you’re going to moderate these discussions?!??!?

    February 9th, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Landon White

    @ Adam

    I’m sure none of the Rabbis will be online online at the time anyway.
    ====

    Unless they discover online porno,

    then it’s Goya 24/7 :-)

    February 9th, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    LindaM

    Not an area Im too familiar with really, though currently Im working setting up an online archive for a group of people with memories of darker times.
    This is potentially a huge project, with sensitive areas that need to be implemented with thought and observance. I think its great you left this until you felt you have time to do it justice. Also, the possibility of getting professional collaborative assistance (cyber-rabbis!) is what probably makes it viable.
    Im not convinced the idea of keeping it English is such a good plan, perhaps most forums would be, but it strikes me this one is an exception. Not so sure banning the ‘language of God’ ie Hebrew, is gonna go down so well on Torah.com .

    Good luck and have fun building it!

    February 10th, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Got Jesus?

    Funnily enough…and this is for THE BIG CHEESE

    Search for :

    Torah.com

    It says:

    Did you mean Torah.TV?

    Just found that interesting. I guess it does redirect to http://www.stbm.org/ which is a monetizing religion effort.

    I still think the Logo needs to be changed!

    February 10th, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      Elliot

      @ Jesus

      Not for long 😉

      February 10th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    mike

    Nice, that bad boy needs to finally be developed. My thoughts are:

    1) agree with the person above who said don’t focus on monetization until after you build a useful, full website that has targeted traffic. A sharp, clean Jewish Q&A site could definitely work, and will be so much more rewarding with more potential in the long run if it’s a nice and full website rather than a sandbox affiliate/banner-oriented site. The logo already looks awesome.

    Also, if the Rabbi-expert idea isn’t practical, then you can always just do a normal Q & A site with jews sharing their views/take on the questions.

    2) Negative on the dating … that is way to much to deal with, liability, not to mention JDate which is booming

    3) Like the recipe ideas, advertise cards and relevant treats for holidays, maybe contact a distributor of said goods, etc. (if the traffic warrants it)

    There’s is a ton you can do and it could be a fun project. Keep us updated.

    February 10th, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    The Big Cheese

    @Got Jesus & Elliot,

    :)

    – TBC

    February 10th, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Poor Uncle

    Good luck. it’s a mighty fine endeavor. If I may suggest….Dennis Prager would be a great adviser for the Torah.

    February 10th, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Uzoma

    @Got jesus

    If the logo truly looks like two succulent nipples “ready to be sucked” to you, NOT EVEN FURNITURE IS SAFE AROUND YOU!
    You definitely need the LORD!

    The Logo is fine, Elliot. This guy is a pervert.

    February 10th, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Ray | Domaining.org.uk

    Hi Elliot, Torah is a fundamental part of the life of millions all over the world. Yes, you can make a fortune out of Torah.com, because of this fact. However, in my opinion there are some things in Judaism that should not be turned into a business. Torah site like this, is one of them. I think there is an ethical dimension here that you should consider. Turning a website about the most important pillar of Judiasim into a revenue generating website just seems to be wrong, somehow. I can’t believe I am the only person who feels this way. Just my gut reaction, Ray

    February 13th, 2011 at 4:50 am

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