Kveller.com: Growing into Toddlerhood

[This is the first in a new series updating the award recipient projects of the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund.]

by Daniel Septimus

Kveller.com launched in September 2010 to provide parents raising Jewish children with Jewish parenting resources, a lively online community and a way to learn about local events and activities for Jewish families.

From a purely quantitative perspective, Kveller has significantly exceeded its goals. We had originally hoped to reach 45,000 people per month by December 2011. In fact, during the second half of 2011, Kveller averaged 60,000 unique visitors per month. In December 2011, January 2012 and February 2012, Kveller was visited by more than 75,000 people each month. In March 2012, we will likely reach 90,000 unique visitors for the first time.

The surprising rate of Kveller’s audience growth coincided with other interesting outcomes.

1. Kveller’s success can primarily be attributed to the vibrancy of its blogs. Kveller’s blogs, which forgo the expert parenting tips in favor of featuring “real” parents writing about their real life experiences, are by far the most popular parts of the website. During the second half of 2011, Kveller’s blogs accounted for 43 percent of the site’s traffic. During the first two months of 2012, Kveller’s blogs accounted for nearly 70 percent of the site’s traffic.

2. Kveller’s bloggers don’t only write about their kids. They also write honestly about their marriages, careers and personal Jewish struggles. In this way, Kveller has actually become more of a website for parents than a parenting website. Kveller recognizes that parents aren’t only parents, and thus the site speaks to their lives more holistically.

But truth be told, it is also actually imprecise to call Kveller a website for parents. It’s really a website for mothers. According to Kveller’s first user survey, 86 percent of the website’s readers are female, and because Kveller addresses the whole life of a parent (and not merely the parenting part), Kveller is almost certainly the most vibrant online community of Jewish women.

3. While Kveller is aimed at parents (and grandparents) of Jewish children ages 0-5, only 52 percent of Kveller readers have at least one child or grandchild between those ages. In other words, nearly half of Kveller’s readers are not part of the website’s primary target audience. Kveller’s appeal to parents and grandparents of older children suggests that there is a void in the market for them, which Kveller is filling, but can potentially fill even better.

Indeed, while a variety of parents find relevant material on Kveller, not all readers have the same wants and needs. The more we can diversify Kveller’s offerings to create niche market content channels, the more likely we are to expand our audience base and grow user satisfaction and brand loyalty.

4. When we submitted our grant proposal to the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund, 13 percent of Kveller visits were referrals from Facebook. We considered this to be very high, but so far in 2012, that number has grown to more than 37 percent of site visits. Implementing Facebook Commenting as our comments module has helped this significantly, but ultimately it is the creation of “shareable” content that has greatly augmented Kevller’s Facebook readership.

Looking to the future, Kveller will continue to focus on its core content, while diversifying its editorial offerings to reach niche audiences like grandparents and pregnant women. Kveller will also be expanding its New York calendar and resource feature, look to develop this feature for other cities, and continue partnering with existing Jewish family portals like Denver’s MazelTot and Baltmore’s Shalom, Hon. Kveller will soon be commencing a partnership with the PJ Library to offer book subscriptions, as well as online engagement opportunities for PJ parents. Kveller may also seek to leverage its brand offline with events, conferences or books.

In many ways, Kveller’s future is still unfolding. Kveller is only 16-months old. It’s just entering toddlerhood. Like good parents, we’re trying to respond to the website’s needs – and, really, the needs of its readers – not merely steer it in a predetermined direction. As we continue to learn to how to walk and talk, we are finding our voice as we help others find theirs.

Kveller may not be out of diapers yet, but so far it seems like a great kid.

Daniel Septimus is the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of MyJewishLearning, Inc., publisher of Kveller.com. Kveller is a 2011-2012 recipient of the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund, a pilot collaboration of the Jim Joseph Foundation, Righteous Persons Foundation, and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation that supported projects offering innovative ways of using new media to encourage the next generation of Jews to engage in life and community Jewishly.