The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle is scheduled to introduce a new state-of-the-art website this Friday as part of the newspaper’s relaunch.
On July 21, the Chronicle introduced a new name, a new look in its print edition and a new subscription model that provides copies of the Chronicle free of charge to members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community.
Now, the Chronicle has joined a digital partnership with The Times of Israel, the Jerusalem-based online publication founded in 2012 that reports on developments in Israel, the Middle East and around the Jewish world. Four other Jewish news outlets are part of The Times of Israel collaboration: the Atlanta Jewish Times; the Jewish Standard in northern New Jersey; The New York Jewish Week; and the Jewish News based in the United Kingdom.
The Chronicle’s new website can be found at pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.
Jim Busis, publisher and CEO of the Chronicle, explained the need to modernize his outlet’s digital presence.
“In internet terms, the Chronicle’s former website was very old,” said Busis. “When it was started in 2008 it was very good. In fact, in 2009 we won a Rockower Award [from the American Jewish Press Association] for best website. But in the years since, the software company that provided our platform has not kept up with the times,” rendering the old site “inadequate by modern standards.”
The Chronicle opted to join the partnership with The Times of Israel, Busis said, which “includes using their website platform, but which also includes some content sharing.”
Busis described The Times of Israel as “the premiere English language news organization coming out of Israel today.”
“Many people may be more familiar with the Jerusalem Post or Ha’aretz, which are much older than The Times of Israel,” he explained, “but compared to those, The Times of Israel is much more centrist and politically neutral.”
Not only is The Times of Israel compatible journalistically with the Chronicle, Busis said, but “we also think they have the best Web platform today of any of the Jewish news organizations.
“Coincidentally, they started a program to have a network of local Jewish news organizations come onto their platform,” Busis added, “and so we decided to join with them and their partners. We will be the fifth Jewish newspaper to join with them.”
The Chronicle’s new website will be easier to use and navigate, noted David Ainsman, chair of the board of the Chronicle.
“The quality of the substance will be dramatically increased,” Ainsman said, “mainly because we are teaming with The Times of Israel, which is the best website that I know of for Israeli news, international and even national Jewish news. It’s a significant upgrade.”
Former Pittsburghers or others who want to keep their fingers on the pulse of Jewish Pittsburgh — checking to see who got married, who was born, who celebrated a bar or bat mitzvah, or who has died — will now have an easier time doing so through the use of the new site, Ainsman said.
“In addition to being better on a computer, the new website will also scale automatically to smaller sized screens,” said Busis, “so that you will be able to read it easily on both smartphones and tablets.” It will not be necessary to download and install a separate app; the site can be used directly with a regular browser on a mobile device.
The new site will further “enhance our two-way communication with the community,” Busis added. “In particular, we have special pages for sending us content and uploading photos, and it will make it much easier for people in the community to send material to the Chronicle for publication both online and in print.
“In the world we live in today, we recognize [the importance of] electronic publishing on the internet, but we still believe in the power and usefulness of the printed newspaper as well. Frankly, we hope people will read and use both the printed paper and the website; between the two of them, you really get the best possible experience. Even if some prefer the website, we hope everyone continues to subscribe to the printed paper, because it is the print advertising that keeps us afloat.”
Because the new website is being run on a new version of The Times of Israel platform, Busis said, there are still some features that “are not quite ready yet, but will be later this year. There may be some bugs, so we hope people will bear with us, and if they do find bugs, by all means, let us know.”
The partnership between different Jewish media outlets creates an “ecosystem,” said Grig Davidovitz CEO of RGB Media, the company behind the Web platform utilized by The Times of Israel and its partners, as well as a “synergy” that allows the newspapers to work best on both an individual and cooperative level.
While The Times of Israel is doing “an excellent job reporting issues worldwide,” it is still the local Jewish newspapers that are best equipped to report local news, Davidovitz said. The Times of Israel platform provides easy access to both.
“The local Jewish newspapers still have a very real mission to do, covering the local community,” he said. “The worldwide papers can’t do that because they don’t have the resources.”
The platform shared by The Times of Israel and its partners is, in effect, “a federation of websites,” together covering Israel and international, national and local Jewish news, according to Davidovitz. “The idea is to connect websites that have identities that can connect in a synergetic way — partners that have proven journalistic integrity and can relate to high journalistic standards.”
The Times of Israel partners are “seeing very good results in terms of readership increasing,” Davidovitz said, both in terms of “accidental users who happen to come to the website through a particular story and loyal users who specifically visit the site to see what’s new there.
“I think that is a big part of what we’re offering, increasing traffic and a strategy to turn accidental users into loyal users,” he added. The “co-branding” between the partners works so that each enforces the others’ brands, thereby improving visibility and increasing the number of users.
Another advantage of the partnership, Davidovitz said, is that it has created “journalistic cooperation between the different publishers.” That cooperation includes conference calls in which the parties discuss journalistic and commercial projects.
The Times of Israel is “constantly looking for new partners,” Davidovitz said, and it will be announcing another new partner from the United States in the coming months. pjc
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at