By Mark Pearlman, 4Wall and JInsider
In these troubling times for the Jewish community and the media industry, the Internet is a vast resource – but also an underutilized one.
To provide a bit of perspective, 4Wall, in conjunction with its Jewish initiative JInsider, released on Wednesday the Jewish Internet Metric Study, which takes a business-oriented, top-level look at the Jewish Web using the practices of the renowned consulting firm McKinsey as a guide.
With this analysis the community can better understand the business issues, the competitive situation, and the hurdles and opportunities for sustainability on the Web.
The report will create a basis for productive discussion on what individual or cooperative strategy might be considered. Here is a brief summary of key findings.
The full report is available at www.jinsiderblog.com/JIM.zip
Jewish Search: A Steady Decline
This sheer volume of searches each month makes search a particularly intriguing way of looking at changes in attention and interest on the Internet over time.
To that end, we chose a broad spectrum of 32 Jewish-related search terms and studied their current traffic volume as well as how that traffic has changed during the past four years (June ’04 – June ’09).
The entire sample set saw an average decrease in search traffic of 25 percent, with only a few search terms becoming more popular over the four-year period. Here are the top five increases and decreases in popularity.
Avg. Monthly Volume Total 4yr Change
Rosh Hashanah 164,774 49%
Chabad 218,603 21%
Challah 92,547 16%
Matzah 73,453 10%
Yom Kippur 206,091 9%
Judaica 288,552 -54%
Reform Judaism 16,185 -66%
Anti-Semitism 326,378 -74%
Jewish Dating 190,974 -85%
Kabbalah 393,361 -87%
Educational and Information Sites: The Power of a Brand
In the education/information category there are a number of strong sites, with Chabad emerging as a brand leader.
Chabad’s main website consistently serves as an example of what a successful educational/informational Web presence can look like. Over the past year its traffic rose by 37 percent and is now significantly above the other sites studied.
In contrast, the Web presence of other religious movements – Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaism – was much poorer, though OU.org does moderately well.
Jewish educational and informational sites are also taking advantage of social media – with My Jewish Learning’s “jewlearn” Twitter account and Aish’s YouTube presence as successful examples – but none has a more focused brand across social media than Chabad.
Chabad has leveraged its international identity in coordination with its local chapters to create a social web experience that is both down on a local level and part of something “larger.” The result is quite compelling.
The News Industry: Come Together
In the News portion of study, the most instructive section is the traffic and engagement comparison between the websites of the major Israeli papers (Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post) and the American news sources (JTA, The Jewish Journal, The Jewish Week, The Forward, The Jewish Exponent and The Jewish Press).
For a website to be self-supporting, the trick is to attract a significant enough share of eyeballs to sell a wide range of ad packages. Jpost.com and haaretz.com have achieved a high level of visitation, but while jta.org and jewishjournal.com lead the American pack, there is no clearly dominant or go-to source for American Jewish news online.
However, the sum of all the major American Jewish news sites does approach the level of significant traffic reached by the Israeli sites.
Total U.S. 808,516
Beyond just site traffic, visitor engagement patterns also suggest the American Jewish news industry is too fragmented on the Internet. Not only do visitors spend significantly more time per visit when perusing the Israeli sites, but many more of those visitors are “regulars” (people who visit more than once per month) and addicts (people who visit more than 30 times per month).
In fact, because of this “addict” phenomenon, a quarter of traffic to haaretz.com and jpost.com is generated by just 2 percent of their users. In contrast, only jta.org has any sort of measurable traffic generated by “addicts” – 11 percent.
The takeaway point is that the American Jewish media needs to coordinate and combine their assets online. By combining and centralizing the Web presence of many of these brands, the advantages would extend beyond the basic aggregation of their traffic.
A centralized U.S.-based news sites would benefit from economies of scale, a greater ability to attract the best talent, and stronger ad sales. A dominant Web brand would also enjoy exponentially increased readership and engagement.
The remaining question is how to accomplish these goals. Unlike Condé Nast, which recently hired the McKinsey & Company to look at their business, the Jewish community has no lead family or centralized management team for consultation and execution.
As a result, a feasible way to bring this vision to reality is through a graduated ladder of involvement, as follows: (See chart bellow)
What the community definitely needs, though, is action, and we encourage funders and media stakeholders to use this study as a starting point. All that’s left is to make it happen. We will keep you posted on any progress.