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16 years of JPost.com
By ELANA KIRSH
06/12/2012
JPost.com’s managing editor Elana Kirsh reflects on 16 years of 'The Jerusalem Post' online.
 
EIGHTY YEARS on from the establishment of the newspaper, the entire Jerusalem Post team is adapting to the digital age, pitching in to keep our coverage relevant.

Veteran reporters who debuted in the business armed only with a notepad and a pen are now tweeting news updates and commentary, shooting clips to be edited into news packages and lining up to take part in our regular live blogs. Section editors across the organization are getting involved in online promotion, as management vets proposals for new digital products to get the Post’s content out there to as many people, where they want it, as fast and effectively as possible.

When JPost.com was launched in 1995, the website was a far cry from what it is today. A look at snapshots stored on Web archive site Wayback Machine, http://wayback.archive.org/ web/*/http://www.jpost.com, reveals a single column showcasing just three main news articles – in dated, Times New Roman font no less – followed by a series of now-antiquated blue links to content categories such as Business, Opinion and Features.

In the following years, JPost.com underwent a series of redesigns and upgrades – for better and for worse – quickly becoming Israel’s most-read English-language news website.

Among other milestones along the way, the website won second place for advertising in the second annual worldwide Best Newspaper Online Service Awards in March 1997, and in September of that year it was rated the world’s sixth most popular newspaper online.

Also in September 1997, the Post became the first newspaper in the world to deliver a “Personal Post” daily to subscribers’ computers in a user-friendly, newspaper format. By 2000, visits to JPost.com had reached over 115,000 page impressions daily, and the site was nominated for the best news website for the Editor and Publisher Best Overall Non-US Newspaper Online Service the following year.

More recently, two years ago, the Post’s Internet department moved from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, in order to work more closely with the technical team responsible for design, programming and server maintenance.

Sixteen years after its launch, JPost.com’s homepage boasts up to seven prominent news slots, dedicated social media zones and feature slots with an emphasis on the graphic element.

A range of columns, editorials and op-eds are showcased in a rotating box, alongside the exclusive Premium Zone and our dynamic blogs section. All of the print edition’s original pieces are featured on the website – both on the homepage itself, and on the relevant category pages, and increasing amount of Webonly content is uploaded to the site daily, including exclusive videos, photo galleries, live blogs and lifestyle columns.

In today’s digital mediascape, millions of news consumers use social media sites as aggregators, prefer mobile apps over browsers, skim daily email bulletins for updates, or rely on search engines for the most relevant results.

Accordingly, The Jerusalem Post is gradually shifting its priorities, developing not only the website and the paper side-by-side, but also a range of mobile applications – iPhone, iPad and Android to date – a growing social media program, and back-end development to assist with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

With an average of four million unique users per month across our digital platforms – 90 percent of whom access the site from outside Israel – the outlook of the online edition is slightly different from the print.

Often, JPost.com is a mouthpiece from the region, publishing news that would otherwise be inaccessible to non-Hebrew or Arabic speakers and finding Jewish and Israeli angles in stories of world interest. There are also considerations of timing – US readers are just waking up as the Israeli workday starts to wind down – of different competition, and of global variations in online habits.

It’s neither a secret nor a surprise that the journalism industry is suffering. News organizations, which used to hold the power card of linking advertisers and consumers, have been struggling to make ends meet since the Internet changed the rules of the game. Old world advertising plans are failing, mixed revenue models are being tested with varying success, and news outlets and readers alike are trying to sculpt a position on subscription fees for online news.

Working in this industry, especially in this volatile region, presents challenge after challenge.

At times it’s a financial challenge, sometimes ethical dilemmas stand in our way, and questions of strategy are often at the forefront.

What’s for sure is that nothing stands still.

We’re ahead in some places and behind in others, but always striving to find the best way to use our limited resources to get the news – the right news – to our readers as fast as possible, and on the mediums that people want.

The old-school JPost.com of the ’90s is a long-forgotten thing of the past that probably makes us giggle more than anything else, and it won’t be long before the website I now run suffers the same fate. In the coming months the Post will cover the first Israeli election campaign in the age of social media, delve into podcasting, and update its website design once again.

Much like the news itself, digital content is a dynamic, evolving shark, constantly moving and changing lest it get left behind in a sea of apps and likes.

The writer is JPost.com's managing editor
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