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October 25, 2012 - Image 107

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-10-25

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News In Israel

Hebrew media is imploding, but Israeli
English press booming.

Ben Sales

Tel Aviv


n Oct. 17, seven Israeli English
news websites led with seven dif-
ferent stories. The Jerusalem Post
had a piece on Egypt's commitment to its
treaty with Israel. Haaretz's English site ran
with a recently released Israeli document on
Gaza. Ynet News, Yediot Achronot's English
site, led with threats to a retired Israeli secu-
rity chief. Then there were the stories on the
websites of the Times of Israel, Israel Hayom's
English edition, Israel National News and
+972, a popular news and commentary blog.
Twenty years ago, of these seven publica-
tions, only the Jerusalem Post existed.
While Hebrew newspapers and TV
channels are struggling, the Israeli English-
language news market appears to be boom-
ing. But with the business of journalism
under threat worldwide due to declining
revenues, Israel's English-language media
face an uncertain future.
"We see an explosion of new media
because online platforms are cheap and easy
to use,' said Noam Sheizaf, CEO of +972.
"We couldn't have done +972 four years
ago. Times of Israel would have been a much
more expensive operation five years ago"
The past few months have seen an implo-
sion of the Hebrew press. Maariv, a tabloid
founded in 1948 and, for its first 20 years
Israel's largest circulation daily, recently was
placed in the hands of a court-appointed
trustee and could shut down within weeks,
leaving 2,000 people jobless. Haaretz, Israel's
leading broadsheet, did not print on Oct. 4
due to a staff protest of 100 proposed layoffs.
Israel's Channel 10 TV is in deep debt to the
government and faces possible closure.
Many in Israel blame Israel Hayom, a
staunchly conservative, freely distributed
paper funded by American casino mogul
Sheldon Adelson, for aggravating the crisis
in Hebrew media.
The tough environment "is exacerbated
by the fact that in Israel we have the most
generously funded free newspaper in the
world:' said Times of Israel founding editor
David Horovitz, who before starting the
site in February was editor in chief of the
Jerusalem Post. "That's made life hard for all
the publications in Israel:'

Online Growth

Much of the growth of Israel's English
media has been online.
In May, Haaretz, the only one of the
Hebrew papers to have an English print
edition, put up a paywall on its popular

English website, charging digital subscrib-
ers $100 annually for unlimited access. It's
still uncertain whether the strategy will pay
off, though the paywall experiment will be
expanding soon to the Haaretz Hebrew site.
"It's unrealistic to rely solely on a print
model to fund our journalistic operation:'
said Charlotte Halle, editor of Haaretz's
English edition. "We wouldn't be taking care
of our journalistic future if we didn't seek
additional sources of income.'
The Jerusalem Post has pursued additional
revenue opportunities by printing a range of
publications beyond its daily newspaper. The
Post has international, Christian and French
editions — all produced, along with the
daily, by just 60 employees.
The Times of Israel, which combines origi-
nal reporting with articles that repackage
information reported on Israeli TV, radio
and news sites, would not disclose reader-
ship statistics. But Horovitz says the site is
exceeding expectations and has garnered
40,000 "likes" on Facebook since its launch
eight months ago.
Horovitz says the publication's "non-
partisan agenda!' stands in contrast to the
right-leaning Jerusalem Post and left-leaning
Haaretz. The news coverage seeks to strike
an unbiased tone, he says, while hundreds
of bloggers, all unpaid, opine on a range of
"We strive to tell it like it is:' .Horovitz
said. "People want to know what's going on,
and they don't want to feel like it's filtered
through some political agenda:'
With such a crowded market in such chal-
lenging times for the news industry, Israel's
English-language journalists are not without
trepidation about the future. "There will be
some sort of reevaluation" of the Post print
newspaper's viability in a few years, Brinn
Beyond competing for the same reader-
ship, the publications must vie with an ever-
expanding cyber universe that occasionally
breaks stories before they do.
"Social media has served to democratize
the media market in Israel: said Avi Mayer,
the Jewish Agency for Israel's director of new
media and a prolific tweeter of Israel news.
"When people share information through
Twitter, it is a personal experience'
While many Israeli journalists have
become active tweeters, +972's Sheizaf is
concerned that publications that are thriving
now are resistant to change, which could
hurt them in the future.
"People are not experimenting; he said.
"The readers are evolving and changing but
the journalists, the stories they write, look
like the stories written in the 19th century.
We need to be a lot more creative." ❑

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October 25 • 2012


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