October 3, 2011
The Jewish World: there’s an app for that
TRIBE Media Corp., parent company of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, has launched the first Jewish news app designed specifically for the iPad.
The Jewish Journal app, which became available for download from Apple’s app store on Oct. 2, offers readers a new way of accessing the Jewish world’s up-to-date news articles and unique blogs, as well as video and photographic content.
“The first Jewish news came down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets,” said Rob Eshman, publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp. “We believe the digital tablet will be the most important news delivery system of the future, so we committed to developing the best and first Jewish news app for it.”
The app is available as a free download and includes content from The Jewish Journal, JTA and Reuters. TRIBE Media Corp. had also recently finalized a deal with The Jewish Daily Forward, the United States’ oldest Jewish news outlet, and will include some of its content on The Jewish Journal app.
“The Jewish Daily Forward is renowned for its rigorous, independent reporting and thoughtful commentary on politics, arts and culture,” Eshman said. “We’re thrilled to have them as a partner.”
Even in tight budgetary times, Eshman said, investing in a new app was a risk that made sense.
“Certainly it’s a big expense,” Eshman said, “but the news is mobile, and we want to be where people are getting their news from.”
A handful of other Jewish news outlets have apps in Apple’s app store, but all of them simply provide direct electronic versions of print publications.
“This is the first Jewish news app that makes use of the iPad’s unique touch-screen features and multi-column features,” said Jay Firestone, the Jewish Journal’s Web director, who oversaw the app’s design and development.
Working with Seattle-based developer Pinch/Zoom Media, the app took just over one year to develop. In the first day and a half of its initial release, The Jewish Journal iPad app was downloaded 328 times onto iPads from the United States to Australia to Brazil. It has just one featured advertiser — the group-discount Web site LivingSocial.
Lately, tech writers have begun wondering whether applications written for a particular device or operating system, known as native apps, are worth the cost of their development.
Jewishjournal.com, for instance, loads perfectly adequately on both mobile devices and on tablets like the iPad. All of The Jewish Journal’s news content and blogs are easily accessible there.
Even so, native apps have advantages.
“It comes down to having a better engaging experience,” said Aaron Maxwell, the founder of the mobile Web design firm Mobile Web Up.
Maxwell describes himself as “very much a Web person,” and his company helps optimize companies’ Web sites for mobile phones. In February he wrote an article asking whether mobile apps were worth their cost — but he’s not anti-app.
Indeed, with the dominance of the iPad in the tablet market, Maxwell said, launching an app for Apple’s tablet might make good sense, even if an app for the company’s iPhone did not.
“Interestingly, this dominance can certainly lead to situations which justify creating an iPad app in late 2011, but not an iPhone app (with its much smaller relative market share/use among smartphones),” Maxwell wrote in an e-mail.
The Jewish Journal iPad app, Firestone said, will soon move beyond Jewish news.
“The goal of the app is to be the ultimate Jewish source, not just for Jewish news, but for Jewish life as well,” Firestone said. Among future plans for the app, he said, are increased social networking capacities, user-uploaded photo galleries and, eventually, an integration of the app with TRIBE Media Corp.’s directory of local Jewish resources.
“You’ll be able to find the nearest Kosher restaurant, synagogue or school in your area, and comment on them,” Firestone said.
For now, The Jewish Journal app features a constantly updating homepage; news stories are categorized by theme, and readers can navigate from one page to another with the swipe of a finger.
“This is a great way for Jews to stay informed and connected,” TRIBE Media Corp. President David Suissa said. “Now, they can just download the Jewish world.”