It Lives! Jewcy Part IV

Jewcy is now officially the Web site that absolutely refuses to die! When JDub announced that it was going to wind down one of the questions was what was going to happen to Jewcy, it’s Jewish lifestyle online magazine. You might recall that Jewcy was started by theater mogul Jon Steingart as a way to promote a Jewish themed party night at his Ars Nova theater space in Hell’s Kitchen. Eventually Jewcy got into apparel, selling things like their famous Shalom Mother******* t-shirts and Jewcy thongs. In November 2006, under Senior Editor Tahl Rahz, Jewcy morphed into a Jewish online arts, culture and politics magazine, funded by Steingart, Michael Weiner and Michael Steinhardt. That arrangement lasted until February 2009 when all of Jewcy’s major backers pulled their money from the magazine because they felt it would never be profitable. The offices were vacated, Rahz left for greener pastures but the magazine limped along with a skeleton staff of volunteers under the leadership of Lilit Marcus. Eventually, a few months later the magazine was sold to JDub records for $1. Marcus left for a job with a mainstream online publication and Jason Diamond was hired to take over.

Under JDub’s helmsmanship, fiscal limitations did not allow for a regular stable of paid writers and, along with JDub’s fortunes, readership seems to have declined precipitously – by as much as 66% according to Quantcast. Also according to Quantcast, Jewcy’s readership seems to have been older. Readers aged 18-34 represented 32% of their traffic, readers aged 35-49: 27% and readers aged 49+: 33%. When JDub folded it was unclear what would happen to Jewcy.

What we do know is that prior to announcing the end of JDub, Jewcy and JDub staff had a meeting at the offices of My Jewish Learning, the online non-denominational Jewish learning Web site that also runs Jewniverse and Jewish parenting Web site kveller.com. Now comes unofficial word (no one from MJL got back to me before I wrote this post) that My Jewish Learning is indeed poised to take over Jewcy. No other details, such as the financial arrangements and additional philanthropic support are currently available. We do know that based on their latest filings with the IRS (2009) that MJL had $1,401,837 in revenue against $1,292,794 in expenses. CEO Daniel Septimus and CFO Jason Brzoska earned $133,000 each in salaries and benefits. Major funding came from the Edgar Bronfman Foundation ($870,000), Michael Steinhardt ($150,000), The United Jewish Appeal NY ($111,160), the Schusterman Foundation ($100,000) and smaller sums from numerous foundations ($116,000). They seem well funded by all the right people and are well placed in the online world. Their directly measured numbers from Quantcast show that Kveller.com gets an average of 25,929 unique visitors a month while MyJewishLearning.com gets an average of 88,500 monthly unique visits. These may seem like modest numbers but given the niche, the numbers are in fact pretty good and bode well for the future of Jewcy.

Many questions remain. Will MJL, who specialize in somewhat conventional content, be able to pull off running an arts, culture and politics Web zine edgy enough to attract a significant number of the Jewish 18-35 demographic? Will Jewcy be able to survive yet another rejuvenation under different management without it affecting the brand? And finally, will the Jewish philanthropic world, freshly stung by the massive disappointment of JDub’s closing, pony up enough cash to keep Jewcy running effectively? I guess we’ll find out.

But either way, you’ll always have Jewlicious.

David Abitbol is the creator of Jewlicious.com.

update July 22: Aaron Bisman, President and CEO of JDub, tells eJP that no deal has yet been made for Jewcy‘s future. “We are in conversation with several potential homes for Jewcy.”