case study

The Jewish Chronicle

Shaping a new future for the world’s oldest Jewish newspaper.


The world’s leading Jewish newspaper hadn’t had a digital update since 2012. User behaviour had evolved and with a new board of directors in place, there was a recognition that extending the reach of the paper meant making a much bigger investment in digital. So, The JC tapped Baytree to lead a total website overhaul. We delivered a completely new design framework that modernized the reading experience, drove engagement, and set the JC on the path to a digital revenue model. We also moved them to a headless CMS environment that sets them up for future growth and allows them to take advantage of the API ecosystem. We needed to make sure the redesign was embraced by the site’s older loyal readership demographic, but also attracted a new younger set of digital natives to the paper. We focused clearly differentiating the papers eclectic news mix, that ranges from world class, groundbreaking exclusives to more lowbrow cooking and cultural items. Simple visual scanning was key to readers, and our design lets them easily discover new content they can jump in and out of.

what we did
  • Research and strategy

  • Business requirements planning

  • Site redesign

  • Art direction, digital rebranding

  • User testing

  • Technical planning

  • Technical delivery

  • Headless CMS development

Moving to a Headless CMS

One of the biggest challenges of the project was helping the JC team select an appropriate CMS. The publishing industry is a graveyard of legacy technology and small software providers supplying print first CMS platforms. These have often been under invested in and are simply not fit for purpose in today’s digital ecosystem. We proposed Contentful for the project and worked hard to content model a large number of existing news categories into as simple a schema as possible for the digital editors. We also ensured that the CMS is always up to date for feature, security, and performance improvements. The website works with lightning-fast performance globally and we significantly reduced the operational complexity of managing the site, taking it away from a world of annoying patching and updating to a place where every part of the stack is set up to be completely up to date.

Key tasks included
  • Writing custom scripts to migrate over 10 years of legacy content from their old CMS to the new headless environment.

  • Deploying cost effective Azure cloud hosting, giving them dramatic savings from day one of launch.

  • 0 operational incidents requiring JC or Baytree to fix infrastructure in first year - 100% uptime

  • Set up custom caching and CDN - allowing extremely fast load times despite huge surges of traffic for breaking/viral news stories, with pages being served from every users local CDN Point of presence - essential for improving performance with US customers

  • Built web browser based automated test suite to ensure the site is always working when any layout or page changes are made

  • Set up automatic deployments of code from CI/CD to Azure - meaning any changes can be pushed to staging, tested, and then promoted to production in one or two clicks

  • Integrated with existing legacy subscription management service

3 Big Takeaways
Focus on Fresh Content

Most news sites use a right rail to push stale, irrelevant articles on readers. We worked to move away from this approach to emphasise the papers incredible roster of leading journalists and their thought leadership. Showcasing the quality of the journalism in this page space led to an increase in the engagement we saw in above the fold activity.

Flexible Systems

Each news day is different. Our design system can adjust for breaking or developing stories that have multiple updates. We also designed and deployed a special page layout for release when a major news story breaks e.g., the Queens death or a terrorist attack. This gives the news team the ability to take over the homepage and give rolling coverage to that story in a visually distinct fashion.

Integrated Advertising and a link to print

The new site pairs a highly customisable homepage design with a variety of advertising formats that fit naturally within a scannable reading experience. The formats all support key metrics and viewability, so the JC can reach revenue goals without compromising their core product. Our design also works hard to emphasises the JC’s print readership. It’s another way the company can meaningfully connect with its audience.