With the Internet awash in outrageous images — from porn to boogieing IDF soldiers in the hotbed of Hebron — can a racy Jewish magazine whose stock in trade is shock value have the same impact solely online?
That’s the question this week following the announcement that Heeb Magazine — known for its covers featuring Roseanne Barr in Hitler attire, a sexualized image of Jesus and a pig trouncing a loaf of challah — has shut down its print edition.
After nine years of entertaining readers and riling adversaries, Heeb will operate solely in its recently re-launched online form, but editors promise that its shock value will be as strong as ever — if not stronger. Newly appointed editor-in-chief Erin Hershberg, a blogger who’s been a huge fan of Heeb since its inception, intends to include more food stories, music reviews and what she calls “goy columnists.”
“The print world has lost its shock value because of the Internet anyway,” Hershberg told The Jewish Week. “Heeb has to change its tune, and if anything my intent is to keep it low-brow but also to keep in a lot of high-brow and keep a play between the two.”
David Kelsey, the magazine’s longtime associate director of business, agrees that an exclusive Web presence only increases Heeb’s outrageous appeal because images in particular can lose their context when spread virally around the Web.
“When Roseanne Barr came out, it wasn’t until Josh released the photo on the Web that people got upset,” Kelsey said, referring to former editor-in-chief and now publisher Joshua Neuman.
That being said, he does realize that with change comes sacrifice.
“Would something be lost?” Kelsey asked. “I have to say something could be lost. Everything has to evolve in order to stay alive.”
David Abitbol, founder of similarly irreverent blog Jewlicious.com, agreed, adding, “There’s just something about print that a monitor simply cannot replace. But with its revamped online presence, I know that Heeb’s irreverent spirit will live on.”
Heeb’s editors would not comment on the financial state of the magazine or whether money issues had contributed to the shuttering of the print edition, which had a circulation of about 25,000.
But Neuman suggested that the irreverence in Heeb’s DNA would remain. In announcing the end of the print edition, he said in a statement on the magazine’s home page: “Heeb will continue to provide trenchant analysis of world events, cultural critique of all that is Jewish and Goyish and countless photos of scantily-clad Israeli models.”