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Inside the Nextbook-JDub partnership

When this recession took hold, we hypothesized that nonprofit organizations would meet one of several fates: Some older, well established organizations would survive based on their history and strengths, some old and new would die, some would survive on donor affinity and sentiment, and others would figure out how to tread water without moving forward. 

But when Nextbook, which publishes a series of high quality Jewish books and the online magazine Tablet, and JDub, the nonprofit Jewish record label, announced a strategic partnership last week, we saw what all organizations can and should do — look at their missions, try to figure out how to become stronger in spite of the recession, and position themselves to emerge from this dark economic climate running.

Under the partnership, the two organizations will remain separate and will still produce their own records and books and cultural materials, but JDub will essentially become Nextbook’s in-house marketing and PR department.

When Nextbook publishes a new book, JDub will figure out how to create an interesting event surrounding the new publication to both sell books and drum up interest. When Tablet writes a story, JDub will figure out how to push that story in the broader media and will figure out how to position Tablet writers and editors as personalities by placing them on television and radio spots, according to Tablet’s editor, Alana Newhouse, and JDub’s CEO, Aaron Bisman.

Two examples of how this could work: In August, Nextbook published a book about the Jewish boxer Barney Ross. It hired JDub on a freelance basis to plan a book release party. JDub put together a shindig at the historic Gleason’s gym in Brooklyn that featured boxing matches, free beer and wine, guest appearances by Jewish boxer Dmitri Salita and a performance of one of JDub’s bands, Soulico. The event drew 400 people — most of whom neither JDub nor Nextbook had seen before — and sold a bunch of books.

Two weeks ago, when Orrin Hatch, the Morman Senator from Utah, penned a Chanukah song for Tablet, which was recorded by Rasheeda Azar, JDub helped push the video out to the mainstream media, including The New York Times.

According to Newhouse, the ultimate goal is to use programming and the marketing of individual writers to create a stronger relationship between Tablet and its readers.

What’s in it for JDub? Nextbook is paying JDub and it provided JDub space in Nextbook’s offices in Soho’s Puck building, which the record label moved into last week. According to Bisman, it’s the first time that JDub employees have had doors to their offices; more importantly, he said, the partnership will allow JDub to continue to expand and grow its other products. 

This is not a merger, but a partnership from which both parties feel they can benefit. They both took a look at their missions — JDub’s is to advance Jewish culture and build Jewish community through music, and Nextbook’s is to advance Jewish culture and build Jewish community through literary endeavors — and saw a natural fit.

How did the full-scale partnership come together? The two organizations have built a familiarity and a trust by working together on smaller projects over the past year. They knew each other, liked each other and saw a fit.

In case you are keeping tabs, in the past 18 months, these organizations have not sat still. Nextbook, as we reported back in June, has revamped its online presence, started a new online publication with a large, high-quality staff, acquired an in-house PR mechanism and reduced its budget by 30 percent off of its budget. JDub has acquired an online magazine (Jewcy), aligned itself with a second journalistic online presence and secured free upgraded offices and an additional revenue stream.

While some organizations are barely trying to figure out how to tread water,, these two have actually grown and are positioning themselves to become stronger immediately and into the future — all at a time when resources are tight.

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