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AJ+’s new distributed news strategy, explained

Submitted by on July 20, 2016 – 2:00 pm | 3,101 views

Ousama Itani ii

Ousama Itani, senior officer for strategy and development with Al Jazeera’s online news channel, AJ+, today outlined the social media-savvy strategy his organisation had employed help further its development.

Speaking during a morning session of the news:rewired conference, in London, Itani said the ability to overcome challenges posed by working with social media sites was crucial for AJ+ to evolve.


Itani said changes to social platform ‘may appear at any moment’ and as a result AJ+ was constantly adapting to ensure it maintained presence and continued to draw a significant readership.

“AJ+ was never targeted as a centralised website,” Itani said. “Most of our reach is on Facebook. At the moment, that’s where we’re finding our success.”

AJ+’s Facebook page has received more than 5bn views since the full launch in September 2014, along with 5.7m ‘likes’. Subsequent Arabic and Spanish expansions of AJ+ across social media channels has brought each more than 100m views.

“We’re putting out six, seven, ten, 15 videos a day,” Itani explained. “There’s something about this content that’s really hitting people.”

When algorithm changes across social media sites showed signs of curbing AJ+’s growth, Itani said they built an app that would ensure audiences could still reach their content, unobstructed by influences from social platforms

“The app was built on a visual ideology of cards and stacks,” he said. “Each card is a different type of engagement within the stack – a quiz, conversation, debate, video or simple information.”

“News is made for where you are. Wherever the audience lives, that’s where we need to live.”

Within its strategy, AJ+ is exploring new types of content, Itani said, from 360 degree videos to new styles of commenting. Currently, he added, most of the top video comments on AJ+’s Facebook are from AJ+ itself, linking to another video and explaining to viewers why they should watch this related content.

Itani also mentioned the distinctive content targets adopted by AJ+. Three different angles are used to capture their audiences: ‘real time’, which is hard-hitting news; ‘context’ stories, including more background information; and ‘stories’, which are mini documentaries that highlight a unique person or tale. “These are the kind of things people are looking for.”

AJ+’s mini-strategies, summarised:

  1. Establishing an app: therefore, they can avoid fluctionation from social media algorithm changes
  2. Experimenting with different content types: 360 video, Facebook Live and Periscope, amongst others
  3. Having clear content targets: ‘real time’, ‘context’ and ‘stories’.
  4. Restyling their content for social streams: their Facebook videos can be watched and understood without sound
  5. Considering their priorities: optimisation > innovation, social media audiences > app users

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