Video and Live Streaming (if only!)

Before I begin to analyze the use of multimedia in Al Jazeera America (AJAM from now on), I would like to add a few more thing to my last post. I wish to integrate my Google Trends analysis with some other sites that show web traffic to a specific site. On the COMPETE  at compete.com I was able to find another graph that shows the  number actual visitors to the Al Jazeera’s Home page.

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As you can see the graph provides quick glance of the audience that visits the site, with the two variables of time and number of visitors. From another website, ALEXA, at alexa.com, I gathered an enormous amount of information, not only on the number of visitors, but also on their country of origin, their gender, age and education. This information is gathered by the website, through surveys issued by Alexa. The two most interesting pieces of information I gathered from the web site are that:

  1. The Al Jazeera America website is considered slow, taking an average of 2.95 Seconds to open, 22% slower than other sites.
  2. Bounce Rate ( that is the percentage of visits to the site that consist of a single pageview) :52.20%.
  3. Daily Pageviews per Visitor2.22
  4. Daily Time on Site3:56

From this data we learn that many viewers spend very little time on the site, possibly just to scan through the Home page and get a sense of what is going on. Otherwise they might be directed there by inbound links. Also, and this might be useful for the next part of my analysis, the average time a viewer spends on the site, is just abut enough to watch a video or news broadcast.

Video. You cannot live stream news on AJAM. According to a New York Times article:

Since distributors discourage their partners from giving programming away on the Internet, Al Jazeera will have to block American users from the live streams of its programming…

This means that the only videos available are the ones that have been uploaded on the site. For example, today AJAM is offering footage on cattle theft rates ( of all things!! ). If you wish to try out the video quality yourself, here it is, check out what Sheriff Alfred has to say on cattle thieves:

Higher Cattle Prices mean Higher Theft Rates

The reasoning behind this choice is puzzling. When I first looked at the website, I admit the articles and the written word occupied a position of dominance. The company claims to aim at an audience of young educated people:

“There is so much interest in […] young demographic, and our core competitive advantage is appealing to them. They are global thinkers interested in international news”

Yet that seems hard to believe when placing TV ahead of the Web. (Interested in this subject? check out this article on Fast Company). Probably these young techies would prefer to have access to news on the web, as it was on the Al Jazeera England site. When the latter abruptly interrupted the possibility of live streaming, AJ was flooded with complaints. Still, AJAM decided to bring one thing across the Atlantic, that is the Monday trough Friday show THE STREAM. It provides an online community and television show that includes social media and citizen journalism. I have not had the opportunity to check it out but it sounds interesting, and will make sure to give you some feed back next time.

An overview; the videos are quick and in high definition but it seems odd that AJAM would not insist on providing live streaming on its website.

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Introductions

After my first encounter with Al Jazeera’s American website, I was ready to begin with real introductions. First of all, how many people look at this website? From which country are the site’s visitors from? And how does that compare with other news services on line? Well, Google Trends provided me with some answers, albeit partial, to these questions. By just looking at Al Jazeera results there is some important information that I can gather.

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If I just search for Al Jazeera, the chart will show me that the website has had a constant number hits from 2005 to 2013, with a significant peak in 2011. If we observe the regional interest, that is the countries that search for Al Jazeera on Google the most, we can see that the Middle East is the main focus. If I changed the search for “Al Jazeera America“, I would only find significant hits from the past few months and mainly in the United States. That is because it is a rather recent website and it is targeted specifically for American audiences. If I compare Al Jazeera with other news services I learn that it has a smaller amount of hits, except again in 2011, when the Middle East was going through a particular period of political and social unrest.

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CNN (the green line) remains the most searched among the television news providers. While Al Jazeera hardly keeps up with MSNBC and ABC News. This survey on Google Trends might not be complete, but it still provides us with a useful insight to begin with.

Going back to the actual site, I would like to devote my attention to how  Al Jazeera includes it’s readers into the conversation. As I said in my previous post, the Al Jazeera website allows you to easily add comments to an article or video by logging in with any social media account:

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In todays article on the chemical weapons decision in Syria, in the Spotlight box on the left side of the web home page, there have been a number of comments in the past 24 hours. The article tries to decipher the possible calculations that the Assad regime might be making in regards to the chemical weapons issue and it opened a rather vast debate on the subject.

I checked out Topsy for how Twitter in particular regarded the Al Jazeera website and the results mainly positive. Even thought the air launch was a flop and did not have many views (about 27.000 views, last I checked) the online site seems to have had positive feedback. Especially regarding the look and feel of the page and the long format section.

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This wraps it up for today. Overall, even though Al Jazeera America did not prove very successful in the US, the website still seems to offer pretty good results especially relating to how people can respond and react to news through social media. It would seem that the money used for the web design was well spent!

First Impressions…

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(Screenshot of my first view of the AlJazeera America website)

 

My acquaintance with Al Jazeera News began several years ago, and it was occasional to say the least. I have never visited it’s website before and I have only seen it on television.  When I would travel form Italy to the US, the television in the hotel I stayed in would sometimes offer Al Jazeera among its numerous channels. If I wasn’t in the mood to watch my usual “American Television” selection ( in fact, the TV series were so much ahead in the US compared to Italy, that I would come back as a prophet for all my friends) I would enjoy enriching myself with the news programs. Often, and for no particular reason I would opt for Al Jazeera rather than the more familiar CNN. 

My news-track of the Al Jazeera America website is therefore a new introduction to the news service. When I opened the page on my browser I was immediately captured by an unusual coincidence. The story that is being prominently featured on the page is in my home town! Rome, is the backdrop for the Top Story about the crowd that has gathered, with the recently elected Pope Francis, for a peace vigil for Syria. This definitely made me feel at home!

But after a quick glance at the story I went on for a serious look at the website. The Home page is quite organized, and it avoids the general clutter of other online news services. There is a logo for Al Jazeera America on the top and underneath a menu bar offering the option to check out their news, video and TV schedule. The News menu is neatly organized in sections according to the main areas of interest (US, International, Economy, Technology, Science and Environment). There is also a Trending bar showcasing the topics that are the most prominent now, in this case Syria. The same setup is applied for the whole page; with the Top Stories at the, well, top and the daily news divided in sections at the bottom in a neat list. 

Overall the site strikes the viewer for it’s glassy look and images. The white background makes the writing clear and legible. The site goes quite far in engaging the reader (and spectator in regard to the video content) allowing him to “join the conversation” by posting a comment using social media. It also discreetly invites the viewers to follow Al Jazeera with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube. 

The side bar provides a list of the hot topics and underneath a series of pictures with links to particular issues as well as a Photo section and Longform section. So far, I only spotted two advertisements and for itself, which is understandable since Al Jazeera America is a relatively new enterprise. Overall the website provides an efficient blend of all types of media creating a quick, clean and user-friendly experience. What surprised me the most was the Longformat journalism section, which in my opinion provides something quite unique and different from other types of media coverage.