Qatar-based Al Jazeera soft-launched its AJ+ online video network Friday with a new YouTube channel as well as a dedicated Facebook page and Twitter account. Al Jazeera also announced AJ+ with a press release that described the network as “current affairs experience for mobiles and social streams,” and promised a formal launch later this year.
The AJ+ YouTube page now lists about a dozen videos, ranging from animated explainers on gun violence to short background videos on Boko Haram, Bitcon and the social impact of the World Cup.
Most of the videos are between two and three minutes long, and all feature a fast-paced aesthetic that makes them look much more like the work of YouTube producers than of a traditional news organization. And that’s not a coincidence: AJ+ is Al Jazeera’s attempt to reinvent the news for a generation that doesn’t tune into cable news networks anymore, and instead gets most of its information online.
AJ+ is being developed by a team that is located in the former offices of Al Gore’s now-defunct Current TV channel in San Francisco, which I got an exclusive tour of last November. Back then, Jazeera Media Network’s Executive Director of Strategy, Development and Technology Yaser Bishr told me that the goal was not to inherit the legacy of TV. AJ+ won’t recycle news bits and pieces from Al Jazeera’s existing English-language TV networks, but instead produce original content for an online audience, he explained.
That’s why AJ+ won’t use any kind of programming grid, but instead produce on-demand content that will be available on multiple platforms. With the soft launch AJ+ is debuting some of its programming on YouTube, but the network is apparently also looking to launch a dedicated mobile app, according to its YouTube page and press release.
Al Jazeera executives told me last year that AJ+ represents the most significant investment into digital to date, and the online network started to hire dozens of staffers earlier this year.