Taahir Hoorzook, Head of New Platform Development at Al Jazeera English, on the impact of Smart TV in the MENA region, the role that social media has on news reporting, and how broadcasters and TV operators can capitalise on these trends.
What new platform initiatives have you have been involved in recently?
The most active new platform space we are engaged with at the moment is connected/Smart TV. This platform brings video content back to its traditional home of the television. Other spaces that we have been playing with are the companion screen to the big screen.
What impact has the Arab Spring had on Al Jazeera’s news reporting in the region?
The Arab Spring has completed reversed the information flow. Traditionally, journalists would break the news and would be the source of the story, but now our audiences are the source; they break the news faster than any news organisation can.
This has led us to reassess the way our news rooms operate. We need to be flexible enough to accept the audience as a source of news, but editorially strong enough to ensure the accuracy, impartiality and credibility of the story is maintained.
How is social media feeding into this?
Social media is a significant factor in this regard, in both the gathering of information and in disseminating it.
During and post-Arab Spring, our newsrooms constantly monitor all the social networks: we know now who are the main sources of information in various places and have been able to determine how trustworthy they are.
We chose to use social media aggressively in reaching our audiences, and at present have one of the most active social media spaces amongst the global media. Amongst the Arab media we have have the largest share of social media interaction in respect of news.
How can broadcasters and TV operators make best use of these trends?
Firstly by embracing it: from our experience, the brand value that is generated from being involved in the social space can’t be purchased in any other media.
Secondly, specific social media resources need to be allocated to this activity – it can’t be seen as an add-on or as a nice to have. Social media is now core to any content business.