An Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Look At AJ+, Al Jazeera’s Upcoming Online News Network

Source:  Janko Roettgers / GigaOm

Al Jazeera first announced its plans to launch an internet news network at an industry conference in October, and the Qatar-based news organization is set to officially unveil the AJ+ brand with a placeholder website in the next few weeks. But in San Francisco, the team of AJ+ is already busy working on producing pilots to meet its goal of a soft launch early next year. AJ+ executives invited me to take an exclusive behind-the-scenes look this week, and while they didn’t share too many details about the shows and news formats that they’re working on, they weren’t shy about telling me what they don’t want to do: television.

“You don’t want to inherit the legacy of the TV,” said Al Jazeera Media Network’s Executive Director of Strategy, Development and Technology Yaser Bishr. He argued that previously, news networks simply tried to repurpose TV content online, or positioned their online presences as a kind of supplemental offering; something where viewers go if they want to learn more about what they’ve seen on TV. With AJ+, there is no TV.

The online network is completely separate from Al Jazeera America, the recently-launched cable channel, or other Al Jazeera TV networks, he said. AJ+ may use Al Jazeera’s resources, including its 82 bureaus around the world for its reporting, but the goal is to produce different content that speaks to a different audience.

That’s why the network chose AJ+ as its name, as opposed to just calling it Al Jazeera online, and that’s also why it’s launch team in San Francisco, away from both the corporate headquarters in Qatar’s capital Doha and Al Jazeera America’s headquarters in New York. Bishr called the level of independence a “shell of protection” that’s supposed to allow AJ+ to do things differently.

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