Catering for Young Arabs in the Digital Era
Over the course of three months I’ve looked at various digital native media companies, comparing their digital presence, content, style and strategy. Some of the most interesting to me were ‘Vox’, ‘Vice’ and ‘Buzzfeed’.
‘Vox’ in its belief in the long form storytelling videos with a new style and perspective. ‘Vice’ by tapping into the issues of the youth in the countries it operates in. And finally, Buzzfeed, with its decision to alter its strategy and adopt a retail angle through introducing cooking hardware, all are adapting to changing times and the demands of the digital era.
Has any media organization in the Arab world been able to understand these changes and address them?
The only one I could think of is AJ+, when it was initially launched in 2014, we did not directly know it was affiliated with al Jazeera network, it seemed new, presented its ideas in a unique style, addressed what the youth of the region and the world were looking for. Little did we know that there is huge media organization and a complete agenda behind it.
Aj+ introduces itself as a fresh experience that is here to inform and engage with the ultimate aim of empowering the youth
“AJ+ is a fresh experience. It’s here to inform and engage you around issues that matter. It’s a community, for you, a generation connected to the real world”
Upon further research, we find out that it is an online news and current events channel run by Al Jazeera Media Network. Wikipedia
Looking at the VRIO model of AJ+:
Is it valuable: It takes its value for the large number of followers in the region and beyond.
Is it rare? In the Arab world, it is.
Is it hard to imitate? Not really, but so far no one has tried.
Is there an organization around it? It is supported by Al Jazeera Network and funded by the Qatari government.
Within the above parameters it does have a long term competitive advantage.
Isn’t there a single other pan Arab media organization that is capable of finding its niche and having what it takes to create a digital media outlet that can address what the youth want to hear and see; not what a particular agenda wants them to hear and see.
Considering the seven elements of success described in Lucy Kung’s book “Innovators in Digital News”
· we should know the audience we are serving and the purpose of which we are serving them for.
· We must have a defined strategy that will bring forward and accentuate the decision-making process and make sure the focus is there.
· And then there is the unique and strong leadership that we need to work on the vision of our organization, being managers and excellent communicators.
· Taking digital for the opportunity it is and making the best out of it.
· Understanding that technology and journalism could easily complete each other
· Working within a framework of independence and freedom from external control.
· And most importantly, is this the right time or is it already too late?
Whether we agree with al Jazeera’s agenda or not, it should not remain the only one embracing the digital age and providing our children with content, we need to create while adhering to the elements of strategy, leadership, innovation, especially in a market where 60% of the population is below 29 and young cohorts will dominate for the next 3 decades.
We need to use the technology with a focus on what the digital world brings to us, embracing our children and creating alternatives for them to thrive, think, innovate and smoothly transition into the future.