Two months after Al Jazeera America (AJAM) shuttered its linear cable channel, the media company confirmed the closure of the brand’s digital presence.
“We tried in our brief tenure to uphold the fine tradition of an American journalism that comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. Tradition long predates AJAM and will hopefully long outlive it,” wrote Tony Karon, AJAM’s senior executive producer, digital, in a final blog post dated Feb. 26, headlining the now-inactive site.
AJAM CEO Al Anstey made public in January the company’s intentions to shut down AJAM’s linear and digital operations by April 30 of this year. The decision was forced by “the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplace,” Anstey told employees at the time via a company-wide email.
The announcement of AJAM’s closure coincides with a move by the global parent company, Al Jazeera Media Network, to commit to an expansion of its worldwide digital operations into the U.S. market, namely the millennial-targeted AJ+ property.
“By expanding its digital content and distribution services to now include the U.S., the network will be better positioned to innovate and compete in an overwhelmingly digital world to serve today’s 24-hour digitally focused audience,” said reps for the network in a statement.
AJAM emerged onto the American TV and online landscape in 2012 following a $500-million deal between Qatar-based Al Jazeera parent co and Al Gore’s Current TV. In the years since, the brand won several journalism awards, including a Peabody, Emmy and a Shorty for the best Twitter newsfeed.
Despite that success, the channel struggled to find an audience, including an online one. Daily traffic metrics to the AJAM website were not made available, but the brand’s YouTube channel drew a mere 17,170 subscribers (695,000 views) since its launch in June 2013. On Facebook, the channel had more success, attracting more than 1.84 million “likes” to its stories and videos.
comparison, AJ+ has garnered 184,000 subscribers and 48 million video views since November 2013. It also has more than 3.5 million Facebook likes to its main English-language page (a second Spanish-language page has 442,000 likes). Video views to AJ+ on Facebook, meanwhile, have soared over the past year. In June, traffic to the social-networking site pushed AJ+ into the top ten video publishers, behind the likes of BuzzFeed and America’s Funniest Home Videos, but well ahead of the Huffington Post and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, according to social-data aggregators NewsWhip. NewsWhip also ranked AJ+ second, behind online publisher NowThis, as the best distributed channel of 2015, noting the brand’s ability to effectively target a young audience on their phones and social feeds.
“They focus on specific issues each month, bringing strong reporting to topics like immigration, mental health, and the US education system. It’s a great idea that gives a thread to the various AJ+ pages on different platforms,” according to the site.
Photo credit: William Widmer for Al Jazeera America