Al Jazeera America C.E.O. previews ‘year two’ in staff memo

al-jazeera-america-ceo-previews-year-two-staff-memo
Ehab Al Shihabi at Al Jazeera's newsroom. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
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Alex Weprin

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In a memo sent to Al Jazeera America staff Wednesday afternoon, C.E.O. Ehab Al Shihabi congratulated staff on the upcoming one year anniversary of the channel's launch, and previewed what is in the pipeline for year two, with a heavy emphasis on improving the channel's business operations.

"In year two, we are going to continue to grow our distribution, continue our outreach efforts, extend our brand, introduce TV Everywhere, and develop our advertising business," Al Shihabi wrote. "Most importantly we will continue to deliver high-quality journalism online and on the screen."

In other words, AJAM will be looking to continue its branding and awareness campaigns, while extending its reach via traditional (cable distribution) and less traditional (TV everywhere) means. The ubiquity of the cable news competition on digital is a challenge for AJAM, which is somewhat restricted in what video it can post online.

Al Shihabi also defined the channel, saying it was obligated to provide "accurate, in-depth, unbiased news stories," adding that "We’re proud to be a trendsetter and trailblazer delivering a new product that looks beyond parochial borders, impacts an ethnically diverse population and helps re-balance the global media."

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He also reassured staff there that despite the channel's low ratings, executives remained bullish, and focused on the "long term."

"I know there has been a lot of talk about ratings," Al Shihabi wrote. "Let’s put things in perspective. Other cable news networks have been on television for decades -- we’re a year old. We’re still growing our brand awareness as well as our distribution, which is a little more than half of all U.S. cable homes."

You can read Al Shihabi's full note to staff, below.

From: Ehab Alshihabi

Sent: Wednesday, August 06, 2014 3:57 PM

To: AJAM-All; AJAM-BUREAUS-All Cc: Kate OBrian; Mostefa Souag; Omar Jalal

Subject: Congratulations AJAM on Our One-Year Anniversary

Dear Colleagues,

With many of us away this month, I wanted to stop and take a moment now to reflect upon an important milestone.

Almost one year ago we launched Aljazeera America.

We launched AJAM to bring the uncompromising journalistic ideals of the Aljazeera Media Network to the U.S. market, and to increase our capacity for global newsgathering. We saw a need in the U.S. for unbiased, fact-based, in-depth coverage of domestic and international news, without the punditry, opinion and “infotainment” seen elsewhere. We wanted to extend our brand’s core value: The promise of courageous and provocative coverage of under-reported stories with a focus on the human component. Expanding into the U.S. market was a natural next step for Aljazeera’s global brand.

A year later, I am proud to say that we have delivered on that promise.

We have accomplished a lot. In less than one year we increased our household penetration from 40 million to 60 million, according to the latest Nielsen figures. Aljazeera America is now available on DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Dish, AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and Bright House Networks among other distributors.

We built a foundation for long-term future growth, working synergistically with all parts of the Aljazeera Media Network. Today, we use the resources of Aljazeera’s 85 U.S. and international bureaus and report important investigative pieces from our colleagues around the world, who work relentlessly to find and cover stories that need to be told. And I am proud to say that both our internal culture and our reporting reflect the diversity of today’s world.

Our journalism is a reflection of our core values. Aljazeera America offers a unique news product: more reporters on the ground in more places and a focus on in-depth journalism. We produce award-winning, thought-provoking and conversation-starting shows, news coverage and documentaries, produce a vibrant website and a mobile app that hundreds of thousands have downloaded.

I am proud to say we have attracted a loyal core audience that appreciates the kind of global context Aljazeera America provides. Since January 2014, we’ve seen three straight quarters of household and audience growth – with the month of July our strongest month for total digital traffic to date. Brand awareness has grown dramatically, and viewers are coming to us for coverage of important stories; during the first two weeks of July, more than three million unique viewers tuned in. During that time, we were not only covering the Israel/Gaza war and the shooting down of the Malaysian plane, but our evening primetime show “America Tonight” was completing its year-long mission of broadcasting news stories from all 50 states. Our outreach to the business community and diversity groups, through targeted meetings and multiple advertising campaigns, is also helping us bring in new viewers.

Now, after one year, we must continue our work.

Every day, we must deliver on our brand promise – providing accurate, in-depth, unbiased news stories that aren’t covered elsewhere, and that respect the diversity of today’s world. Aljazeera is known internationally for captivating content that reveals the human impact of today’s top news events, and we will evolve in order to meet those expectations and grow our audience.

I know there has been a lot of talk about ratings. Let’s put things in perspective. Other cable news networks have been on television for decades -- we’re a year old. We’re still growing our brand awareness as well as our distribution, which is a little more than half of all U.S. cable homes.

But ratings only tell part of the story about Aljazeera America. Aljazeera America is a unique media company in our mission, values and the kind of impact we deliver. We’re proud to be a trendsetter and trailblazer delivering a new product that looks beyond parochial borders, impacts an ethnically diverse population and helps re-balance the global media. We’re also proud of our many talented and committed journalists, whose deep expertise and reporting experience helped us win multiple industry awards, including two 2013 Peabody Awards.

We believe that for Aljazeera America, the best is yet to come. In year two, we are going to continue to grow our distribution, continue our outreach efforts, extend our brand, introduce TV Everywhere, and develop our advertising business. Most importantly we will continue to deliver high-quality journalism online and on the screen. Than you all for your hard work in the last year and I look forward to many great things in the year to come.

Ehab Al Shihabi

Aljazeera America