Ever felt overwhelmed or confused by the stories making the news? Well based on what our audience is telling us, you're not alone.
It’s what prompted us to create the digital video explainer series Start Here with Al Jazeera just over a year ago. We wanted to give our audience easy-to-follow and responsive explainers to cut through the noise of today’s complicated, fast-moving news cycle. And to help us all make sense of what’s going on in the world.
Sandra Gathmann presents the show and leads our dedicated but small bunch of journalists, designers and picture editors. Together we work really hard to produce highly produced, accurate and engaging videos of around 7-10 minutes every week.
It’s no easy task given that every one of them is jam-packed with information.
Our strategy is simple.
For us it's about combining strong journalism and innovation in the digital space. We're talking about elegant graphics, beautiful picture editing and engaging interviews to support Sandra's storytelling. The show capitalizes on Al Jazeera’s position as a trusted news source to ensure accuracy and editorial balance.
As the host, Sandra has a knack for making things easy to understand. When things kicked off in places like Ethiopia, Chile, Lebanon, and Venezuela our show made complicated politics, simple. When an Iranian general was assassinated by the United States the Start Here team created a super-fast turnaround episode that went viral. With science and technology so often making the news, we picked apart things like 5G and gene editing. And when a pandemic hit, and the world locked down, we pivoted quickly to create a special Coronavirus series from Sandra's living room well before other TV hosts followed suit.
During the pandemic, we also took on subjects that other networks sometimes shied away from. Like the murder of thousands of women in the name of honour, mental health and the ways the pandemic was affecting the world's most vulnerable - even as so many others were concentrating on the developed world.
We know these explainers meet the needs of our sophisticated, digital audience – an audience that demands quality and appreciates speed - because they tell us. It's that quality feedback that has helped us deliver for our audience. It's also why you will often find even more content from the Start Here team across our social media platforms, things like Q&A’s, stories and mini-explainers.
The result is a series that’s different in its look and feel. The tone is casual and conversational. Our style is authentic and intimate. And our journalism is strong.
So that’s it.
No hype. No agenda. No gimmicks. Just quality production and journalism that gives people a place to start and the information they need to form their own views.
The numbers in 2020 - our first year - tell our story.
9 international awards | more than half of them gold
39m+ views on Facebook | 1.2 m+ engagement
10m+ views on YouTube | 61k+ new YouTube subscribers
137k+ engagement on Instagram (since March 2020)
59k+ likes and retweets on Twitter.
Engagement on Facebook soared past 1.2m likes, shares and comments. But importantly for us, a lot of people stuck around too. For a third of our shows, more than 30% watched the episode until the very end – a phenomenal completion rate for video explainers with an average duration of 7 and a half minutes. One episode hit 44%.
On Facebook our best performing episodes - in terms of views, engagement, sharability and completion rate - were:
1. The Soleimani assassination
Facebook 11m+ views | 408k+ likes, shares and comments
2. Nigerian oil and the disappearing money
Facebook 5.4m+ views | 243k+ likes, shares and comments
3. What’s going on in Kashmir
Facebook 2.6m+ views | 137k+ likes, shares and comments
Many of our top-performing episodes (The Soleimani Assassination, Anger in Lebanon, Protests in Kashmir, the Coronavirus series, Nigerian Oil, Middle East peace, the South China Sea dispute) were driven by strong audience demand.
That's because our audience means the world to us.