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 get highly produced, accurate and engaging videos of around 7-10 minutes out 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.
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 plight of vulnerable peoples during the pandemic when 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 what they need to form their own views.
The numbers tell our story.
In our first year - 2020 - we took home nine international awards, more than half of them gold.
39m+ views on Facebook
61k+ new subscribers on YouTube
10m+ views on YouTube
137k+ engagements 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%.
The average watch time on Al Jazeera’s YouTube channel averaged out at 4 minutes and 43 seconds across all episodes in 2020. That’s around two thirds of a video. And almost a quarter of those watching stayed to the end.
On Twitter it’s the same story - strong engagement that’s made us proud.
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.