AJ+, the Al Jazeera's digital-only offshoot, launched in September 2014 a new kind of media outlet for people who don't watch traditional news networks on TV, has won the Shorty award for best overall Facebook presence. This category honours brands, organisations or institutions that use Facebook's native tools effectively. Unlike Best use of Facebook, this award is for a brand's year-round presence. Now in their eighth year, the Shorty Awards honour the best of the best on the Internet across all major social platforms.
In a big bet on distributed content, AJ+ became one of the biggest video publishers on Facebook by creating custom videos optimised for the emerging video platform. Through the creation of brief, informative, compelling stories that use the eye candy of motion with concisely written captions to efficiently and effectively inform an audience, AJ+ videos were watched more than 2.2 billion times in 2015 for a total of 134 million engagements and a total reach of 7.4 billion for 2015.
In a time when many video news publishers use Facebook to repurpose TV footage or push their followers to their websites, AJ+ pursues a strategy that focuses on Facebook as its own product and makes custom content with an eye for what works on the platform.
AJ+ output, which is largely focused on social issues, is created with mobile Facebook newsfeed viewing in mind — which is to say short, shareable, and made so that it can be viewed with the sound off on a small screen. For its recent coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis, AJ+ created news updates, animated explainers, and even sent a deployment team that took advantage of the new Facebook Live feature in an unprecedented way. These broadcasts told the human stories of the events that played out at European borders and enabled conversations between refugees and live viewers from around the world. Viewers were able to actively learn about this crisis by asking questions on Facebook Live and having conversations with the refugees directly through AJ+ reporters on the ground.
Since its official launch in 2014, AJ+ has grown its audience from scratch to over 3.9 million fans on Facebook. The reception to AJ+ content has been so strong on Facebook that it has recently expanded to AJ+ Español and AJ+ Arabic, which are quickly growing engaged fan bases as well.