Al Jazeera English is launching a new show in May called “The Stream” based around input from various social media — instead of a traditional news program format, The Stream will rely on tweets, Facebook activity, and YouTube videos from people watching and Internet in general. Producers will still control what’s covered on the show, but the idea is to pull the content from social networking. In light of the recent popular uprisings across the Middle East and their much-hyped relationship to social media, the idea seems pretty shrewd at first glance.
This could risk being like the current iteration of CNN, which, as Jon Stewart pointed out, has become basically a lawless AOL chatroom. Or it could be cool. The teaser is certainly flashy:
Interestingly enough, the idea for The Stream was in the works even before the popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. But with that context added on, the timing is serendipitous. And as Wired points out, Al Jazeera’s web traffic has gone up 2500% recently.
However — watchability? The show will be 30 minutes long, and anchors will read tweets, interview guests via Skype, show YouTube videos, etc. It actually sounds kind of exhausting. The idea, obviously, is to appeal to a “younger, more plugged-in audience.” But I’m not so sure that younger and more plugged-in audiences really want a news program composed of tweets and Gchats or whatever. It smells of the kind of desperation that drove CNN execs to lows like “Choose the News” and “Reporter Roulette.” Injecting your TV programming with elements of the Internet will not make TV into the Internet. Which is too bad for TV.