Al Youm: Experimenting with Social Media in Broadcast TV

al-youm-screenshot

Al Youm (“Today” in Arabic) is Alhurra’s flagship program that broadcasts across the Middle East.  Executive Producer Fran Mires and Senior Producer Driss Sekkat shared insight into the success of creating and producing social media-rich daily programs for Arabic-speaking audiences.

Alhurra’s Al Youm English Promo Video

Al Youm is a three-hour news magazine show that has everything from hard news (such as Egyptian elections, crisis in Syria, or Afghanistan), to lifestyle news (cultural events), to entertainment news (such as pop culture, social media commentary, and trending videos).

About eight months ago, they decided to “dive into social media,” as Executive Producer Fran Mires put it.  The largest challenge for the staff was how to figure out a way to handle the social media workload on top of an already busy production day.  Mires asked Senior Producer Driss Sekkat to come up with a plan within two weeks.

Based upon that initial plan, additional months of development, training, and rehearsals ensued.  The staff was able to collectively come up with a feasible social media franchise to integrate social media into live TV broadcasts.  This social media franchise was named “B.link”.  “B.link” is a play on words for broadcasting and linking everyone together with fast paced social media content.  They currently have over 202,000 Facebook fans, over 3,400 Twitter followers, and thousands of video views on YouTube.

According to Sekkat, the “B.link” segment airs during the 3rd hour and is about 12 minutes in length—which includes everything from hard news, to technology, to social media conversations and trending video clips.  People are encouraged to respond to content and provide opinions using the #alyoum hashtag on Twitter.

Al Youm’s host uses “B.link” to scan through social media feedback in real-time.

Since the integration of “B.link,” audience engagement has increased on the Al Youm social media fan pages.  Mires expressed that she is extremely happy with the results and hopes that her network can expand “B.link’s” use in the future.

Mires offered some advice for future producers who want to use social media in broadcast TV:

  • Know that you must “re-work the work”; learn how to work on new things while working on daily tasks.
  • Help your staff become excited about the new project; teach them about the technology and explain that it is to help them connect to the masses.
  • Learn about and understand social media; it may be difficult to learn a new ‘language’, but it is a commitment that is well worth it.  “Know what a hashtag is, (it’s) not a hashbrown!,” Mires joked.

In addition to using the social media components to hear audience opinions, production staff and anchors can Tweet to connect with citizen journalists and bloggers on the ground to receive immediate updates.  Sekkat said that he and his production team do intensive fact checking over the span of months on each citizen journalist or blogger that they’re in touch with, but that they usually have the most updated verifiable and trustworthy content.

For more information, visit Al Youm on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube–

 

(Thank you to Fran Mires, Driss Sekkat, and Deirdre Kline for their contributions to this post.)

(The foregoing commentary does not constitute endorsement by the US Government, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, VOA, MBN, OCB, RFA, or RFE/RL of the information products or services discussed.)

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April Deibert

April Deibert

April Deibert is the Multimedia Blogger/Producer for the Office of Digital & Design Innovation. Follow her on Twitter: @BBGinnovate and @AprilDeibert.

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