Both Al Jazeera and CBS News have launched broadcasts that use social media to drive the programming—but that’s about all they have in common.
CBS News introduced What’s Trending to harness social media as a running commentary on current web trends. In contrast, Al Jazeera English’s The Stream uses social media to disseminate international news.
At first glance, the two broadcasts appear copycats—they both feature glamorous young hosts and 1980s-style couches. But the programs offer markedly different content. To help viewers distinguish between the two, IJNet has created the following guide.
Launch Date/Program Time: May 17, live streams every Tuesday at 1 p.m. EDT.
Hosts: The host, Shira Lazar previously worked for the Partners Project, interviewing YouTube stars. The first episode also featured "social media correspondent," Melissa Jun Rowley, whose main role appears to be reading Tweets from her laptop.
Format: The program delivers a mishmash of pop-culture news and news commentary related to social media. Guests are invited to each show, both in-person and via video broadcast. Viewers are invited to Tweet and email comments, which are then selectively read by the social media correspondent on the show.
Content: The first episode covered everything from the use of Twitter in the Middle East to commentary on the Facebook game, Farmville. Based on the first episode, it appears the show hasn’t quite nailed down its beat yet. Case in point: one of the guests was Chelsea Kane, a "Dancing with the Stars" finalist, who was asked to comment on the revolutions in the Middle East based on her credentials that she...um, starred in Bratz and has 500,000 Twitter followers?
Set Design: The set is fairly professional looking; anchors and guests sit on beige couches that overlook the Hollywood hills. There is only one visible television screen and it's not too distracting. The abstract vases clumped together on the coffee table look salvaged from the depths of a prop room.
Sound/Video Quality: The first streamed broadcast had several stretches of fuzzy sound, but since it was the show's debut, hopefully it will improve in future episodes.
Viewer Comment: “This might be really cool if they can stay away from the celebrity garbage. Why are they covering [the movie] Bridesmaids?” writes viewer, Trey Gillian.
Launch Date/Program Time: May 2, live streams Monday through Thursday at 3:30 p.m. EDT
Hosts: The much-anticipated social media show is hosted by Derrick Ashong, describes himself as “a true Renaissance man.” He also works as a radio host on Oprah Radio and is in the band, Soulfège. Besides Ashong, the program features different guest hosts each show.
Format: A variety of multimedia tools are used throughout the show: web screenshots are displayed; interviews are done via Skype; a stream of user comments is projected in the back of the room (more for 2.0 ambiance than anything else -- they’re impossible to read) and there are several laptops and broadcast screens in the room. Sometimes the current of information flows, other times it’s tsunami.
Content: Viewers looking for a focus on the Middle East will need to look elsewhere— The Stream distinctly appeals to an international English-speaking audience. Recently covered topics include organ trafficking, political change in Burma and a Russian anti-corruption blogger.
Set Design: The set looks rescued from a MTV show in 1992. The neon-orange couches (aren't those Ikea Klippans?) and unreadable screens need work.
Sound/Video Quality: The program’s technical issues has improved quite a bit since launch, but some of the video displays (like the Skype interviews) still look rough.
Viewer Comment: “It's an innovative way of broadcasting. The hosts are young, energetic and tech savvy and it’s a nice, hip studio -- with orange couches,” Natasha Tynes, who caught a live broadcast of the show recently at the Newseum's Aljazeera Forum, told IJNet.