Al Jazeera English has given its iPad app an overhaul, including a major social enhancement to its central feature of free access to the channel’s TV feed.
While most channels only offer a companion app, requiring some form of subscription to the main TV output, users of Al Jazeera’s app have always been able to access the channel’s television feed for free. The network says that today’s “Live Dashboard” update takes this viewing experience to the next stage by building a “social second screen” alongside the in-app TV output.
Users will be able to view the channel’s official Twitter feeds, the user’s own personal Twitter feeds, and hashtags – all while watching news and programmes. The app allows users to share content with friends, family, and followers through Twitter, Facebook and email.
“We want to encourage ever more interaction with our content, and this development enables that interactivity to take place. This feature will especially come into its own during major breaking events,” said Moeed Ahmad, Head of New Media at Al Jazeera.
“We held workshops with viewers before building the apps. Twitter traffic went up exponentially during major events such as the Arab Spring and the Japanese earthquake where events were changing by the minute. Viewers were glued to TV coverage and social media. This app makes checking both so much easier,” continued Ahmad.
The app’s integration with Al Jazeera’s news systems is such that occasionally, stories will appear there before they do on air. Video on the app will be positioned in a ‘fluid grid’ – meaning that video will be in different sizes and shift in position throughout the day according to their prominence in the news agenda.
“We’re especially pleased with the app’s user interface. Some news apps concentrate more on text, others on video. We think we’ve got the balance right,” said Will Thorne, Head of Online for Al Jazeera English.
“This new app takes advantage of the tendency to consume longer form content on the iPad in a more lean-back experience. This includes reading full-length feature articles or watching full-length programmes in one sitting.”
Al Jazeera also recently launched an Android tablet app, so already has apps available across both major tablet platforms. Today’s app is in addition to the channel’s monthly digital magazine on the iPad which was recently nominated for a Webby People’s Choice award.
The iPad app is available for free and without subscription fees from the iTunes App Store.