MIPCOM: Al Jazeera to Launch Online Global News Net

Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images

The Doha-based news network will focus on English service first.

CANNES – Qatar-based news operation Al Jazeera will go live online with a 24-hour news, current affairs and human interest channel, called Al Jazeera Plus, in early 2014.

Al Jazeera network's manager of new media, Moeed Ahmad, told The Hollywood Reporter that the aim of the new service is to provide its global audience with "clarity through context."

To help achieve that aim the company will set up its own dedicated offices in Johannesburg, Beijing, New Delhi and elsewhere to manage its operations.

"Video online is different," Ahmad said, indicating that he thought "news verticals" on portals such as YouTube were still limited and not as developed as, say, those for entertainment. "We want to make content native to the audiences and cultures we serve," he explained.

To begin, the online news service will be in English and the main office will be in San Francisco; an Arabic-language service will start up shortly thereafter. Hiring of staffers is already underway.

On a panel early Wednesday at Mipcom titled "Programming and Engaging in the Digital Age," the Doha-based exec talked about Al Jazeera's content during the Arab Spring and its initiatives regarding citizen journalism.

He and other panelists -- including CNN's Peter Bale, Buzzfeed's Jon Steinberg and Facebook's Andrew Mitchell -- agreed that new digital platforms have made it easier to track what different sets of viewers are responding to and what they are sharing. Sometimes, longform investigative pieces are more sought after than shortform breaking news, they generally agreed.

"We're trying to tell stories that resonate with people. On the new online service that will mean mostly shortform video but occasionally also longer analytical pieces," Ahmad told THR.

The service is currently in Beta phase; no financial details were forthcoming.

Al Jazeera, which recently launched an English-language service on cable/satellite in the U.S. is backed by the Qatari government.