radio on air red
Credit: by curtis.kennington on Flickr. Some rights reserved

A new audio streaming service from Al Jazeera aims to make it easier for people in the Middle East, Africa and South-East Asia to access news on their mobile devices, despite data constraints and slow internet connectivity in those regions.

The web app, launched today, is a live audio feed of Al Jazeera's TV output and is currently available in English and Arabic.

Taahir Hoorzook, manager of digital distribution at Al Jazeera, told the organisation's broadcast content is "highly rated" on TV networks in Africa, for example, but digital news consumption is still low by comparison.

"One of the things we've identified as the cause of that is slow internet connectivity, which is a problem for a video service, so we are trying to deliver the lightest possible version of our content to these markets," he said.

"Radio is a very big way in which people are consuming media on their mobile devices in Africa, as well as in parts of Asia, like India and Pakistan, so we think mobile is going to be the biggest space for [the service]."

When users access the stream, they can listen to the programme that is being aired at the time, but they can also browse through a list of series and documentaries that will become available in the coming weeks.

al jazeera web app
Screenshot of Al Jazeera's live audio streaming service on mobile

Hoorzook said this is a "mirror" of the television schedule, which could encourage people to come back to programmes they want to listen to throughout the day.

"For documentaries and programmes that are very visually strong, it may be difficult to get the full message across.

"But if we get positive feedback on the news elements of the discussion programmes, which are not necessarily very visual, we will definitely focus on getting audio-specific content up and running."

The new initiative is targeting listeners on a variety of mobile devices, from phones with basic features to Apple and Android smartphones, as well as people who spend a considerable amount of time commuting by car or public transport.

"As a loyal Al Jazeera listener or viewer, you may want to watch a particular programme at that time, but you don't have access to television," Hoorzook said.

"So now, people will be able to just pop their phone in their pockets and listen to it."

He said Al Jazeera will be promoting the new service across the website, apps, social media and TV, to encourage people to listen to discussion programmes, but also to breaking news bulletins.

"We want to make it as simple as possible for people to access Al Jazeera news wherever they are, in the most affordable way possible.

"And I think that if we can deliver a very cheap internet stream that is reliable and consistent, we will see a considerable pick up on mobile devices in those regions," said Hoorzook.

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