The Stream, Al-Jazeera's daily, topical TV show, centred around a social media community, has relaunched its app to give viewers of the American version a fuller, "second screen" experience.
The updates allow users to interact more directly with the live show by using a range of "widgets" and promote community between viewers on social media.
"We're doing some of the curation for you, we're prompting you, we're quizzing you, we allow you to submit UGC [user-generated content] and it's all in one place," Rami Khater, executive digital producer for The Stream, told Journalism.co.uk.
Khater sees the app as a "natural progression" of thinking behind The Stream. Viewers of Al Jazeera America's edition of the programme, can see emerging stories and tweet or submit multimedia to the show when it is off air, but on air is where "the real magic happens", said Khater.
Image provided by Al Jazeera America
Users of the app can sync their device with the programme to access exclusive content and engage with the discussion: tweeting hosts, guests or producers on the show, as well as each other, taking polls and quizzes around the topics being discussed, seeing quotes and facts, and submitting pictures or video.
"It's called guided social," said Khater, explaining how, for some, it can be hard to enter a social media conversation unless a user is a "Twitter expert". Producers at The Stream hope to guide the conversation and help viewers become more actively involved in the discussions during the show.
.@AJAMStream asks: Can national food waste be reduced significantly by shifting individual habits?— Rami (@Ramisms) October 23, 2013
"Last night [Wednesday] was a fantastic example," he said. "We did a show on food waste. There was something like a fact or a question: 'did you know the US wastes this much food?' I hit the 'share this fact' button which brings up a pre-populated tweet, I sent it out and I got three replies myself."
On other occasions, Khater said, producers can highlight a submitted tweet through the app and other users can retweet or reply directly to that person.
Khater expects "50 per cent" of the app to change over the next "three to six" months as Al-Jazeera explore user preferences and habits in what they see as a very new field.
A "gamification" element will be introduced in the near future to help build a tighter and more responsive community among regular viewers, said Khater. As an example, he said the quiz widget may pose five questions to the user, giving them three seconds to answer each.
"If they get it done without leaving the app and searching on Google then they will be flagged to the producers and it'll give them points," he said. "They could be asked to come into the show live via a Google hangout. Or they might be flagged as a person to keep on a list of Stream contributors so, if we're doing open editorial, we will query that group first."
Producers may tell the community of the three main issues or topics being explored for the show, Khater said, but that might only be aimed at people who "have a certain amount of points" or those who have been "flagged by producers as having submitted extremely high-quality content".
"If you've pitched to two or three shows then yeah, you're probably the person we want to get your opinion on stories we're covering throughout the day," he said.
The app is only available in America for iOS users, although an Android version is expected soon. At present, there are no plans to introduce the app to the wider international community,
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