AJ+, Al Jazeera's distributed news arm, became an inspiration to news organisations looking to produce social video formats after its success with short, breaking-news Facebook video, but is now upping its focus on longform videos to engage audiences through immersive, guerilla-style journalism.
Dena Takruri, a senior presenter at AJ+, who presents Direct From, a YouTube series that covers hot-button issues in the news directly from the field, explained that social audiences are often hungry to dig deeper into stories than a short video can achieve in 45 second or one minute.
"I imagine the Facebook audience is a little bit over inundated with them," she said.
"From my own experience I have seen that people want to know more – it is exciting for them to see all these themes and topics discussed in the newsroom executed with real people in the field."
Direct From's latest three-part story launched last week, and takes a deeper look at issues surrounding the US-Mexico border, from the fear of arrest that undocumented immigrants in Arizona face, to what life is like for those recently deported from America.
At approximately six minutes an episode, the videos are designed to be short enough to engage busy audiences the entire way through, but long enough to dig deep into the story.
"It's me in the field, amplifying the voice of the voiceless – giving people that are often talked about a chance to represent themselves," she said, explaining that with each issue, she is taken on a journey as the story develops.
"A lot of it just unfolds on the spot. I'm just not afraid to ask bold questions that are possibly deemed taboo, because I know who my audience is and I know that they are wondering these things."
The team of three at Direct From, which have helped build up the 267,062 subscribers on the AJ+ YouTube channel, keep tapped into the social conversations around topics in the news, and aim to represent their audience by covering the stories and angles that they want to know about.
"It is a mix of anticipating what will be a bigger conversation in the news or what is already trending, but also looking at what are the under-reported stories that we want to go deeper into," she said.
With every deployment that they go to, the team will do a live broadcast from the field, whether that be on Facebook Live or Periscope.
"I will take questions from the audience, and take the story to their living rooms – access that our audience would normally never have," she said, noting that this extra content outside of the YouTube series also helps the team to tease future series before they have been released.
Takruri also takes a multiplatform approach to reporting while filming the series, posting Instagram and Snapchat stories from her personal account, along with Twitter updates and Facebook posts.
"Because we are a digital channel, we are constantly thinking of all these different platforms and how to engage our audience on all of them," she said.
"There is an appetite out there for longer-form content, including among millennials, who many people believe don't have attention spans, that we have seen have an interest in this form of storytelling."
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