As television continues to adapt to the Web, expect to see new forms of content emerge that are a hybrid of traditional TV and the latest Web technologies. Last week, television news network Al Jazeera launched a new TV show and website. Called The Stream, it's an indication of where mainstream TV news is heading.
The show uses social media curation service Storify - which opened up to the public today - to gather content and interact with the community. The Stream is unique in its use of tools like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to both source the news and interact with its audience. Let's look at today's episode, along with related content on The Stream website, to see how this new form of social media based television is shaping up.
The lead story of today's episode was the alleged use of gamification (the use of game play mechanics in web apps) by Al Qaeda. The guest was Jane McGonigal, who has developed a reputation for being an expert in this now popular trend.
The TV Show
The show, hosted by Derrick Ashong and Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, will debut on television on May 2. It's already up and running on the Web using UStream, live-streaming every Monday-Thursday at 1930 GMT (3:30 PM EST).
The Stream is a visually appealing 30-minute delve into the role that technology is playing in current affairs. There is a particular focus on Middle Eastern news, which is to be expected given Al Jazeera's background. However today there was also a story about a blogging platform for prisoners in the United States, so it's not exclusively about the Middle East.
It's fair to say that The Stream is left-leaning and makes no effort to hide that. Again, that's no surprise given its focus on - and use of - social media. After all, there's no better demonstration of social media giving 'a voice to the people' than what has happened in the Middle East and North Africa over the past year.
What impressed me the most was how The Stream eats its own dogfood (to use a familiar tech term). It uses social media technology to explore how that same technology is being used in the real world. The Stream actively uses content from its audience - mostly via Twitter - and encourages viewers to interact with the show, live while it's being broadcast and also before and after on the website. "This is all about community and we really want and need you to be a part of it," one of the presenters said at the opening of today's show.
During the show, the presenters and panelists discussed the lead topic (in this case, gamification) as they would on any other TV current affairs show. But there were a number of useful social media touches, which augmented the show nicely. Some examples: the presenters used YouTube videos to illustrate things, they specifically invited viewers to tweet feedback to @AJStream, and they called out specific tweets from the real-time stream and included them as part of the discussion.
There are typically 3-4 stories per day, so the site isn't prolific by professional blogging standards. In support of the show, today featured posts on Al Qaeda gamification and the US prisoner blogging platform.
An invitation to "feed the stream" is prominently displayed in the sidebar, along with a stream of recent content submissions. The stories are well curated and a great source of information - although the Al Qaeda story today didn't actually have much input from the community. However it's likely that the community will be much more active once the show debuts on TV next week.
Overall, The Stream is innovative and well presented - both on the show and in its supporting website. It's potentially a great use case of Storify's curation tool, although we'll need to wait until the show is live on TV before we see the true impact of that.
Have you watched The Stream yet? Let us know your thoughts about it in the comments.