The unusual activity of the Turkish military on 15 July 2016 did not go un-noticed by social media users in the country, which put media outlet Al Jazeera on alert immediately to what turned out to be a coup d'état that would greatly alter the country in its aftermath.
The news desk reacted by sending a push notification to its app users and moved to alert both Twitter and Facebook followers that the event was developing and that the unfolding events could be monitored through the Al Jazeera website.
As a result of seeing the alert, other members of the news team came in to work in the knowledge that this was a significant moment for Turkey and one that the audience would need to know about.
Even though in Doha it was nearly midnight, the news team gathered and then split up into reporting through digital specialties such as video, social media, infographics, Facebook Live and other elements in order to cover the unfolding story live. Facts had to be checked and verified quickly as events were reported upon in real-time, while reporters worked to serve trustworthy information that was free of propaganda across every social platform while attempting to overcome the noise.
Not a single correction was issued despite the volume of information Al Jazeera produced during the first 16 hours, despite having devoted a large amount of digital resource to the Nice terrorism attack on the previous day, while scooping competitor broadcasters on the coup.
The coverage and the digital platforms involved
The homepage offered users following the story several options that evening, including traditional news coverage across the homepage from the correspondents on the ground. The page was updated almost 70 times during the first few hours, which included links, graphics and contextual video footage. Users were also able to live stream rolling TV coverage and follow a live blog as well as refer to context pieces that were being published as events unfolded.
Over 1 million people visited the homepage over the first day as a result.
Having previously debated the value of using Facebook Live within its coverage strategy, Al Jazeera chose to push its rolling TV coverage to the platform, which then allowed reporters on the ground the ability to reach the digital audience and connect them better to events on the ground.
Within the first few minutes, the stream had over 30,000 viewers and was the top trending topic on Facebook in Turkey. By the time it finished, over 1.4 million people had viewed the feed, garnering 39,000 comments and 15,000 shares.
The blog was updated by Al Jazeera journalists who aimed to sift through misinformation and correct it on a platform that audiences could trust. It was also a central point for informing the audience of other elements of reporting the story, including when the interview with the Turkish Prime Minister would take place on the channel.
Al Jazeera used the platform to deliver breaking information through the @ajenews account and insight through @ajeenglish, with each proving more successful in terms of engagement than any other news outlet, including Sky News, CNN and The New York Times.
YouTube Live, infographics, push notifications and social video
Other elements of digital coverage ran through various means in order to break news of developments to the Al Jazeera audience no matter their geography. Another element of the digital strategy was to marry the content and insights being produced with that of the TV channel, especially the work taking place live through Facebook and YouTube streaming. On-air interviews were also edited to run across social media platforms in order to make them shareable and run through the live blog, too.
The campaign itself alongside the work of Al Jazeera was recognized by The Drum’s Online Media Awards at the beginning of May at a ceremony in London. The media outlet picked up the major prizes on the night, such as the Grand Prix, the Chairman’s Award, Best Photographer for Showkat Shafi, Breaking News Story of the Year and Best Twitter Feed for Al Jazeera English.
Listen to Yasir Khan, global executive director (EVP) of digital media at Al Jazeera Media Network, and Gehad Kenawy, Social Media Strategist at Al Jazeera English accept their award for Breaking News Story of the Year.