Interview with AJ+’s Jigar Mehta

Only two members of the audience raised their hands during Thursday’s session at the International Journalism Festival when Jigar Mehta, head of engagement at AJ+, posed the following question: “Who here considers themselves an AJ+ competitor?”

AJ+ is a brand new digital channel, launched in September 2014 as part of the larger Al Jazeera Innovation network. The core tenet on which the platform was built is the notion of engagement and that “the content we create lives in social places,” said Mehta.

With a clearly defined structure that comprises of editorial production (real time, context, documentary and satire), engagement (app, social, audience development, data) and platforms, AJ+ seized an opportunity to create content aimed at the typical US millennial.

With real time content, “people are led into an empowerment stage that in turn leads to them sharing the content,” Mehta noted. He went on to add that “we are always trying to bring people into the conversation space” by taking local stories and adding context to make them more relatable.

According to Mehta, the beauty with publishing on Facebook is that the space to interact with the reader is right below your post and “you’re basically telling the reader ‘we know where you are and we are going to have the conversation where you are.’”

At AJ+, the reasoning behind creating context pieces keeps in mind their evergreen quality and the aim to find ways of introducing them into the conversation. Satire is also a newly developed vertical that has proved successful so far, because it essentially is “information-based jokes that draw in the audience,” such as this video on the Greek economic crisis.

Mehta went on to offer a few crucial tips on the inner workings of social media platforms. According to him, YouTube is driven by subscribers, search and the power of embed, whereas Instagram has to be treated “like a space that people are not going to leave if you’ve showed them a snippet of a video and a link to go watch the whole thing.”

Watch the full interview with Mehta below.