Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Strategizing The Launch of Al Jezeera News In America

Today, the middle eastern news network Al Jezeera made its debut in America.

However, the network might be in for rough beginning in the States.  According to a report by Sam Theilman of Adweek, advertisers are keeping their distance from the network. One media buyer was quoted as saying that despite it being "a perfect fit," they were unable to convince their client to buy time on the network.  Even a talented roster of journalists and widespread distribution though DirecTV, Comcast, Dish, Verizon FiOS and AT&T’s U-Verse were not enough to seal the deal.

The name Al Jazeera is getting in the way.  

Each election day, we're reminded of the fact that society in America isn't stagnant; consider how the gay marriage is viewed within the America compared to even just a decade ago.  The market is there (and growing) and eventually the perceived risk from advertisers will decline.

That doesn't mean that Al Jazeera America should wait for that day.  I also believe it's in the network's best interest to change its name, which, in case you're wondering, simply translates to "The Peninsula." 

According to Al Jazeera America's interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi, 90 percent of American viewers report to enjoying it; however, 75 percent of people who have never seen it already have a negative opinion of the channel.   

A major reason is that Al Jazeera was negatively branded in America.  For many Americans, there first association with Al Jazeera is the chilling terrorist videos it was known for releasing after the September 11th terrorist attacks.  The parent network became branded this way in America twelve years ago. 

Unfortunately, that's a marketing problem that cannot be fixed with positive "dialogue [about] mission, vision and journalistic identity.” 

The good news is that it's not a real tough one to solve.

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