Trusted in the Middle East as an unbiased and uncensored source of international news, those living and traveling throughout the area rely on Al Jazeera as a voice of reason. As a result, it is probably the most watched news network in the region and bases a large portion of their success on having access to social media.
Today, in an initiative to garner greater audience reach and confidence in their objective reporting, Al Jazeera's news media team has added a Twitter Dashboard to their Web site to illustrate and track Twitter activity in the volatile countries of Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain.
The dashboard records the daily tally of the number of tweets as well as the average tweets per minute for each country. The graph tracks tweet activity over time and becomes a visual representation of the "hashtag distribution for each country getting the most attention in the Twittersphere."
Like CNN during the first Gulf War, a number of reports are describing Al Jazeera's media coverage of the protests and revolutions in the Middle East as its "CNN Moment." For those that remember, CNN became a 'household word' for its 'war coverage' back in the 90s, and it appears that current events may be catapulting Al Jazeera to a similar status.
A Mashable report however indicates that Al Jazeera might be a little late to the game. Other news outlets such as lamjan25.com and real-time visualizer HyperCities Egypt have introduced interactive maps of real-time Twitter activity for some time already.
In tandem with the dashboard, Al Jazeera also plans to launch an English-language talk show that will take its cues from viewers' posts on Facebook and Twitter. User-generated content will provide the show with breaking news where the producers can select the most newsworthy comments to report on, in 15-minute episodes. One of the show’s producers told Wired News that Al Jazeera was aiming for a younger, more technologically connected audience versus most other news talk shows - and social networks can target that demographic.
While the show will not premiere for a couple of months, the news network has produced similar video reports - like this one, that documents how a group of young Gazan students continue to protest against Israeli occupation.
Social Media has accomplished a lot over the course of the last five years, but never before have news outlets been so open to crowdsourcing the news emanating from street protests like what we have witnessed during the last two years.
For more on Middle East's reliance on social media, please check out my previous posts dating back to the Iranian Election protests in May, 2009, up through the Egyptian overthrow of Hosmi Mubarak and Gaddafi's current melt-down in Libya this past month.