A novel degree of access to the Al Jazeera news organization over a five year period makes for unrivalled scholarship on the company
Provides a definitive account of Al Jazeera's globalization to the US through its English, America and AJ+ channels, from 2006 to 2016
Discusses in-depth the transformation of Al Jazeera in the US around it's leading coverage of the Arab spring in 2011
Re-directs attention to the localized geographies of new media production, emphasizing the overlooked importance of place in the networked age.
In 2006, the Al Jazeera Media Network sought to penetrate the United States media sphere, the world's most influential national market for English language news. These unyielding ambitions surprised those who knew the network as the Arab media service President Bush lambasted as "hateful propaganda" in his 2004 State of the Union address. The world watched skeptically yet curiously as Al Jazeera labored to establish a presence in the famously insular American market.
The network's decade-long struggle included both fleeting successes, like the sudden surge of popular interest during the Arab spring, as well as momentous failures. The April 2016 closure of its $2 billion Al Jazeera America channel was just one of a series of setbacks. An Unlikely Audience investigates the inner workings of a complex news organization fighting to overcome deep obstacles, foster strategic alliances and build its identity in a country notoriously disinterested in international news.
William Youmans argues counter-intuitively that making sense of Al Jazeera's tortured push into the United States as a national news market, actually requires a local lens. He reveals the network's appeal to American audiences by presenting its three independent US-facing subsidiaries in their primary locales of production: Al Jazeera English (AJE) in Washington, DC, Al Jazeera America (AJAM) in New York, and AJ+ in San Francisco. These cities are centers of vital industries-media-politics, commercial TV news and technology, respectively. As Youmans shows, the success of the outlets hinged on the locations in which they operated because Al Jazeera assimilated aspects of their core industries. An Unlikely Audience proves that place is critical to the formation and evolution of multi-national media organizations, despite the rise of communication technologies that many believe make location less relevant.
Mining data from over 50 interviews since 2010, internal documents, and original surveys, the book offers a brisk and authoritative account of the world's most recognizable media-brand and its decade-long ingress into the US - crucial background for Al Jazeera's continued expansion in the United States.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Obstacles to Al Jazeera in America
Chapter 2: From Media Capitals to Ports of Entry
Chapter 3: In the Beltway Before the Spring: The Rise of Al Jazeera English, Except in America
Chapter 4: Al Jazeera English's 'Moment' in the Media-Politics Capital, Washington, DC.
Chapter 5: Al Jazeera America: The Defunct New York City Broadcast Channel
Chapter 6: AJ+: Al Jazeera's Digital Start-up in San Francisco
Advance Praise for An Unlikely Audience
“An Unlikely Audience makes a major contribution to global media studies. With its meticulous account of the rise and decline of Al Jazeera America, it focuses attention upon the centrality of an understanding of materiality, place and culture to transnational broadcasting, and the risks associated with overly focusing upon global technologies or cosmopolitan audiences.”
—Terry Flew, Professor of Media and Communication, Queensland University of Technology
“Al Jazeera has emerged in the past decade as an important player in the global news sphere. Yet despite its international profile, the network has not succeeded in the resolutely ethnocentric US television news arena. In this richly detailed and convincingly argued book, William Youmans provides the reasons for this failure. A commendable contribution to the literature on international journalism.”
—Daya Thussu, Professor of International Communication, University of Westminster, London
Google Books Excerpts
My first book, An Unlikely Audience: Al Jazeera's Struggle in America, was published in 2017 by Oxford University Press.