• About Tom Dougherty

    Tom Dougherty CEO, Stealing Share

    Tom Dougherty is the President and CEO of Stealing Share, Inc., and has helped national and global brands such as Lexus, IKEA and Tide steal market share over his 25-year career.

    An often-quoted source on business and brands, he has been featured recently by the New York Times and CNN, discussing topics ranging from television to Apple to airlines.

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Why Al Jazeera America failed

The problems that led to the shutting down of Al Jazeera America go beyond the rational factors, such as falling oil prices (Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera, has been hit particularly hard).

Al Jazeera America
Al Jazeera America never could overcome the beliefs of the American public.

No, the main problem that faced Al Jazeera America was that it never defined what it was to an American audience that had been conditioned to think of Al Jazeera as the mouthpiece for radical Islam.

Having lived in the Middle East, I can assure you that Al Jazeera is a formidable and legitimate news agency. It is no more biased on that front than CNN.

But Al Jazeera America never tackled the belief system that runs through a great portion of television-watching America. Even when Peyton Manning was accused of taking HGH by the network, the claims were brushed aside because they came from Al Jazeera America.

Al Jazeera America could have overcome its hurdles.

Belief systems are powerful things. They are what drive our behavior. If you know the belief systems, or precepts, of your target audience, you can predict its behavior and even manipulate it. The precepts don’t even have to be true to be powerful. They just need to be believed.

In the case of Al Jazeera America, it simply never faced those beliefs. It just plopped itself in the lineups of some cable and satellite outlets and hoped it would catch fire.

The problem is that there are already too many news networks on the air, often ones that simply re-enforce what we already believe. FOX News is the most popular news network in the nation because it has aligned itself with a belief system (that the press is too liberal) of a large audience.

Al Jazeera America was just Al Jazeera, and all the meanings that came with that name. It was not an insurmountable hurdle. The network simply needed to align itself with a belief system that existed in the market (and was unclaimed) to become more important to the viewing public.

It never found it. So, Qatar had no choice but to close the network down with oil prices falling and cable companies either refusing to air Al Jazeera America (Comcast and DirecTV) or charging high fees.

A brand that meant something other than a belief that it was aligned with Islam would have saved the day.

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