Sep 5, 2011

Broadcasting Within the Google Plus Stream

Jan, Marcia, Cindy, Greg, Peter and Bobby may have been on to something when they appeared Hollywood Square style in multiple boxes in their ending show credits. At KOMU8, we call Google Plus Hangout “Brady Bunch Boxes”, except Marcia lives in Tunisia, Greg is a freelance artist in Serbia and Alice is a news anchor.
She had big hair, after all.
It’s a strange feeling to be anchoring a live broadcast in Columbia, MO and video chatting with someone in East Germany. Over the last couple months via Google Plus Hangouts, KOMU8-TV has used its sound bites and commercials to chat with local, national and international viewers in a group setting. From a laptop and webcam streaming on the KOMU8 news desk, I’ve watched a Jefferson City father make tacos in his kitchen, witnessed a California man do a flip off his diving board, got a tour of a New Zealand man’s bathroom, and had the pleasure of cyber-soaking up an evening streetscape in Paris. As I was talking with a man from Pakistan one night during a commercial about power outages in Lahore, it occurred to me that what’s going on behind the scenes on my laptop was indeed newsworthy. Could I put that on TV? My news director, Stacey Woelfel said yes.
Jesse Smith Hangout with Sarah Hill
“Part of the new transparency we’re seeing these days comes from news organizations pulling back the curtain on how they choose, report, and edit the news. We have always operated with the understanding that we don’t do anything “secret” here. We are open about our news decisions and the processes behind them. Now that technology literally lets people peek behind the scenes to see what happens when the TV cameras are elsewhere, I can’t think of a better way to expand that transparency.”
With the green light…or the green box as it’s known in G+ circles, our social media ninja Jen Reeves got to work inviting people to the Brady’s even if they don’t have internet access. “KOMU8 is partnering with area libraries to install webcams so anyone can join in on sharing content. The project is thanks to a grant from the Reynolds Journalism Institute,” said Reeves.
Robin Greenbaum joins Hangout
Inside Google Plus, a new face to face social networking site, is a news gathering goldmine that holds huge potential for us news miners. “Hangout” is a 10 person video chat room that is already transforming viewer interaction in mid-Missouri. I describe a Hangout as a free satellite truck attached to a built in crowd sourcing tool. After the Oslo bombings, KOMU8-TV, on a horse farm in the middle of Missouri, was able to gather a group of Norwegians online to personally share their experiences shortly after the attacks. Hangout is connecting broadcasters with viewers globally. It’s letting them see behind the scenes of a live newscast, warts and all. Essentially, Hangout not only allows us to communicate with viewers during breaking news, it enables us to have sources on video speed dial, enabling them to go “live from their living rooms. “ Beyond Skype, Hangout allows stations to gather viewers together to discuss important issues in a 10 person group setting.
Expect to see a lot of Hangout use during the political season. CNN is also sticking its toe in the water using Hangouts to discuss sports. KOMU8 has recorded group discussions on everything from international rage about the debt ceiling to local reaction to the latest Harry Potter movie.
Terry Heaton wrote a couple forward thinking books on how viewer interaction and the “Age of Participation” is reinventing local media. I was halfway through his second book when I stumbled upon this little gem.
“News IS a conversation, and the pros have two missions in the conversation. One, somebody has to start it. Two, we can advance it, but to think we are the only people capable of delivering “the news” is to assign ourselves to the tar pits before we even take a step. “
—Terry Heaton, Senior V.P. Media 2.0, , A.R.D.
“Reinventing Local Media-Ideas for Thriving in a Postmodern World Volume II”
Allowing viewers to have a voice in the news conversation is the ultimate experiment with viewer engagement, an experiment that has left the laboratory. On Sept 12th, KOMU became the first local television station in the world to co-anchor a live television newscast with viewers in a G+ Hangout. This interactive news hybrid, U_News #SarahHill, will not only allow viewers to see a large number of their tweets, texts and posts live on the air, U_News will also display a Hangout chat room in a large touch screen monitor next to its hosts. “If you would have told me last year that I would soon be directing a show every day with ten live guests from around the world, I would have said you were crazy!” said U_News director Lindsey Tyler. Our 4pm producer, Nathan Higgins has ensured the guests on our cyber couch will have elements in our headlines, will cold open and close the show. “On a day to day basis, we might honestly not know what we’ll cover because we want our viewers to drive the content and the discussion,” said Higgins. Hangout guests will also have a role in our recorded news updates before the live 4pm CST newscast.
With U_News and our new cyber co-hosts, we’re are one blended TV family….and that’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch….
U_News airs at 11:00 am CST in Columbia, MO.  Watch it live here.