Friday, September 2, 2011

Hanging Out Can Make You a Star

One of the more interesting and unique features of Google Plus is Hangouts. Hangouts give you the ability at any time to start a video chat and invite up to ten of your Google Plus friends to join. In these Hangout sessions you hear everyone when they speak, see each participant in a small strip of thumbnail size video along the bottom of the window and see one person at a time in the large, main window. A few weeks back one of my friends invited me to join a Hangout with Sarah Hill, news anchorwoman at KOMU TV, the NBC affiliate in Columbia Missouri.

Sarah has been pioneering the use of Google Plus Hangouts inviting people to virtually join her in the studio and interact with her and her colleagues during the live broadcast of the evening news. You can have up to ten people at a time in a Hangout and most nights it fills up pretty fast. While some of the people are local, several of the regular crew are from cities around the nation and around the world. They include Chicago, Boston, New York and Paris among others.

In Hangouts Sarah has conducted interviews on current events, capturing the comments and interactions on video and editing these into portions of her featured news stories. Often at the end of the broadcast Sarah will share the Hangout with her viewers via a live feed, having us wave or "green boxing" one participant. Hangout is self directed which means it will switch video you see in the main screen to the participant who is speaking. But if you click on the thumbnail of any one person's video a green box appears around it and that video is locked in no matter who is speaking. This feature let's Sarah choose one person to highlight on air.

The use of Hangouts has already been adopted by a few other networks, most recently by CNN to discuss sports with fans.  It is certain to spread further.

The technology was so well received at KOMU, the station will begin to produce a new afternoon show called U_News @ 4 with a Google Plus Hangout providing on-air guests.

All of this has been particularly exciting for me as I have now appeared in a couple of news stories, frequently participate in the studio couch Hangout during broadcasts and will be one of the first guest / co-hosts of the new show.

Being an early adopter in Google Plus has allowed me to observe first hand how this new social network has evolved, improved and fostered new and exciting  innovations. It has provided the opportunity to "hang out" and interact with people I might otherwise have never met, and now it has lead to participation in groundbreaking new approaches to television journalism.

I hope everyone tunes in to watch the show via the live feed on Monday September 12 at 4PM Central for the inaugural broadcast of U_News @ 4.  We'll be making broadcast journalism history.

Okay, Ms. Hill, I am ready for my close-up.

Captain Joe

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