Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Google Morning America

For the last several months a small group of people at just a handful of local TV stations throughout the United States have been experimenting with Google Plus Hangouts, providing anyone with a camera and voice direct access to the live studio. Hangouts, you recall, are two-way video chats with up to 10 participants at a time. People in these hangouts were treated to an insider view of what goes on behind the scenes before and during the broadcasts.

Sarah Hill from KOMU in Missouri was the first to recognize the potential and take it beyond the backstage role by putting ordinary citizens on air to contribute to stories and even do their own reporting. I was fortunate enough to among the relatively small group of co-hosts as this show pioneered a new level of citizen journalist involvement.

A few other stations continue to stick their electronic toes in the water conducting regular hangout sessions with ordinary people while off camera. With the introduction of the On-Air feature Google allows an unlimited number of viewers of a hangout. Forward thinkers like Matt Markovich from KOMO in Seattle, are looking at ways to exploit this technology as a means of creating  a variety of new two-way channels.

Surprisingly, the major news networks both here in the US and abroad have not fully embraced this technology, that is, until now. I was delighted to see signs that both ABC, CBS and the BBC are beginning to experiment a little more.

Yesterday I stumbled across an impromptu hangout with a few people from the popular ABC network show Good Morning America. Andrew Springer Associate Producer, Social Media in New York opened a hangout and included Segment Producer Katie Bosland participating remotely from the Iowa Caucuses.

This is part of their plans for comprehensive election coverage. The hangout was opened public meaning anyone on Google Plus could join in and ask questions about the process, the candidates or anything else. GMA announced another Iowa Caucus hangout scheduled for later that evening.

At the same time, my good friend and colleague Mike Downes managed to catch CBS News Radio employing a hangout as a new means of channeling questions from the public to people on air. His inquiry about the role of social media in the election process was relayed from the hangout to the radio show guests who reacted in real time during the broadcast.

In 2008 the outcome of the US Presidential election was significantly influenced by social media. Add to Facebook and Twitter the powerful new tools and services Google are bringing to the table. YouTube, Google Plus (Hangouts) and Google's own Politics and Election pages are opening new chapters in the journalism rule book.

We know NBC are studying this and various Fox station affiliates are toying with it as well. The evolution of broadcast journalism, indeed the whole of the news business continues at an alarming pace. Well beyond how politics and elections will be covered, these developments are fast changing the entire news business. It is exciting to have been involved at the outset and anybody's guess how it will all turn out.

Stay tuned. Most of this story is yet to be written.

Captain Joe

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