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How Google+ Hangouts will transform traditional TV broadcasting

Sarah Hill is the interactive anchor at KOMU-TV 8, the broadcast lab for the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She also has over 350,000 followers on Google+, where she’s been blazing a trail with Google Hangouts with the help of interactive director Jen Reeves.

KOMU is the first broadcaster to integrate the live video chats on-air. Since then, other TV shops have been experimenting with Hangouts. Yesterday, PBS held one. And today, msnbc will be holding a Hangout from 4-5 pm. ET, simultaneously streaming it on NBCPolitics.com.

As Google+ continues to grow — and integrates in search — I think it’s a safe bet that news organizations and other media brands will soon count it among the “big three” of social networks, instead of a distant cousin. Sarah wrote this excellent post below (initially on Google+, naturally) about her experience with Hangouts, and she’s agreed to let us re-publish it here:

As you may already know, G+ has rolled out to a limited number of users what’s called an “On-air Hangout”. It is essentially a broadcast tower embedded within Google Plus, the world’s first face to face social network. The On-Air feature allows a Hangout to easily be broadcast (viewed) by the public anywhere in the world without having to join the Hangout. We TV News Buoys and Missouri Journalism School nerds who are using this new technology on TV on +KOMU 8 News & with the +Reynolds Journalism Institute are pretty geeked out about it. Here’s why. In the future, content providers could be able to use different circles as essentially different broadcast stations. Using livestream technology, we already have the ability to select who sees our Hangout through circles but this feature eliminates the need for livestreaming. Anyone could easily broadcast one Hangout just to the Australia circle, another to the England circle and yet another to the KOMU-Missouri circle. Catch my drift? It’s where TV meets GP. On this platform, people are already calling KOMU-TV…. KOMU-GP. h/t +Mike Downes GP is now a public broadcasting platform.

Just think about that for a moment… anyone in the world, not just us TV stations with big sticks in the ground, with the ability to broadcast WITHIN a social network that oh by the way is a major crowd sourcing tool. Combine Hangouts, audience engagement on steroids, and you have something that could totally transform the way newscasters interact with their audience and the way TV stations do business. I wear two earpieces. One to hear my producer and another to hear the Hangout. For the first time in history thanks to Hangouts, newscasters can SEE their audience and even talk with them during a soundbite in a live newscast. When you’re spending an entire hour a day or more with a viewer during a live newscast, that’s a deeper level of engagement than you get with any non face to face tweet or Facebook interaction. When I read a story about a child who’s been murdered, I hear the Hangout sigh in my ear. +Kim Beasley

News Hangouts are like a kitchen table for a family. A family that eats together stays together. Some of our U_News co-hosts +Robert Redl call it the news campfire and we are all consuming the news together via Hangouts. Daily, our Hangout co-hosts break news to us. Since feeding the news beast now requires us to share content and interact on multiple platforms, our co-hosts routinely arrive more well informed about the day’s news than us. Yep. I said that. Out loud. More of us newsies need to own the fact that our viewers often know more than we do. But as +Joseph Puglisi points out, “citizen journalism” could increase the value of professional journalism in the future because people will still want “Facts at 11″. I don’t like the term “citizen journalist”. Those were finger quotes. Essentially, we are all journalists.

+KOMU 8 News is the broadcast lab for the Missouri School of Journalism. We’re building a hybrid news model called “U_News” that explores the future of news. +KOMU 8 News was the first news organization to co-host a newscast with a live #cybercouch via Hangout. In +Terry Heaton‘s book “Reinventing Local Media”, we are essentially driving the car while trying to fix it. At MU, we are also teaching others how to drive the news vehicle of the future. h/t +Jen Reeves +Stacey Woelfel +Reynolds Journalism Institute What will “broadcasting” in the G+ stream look like in 20 years? What is the longevity of that big stick in the ground called a TV tower when everyone has the ability to broadcast? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

News Anchor or News Buoy?

With this new kind of “broadcasting” in Hangouts, our students are asking what to call this new kind of “broadcasting” in the G+ stream? Social-casting? Perhaps… incorrectly….I’ve been calling our G+ on-air Hangouts a “visual #backchannel” where for the first time, newscasters can see their audience. One Plusketeer correctly pointed out, “Sarah, the word “back” makes it appear as it’s hidden some place out of view.” Isn’t it time to move our audience away from the BACK of the room? h/t +Michael Tucker

Roger that skipper and speaking of names, I think this platform has the ability to sink News “Anchors” who refuse to do anything more than just read. Our content needs to bubble up to the surface. “News Buoys” as I call them need to float on multiple platforms and share their content.

Sure, we’re still anchored to the seabed of our TV station but much like a buoy, we are letting passing ships know where to find us. And if you think I’m making the analogy that TV stations are sinking ships, I’m not. You should know there’s a lot of buried treasure on the sea floor. And with Hangouts, we’re trying to help people rediscover us.

(Sarah Hill is a reporter and interactive anchor at KOMU-TV 8, the broadcast lab for the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She also serves as adjunct faculty for the J School)

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