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July 07 2011

18:12

KOMU-TV Puts Google+ Hangout Video Chat on the Air

As a reporter and anchor for KOMU-TV, the NBC affiliate in Columbia, Mo., and the broadcast lab for the Missouri School of Journalism, I already chat with viewers via Facebook and Twitter on our "Livestream" behind-the-scenes webcam mounted on the news set. Now, KOMU has added yet another delightful distraction to the other side of the set. It's turned me into one distracted driver.

Google Hangout is Google+'s video chat feature, and it's a shiny red sports car for an interactive anchor.

Squirrel!

Google+ Distraction

Let me explain the allure of this distraction.

Hangout is similar to a group Skype chat for up to 10 people. On Monday, we believe we were the first station to use this video feature to interact with our TV viewers during a live newscast. We posted notice of our "Hangout" on our Google+ profile and invited people inside and outside our "Circles" to join in. The result gave viewers around the world not only the opportunity to see what happens behind the scenes of a live newscast, but for the first time, it also gave us anchors the chance to see our viewers beyond their profile pic. 

We followed up Wednesday night with what we believe to be the first Google+ Hangout on air. Viewers from all over the world got the chance to wave to people in mid-Missouri as we took a live screenshot of our video chat screen. (Watch the video here.)

sarahhill.jpg

On Livestream, I can only see a still profile picture of who's chatting with me during the newscast. In Google Hangout, I can see the viewers in real time: his sunburn, the baby she's holding, the psychedelic curtains hanging in their living room. No more chatting with profile pics or typing emoticons in chat. Anchors -- and the audience -- can now see our viewers' smiles!  

On Sept. 12, KOMU News will launch an interactive newscast "U_News @ 4" that will further explore this real-time conversation going on between anchors and viewers during the newscast. We're excited about the role Google Hangout could play in better connecting with our viewers, especially during severe weather and breaking news.

Jen Lee Reeves, the station's interactive director, put it this way: "KOMU's goal has always been to reach out to our market and truly connect. The Google Hangouts allow that in a way we've never been able to do before. Not only are we writing and speaking, we get to see instant reactions and feedback. It's just one more way for us to really show our news consumers that we are in this together."

Changing lanes

No longer is the studio camera an anchor's sole focus during a newscast. Now, there's a lot of typing and talking to viewers even during a 10-second sound bite. The talented people who keep KOMU on this interactive road are changing lanes and embracing this new kind of "talking head." With two netbooks, two phones and two tablets on set, all with different viewer conversations going on them, our floor director is starting to add a snap to our "standbys" to get our attention. Producers are learning they have to talk in our earpieces like bingo callers and repeat instructions loudly and slowly.  

Drop, B-17.

Drop. B 17.  

Bingo!

With so many interesting roads for interactive anchors to explore, the good news is they all lead to closer connections with our viewers. I'm still learning how to talk and drive and not end up as roadkill on camera.   

After a couple test drives, I see Google Hangout as another opportunity for us talking heads to take our hands off of 10 and 2.

Squirrel!

How to Improve Hangouts

Here are some items that would make Google Hangout an even better extension of our newscast.

1. Allow more than 10 viewers in the Hangout. 

2. Make the Hangout screen a 16×9 friendly format so that its dimensions look proper when we take it live on-air.

3. Provide captioning when audio is muted. We have to mute the Hangout audio during our newscast so as not to interfere with our microphones. We can see Hangout viewers but not hear them. It would be great if there was a captioning or Google translate function that would pop up when you mute the audio so that anchors could still read what the viewer is saying.

4. Provide the opportunity to join a Hangout even if you don't have a Google+ profile.

5. Allow recording of the Hangout so that after the session ends, the creator can save it as a video file that can be shared on other social networking sites and blogs.

6. Enable some kind of private messaging in chat. We get frequent story tips in newscast chat. Why? Viewers like to say in front of a bunch of people that they've got a hot news tip. But they often don't want to provide the background details of the City Hall extortionist in a public chat room. 

Sarah Hill is an anchor and reporter on KOMU in Columbia, Mo. You can Hangout with Sarah weekdays during the 5 pm (Central Time) newscast here. Not on Google+ yet? You can also check out KOMU's behind-the-scenes webcam and chat with us here during the news. 
 

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May 27 2011

15:18

Mediatwits #9: Twitter Buys Tweetdeck; Facebook's Role in Breaking News

jen reeves rji.jpg

Welcome to the ninth episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser along with PaidContent founder Rafat Ali. This week's show looks at the recent purchase of Tweetdeck by Twitter, and the questions it raises about companies starting businesses on the platform of other companies. If you run an app for Twitter but aren't bought by Twitter, where does that leave you?

This week's special guest is Jen Lee Reeves, who teaches at the Missouri School of Journalism and is the interactive director for KOMU-TV. She has been covering the recent tornadoes and bad weather in Missouri and using her TV station's Facebook page to connect with its community. Finally, the talk turns to conflicts of interest for entrepreneurial journalists and tech bloggers such as Michael Arrington, Kara Swisher and Om Malik. Should they be able to invest in companies they cover, be venture capitalists themselves? How do they maintain credibility?

Check it out!

mediatwits9.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

NEW! Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Rafat taking one more trip

1:08: Getting to Uzbekistan

2:20: No media fact-finding

2:45: Rundown of the show's topics

Twitter buys Tweetdeck

04:30: What will Twitter do with it?

07:05: Dick Costolo remains Twitter CEO (for today)

08:40: Inhibiting innovation?

10:25: TechCrunch Disrupt startups not tied to Twitter, Facebook

Interview with KOMU's Jen Lee Reeves

11:10: Background on Reeves

13:35: Heavy Facebook use in mid-Missouri

15:30: How Facebook use is different from Twitter

18:45: People coming to KOMU page rather than just reading news feed on Facebook

21:40: KOMU website changes to "river of news"

Conflicts for tech journalists

om and arrington.jpg

23:45: Background on conflicts for Michael Arrington, Kara Swisher, Om Malik

25:55: Rafat on how PaidContent dealt with conflicts

28:10: Mark notes the problem might be what people don't cover too

30:10: Om Malik was a respected journalist before becoming venture funder

More Reading

Twitter Buys TweetDeck at WSJ Digits

What the Tweetdeck Acquisition Means for Marketers at AdAge

Newsroom, Community Use Facebook as Key Hub After Joplin Tornado at MediaShift

Images and Video from Joplin Tornado at KOMU

KOMU on Facebook

Kara Swisher, Michael Arrington, and me: New conflicts, and new opportunities, for the tech press at Nieman Lab

Godspeed on That Investing Thing, Yertle-But I Still Have Some Questions for Your Boss, Arianna at AllThingsD

Arrington Says The Real Conflict Of Interest In Tech Reporting Has Nothing To Do With Money at Business Insider

It's Hilarious That Mike Arrington Gets Beat Up For Investing In Startups When Om Malik Is A Partner At A VC Firm at Business Insider

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about how journalists can deal with conflicts:




What's the best way for journalists to deal with conflicts of interest?Market Research

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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May 24 2011

19:59

Newsroom, Community Use Facebook as Key Hub After Joplin Tornado

When Joplin, Mo., was hit with a massive tornado, I knew my community would react. Even though we're nearly 250 miles away, many people in Columbia and mid-Missouri are either Joplin natives or have family there. My newsroom's normally local-focused Facebook page quickly became a clearinghouse for updates about how mid-Missouri could help the tornado-ravaged community.

Fans are using the page now to share news, photos, videos, information on relief efforts, and in general, to connect with each other in a time of crisis.

The efforts grew organically on our page. The KOMU online audience is already very interactive. We have 10,000+ fans and, on average, 7,500 users have some level of interaction with us on a weekly basis, according to Facebook Insights.

I encourage sharing and conversations among everyone in an open and transparent way. I and my web team pay attention and are constantly interacting with our fans. Over time, a relationship has developed -- the kind that's enhanced during severe situations like what happened in Joplin.

When the tornado hit, our Facebook fans knew they could trust us to coordinate and share important information there.

So that's just what we did. Since the tornado, I've been on overdrive. In the last 24 hours, I've gathered information on social media to share on our website, KOMU.com, and on Facebook. I'm gathering as many relief drives as possible to share on Facebook, KOMU.com and the newsroom's Twitter page. My goal is to share and gather data from the social spaces where KOMU's audience already interacts.

The Beginning

When the first information came out on Joplin, KOMU-TV was on the air with details about severe weather in our area. Our meteorologists shared images live that were posted on our Facebook page using an iPad. Anytime we show live Facebook content on television, our interaction online starts to jump.

I was working from home, but knew we had a spark of community activity on our Facebook page. I and a few others working in our newsroom started posting links from our website to Facebook. One of the most viewed pages is a collection of tweets curated on Storify. It's had more than 8,000 views in less than 24 hours and was shared on Facebook more than 165 times. These kind of collections continued to bring people to our Facebook page to interact and share.
SharingOnFacebook

A number of people wanted to know how they could help. We posted immediate links and information about how medical providers could offer their expertise and how relief agencies were trying to coordinate assistance. I wrapped up my oversight of the page around 1:30 in the morning with a dramatic video on YouTube. It created a stir, even though it was very late at night (or early in the morning, depending on your perspective).

Some of the conversations I had with our Facebook audience led to our morning show coverage. A woman who posted a picture about a tree that crushed her van became the subject of a live report the next day.

treesdownscreenshot

The Next Day

Not only did we have continuing requests on how our Facebook users could help, a growing number of people had information about blood drives, fundraisers and donation sites. Not only did I take the time to thank users for the information, I added a link to my Facebook profile by typing "@jen Lee Reeves" to identify myself as the person commenting as a representative for KOMU.

My newsroom started to ask for the community to tell us about the relief efforts they knew about. I tried to keep up with a list and encouraged our Facebook users to post their efforts on a discussion page. When I learned about items that weren't added to the page, I'd copy and past from the Facebook wall and Twitter. (Our newsroom encouraged our region to use #JoplinMidMo to help us keep track of local efforts.)

The best development with Facebook pages is the "Notifications" link that helps me keep track of any interactions on the page. I'm able to see new posts, likes and comments on items that might be hours old on the page. Almost every time I respond, I add that link to my Facebook profile.

Near the end of the day, I slowed down my obsessive oversight of the page. One member was unable to find a donation location, and other page members jumped in with some details. I was able to research a few extra details and add to the conversation.
HelpingScreenShot

A Wish List

After spending so much time inside the Facebook page, I have a few things I'd love to have the next time I'm helping manage a crisis.

  • The ability to post notes. Facebook groups have a wonderful ability to let members create and contribute openly to notes. This would have been much easier to manage with our collection of relief efforts. I'm helping manage a community Facebook page that allows notes. My "television station category" doesn't get notes in Facebook.
  • The ability to create a call to action at the top of the page. I had to repost a number of helpful links and information because our Facebook users kept asking the same questions. It would have been great to have the main relief information easily accessible.
  • Photo tagging needs to be easier. I know this is a new feature where Facebook users can tag a page they like. I had a number of people tell me they weren't able to tag KOMU to a picture. I've also noticed this service is spotty.
  • The ability to tag posts from a mobile app. When I left the newsroom, I had to add to the comments on the KOMU page without the ability to identify myself.

It will be interesting to see how long this call to action continues on our Facebook page. Our newsroom is planning a telethon with local organizations on Thursday for Joplin. I hope to Livestream the event on our Facebook page and offer anyone the ability to embed the stream to their websites. (I haven't figured out all of the logistics, but hopefully I'll have it ready by Thursday.)

Many other Facebook pages focused on Joplin relief, especially one built solely to offer updates and relief. KOMU was able to focus on the efforts in mid-Missouri. The online relationship we had before the crisis was able to grow in this time of need.

Hopefully, it's an example of how a commitment to social media can help encourage ongoing conversations between a newsroom and its community.

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October 15 2010

17:30

Public, Closed or Secret? How to Use the New Facebook Groups

I was wrapping up a normal evening of checking through my newsroom's content before bed when I noticed I had been invited to a Facebook group. This was about seven hours after Mark Zuckerberg and his team introduced a number of changes to groups. The change that most piqued my interest was the new groups process. So when I noticed the invite, I decided to stay up a little longer.

Two hours later, I was hooked and looking for ways to engage with this new and improved groups tool for my newsroom.

Along with joining a group created for social media journalists, I decided to launch new groups for my newsroom, my neighborhood, and for my digital media class (fondly known as #jenclass). I wanted to see what types of engagement I could find.

There are three different types of new Facebook groups:

  • Public
  • Closed
  • Secret

I have used each setting with my groups. Below is a look at what I've done, along with some initial reaction and results.

My Groups

Newsroom community - KOMU8 News - Public setting
I created an open group and invited members of our station's Facebook fan page to see what kind of engagement I could get. It grew quickly at first. Members said hello in posts, while others played with the new chat function. What is most interesting is how a few members have turned it into a chat room for their own conversations. I have jumped in to try to encourage others to join in, but two men tend to the chat more than anyone else.

In order to increase engagement, I've posted fun questions and hard news topics to the group. The biggest topics that have engaged members so far include a discussion of where to spot the best fall colors outside, and a member-driven conversation about taxing fast food and cigarettes.

I've found most people join in on the group when they see the alerts I post on the KOMU8 Facebook page. I've sent notes with specific times when I was available to add new members and take part in a conversation. I also take the time to warn new members to change their settings so they don't get constant email alerts about new activity on the page. I also offer a chance to share story ideas. So far I've taken at least three stories that emerged from the conversations within the group and brought them to the newsroom.

One challenge is that the group is not gaining new members outside of my daily appointment engagement. Once members join the group, they don't seem inclined to invite others. I can't decide if this is because most people do not know how to invite a new member, or if it's because they don't want to bring a new person into the group.

Students and alumni - #jenclass - Closed group
I wanted my students to see how this new Facebook group feature works. After my social journalism interaction test with our station, I didn't want to miss the chance to chat with my students outside of class. I figured we could geek out in a similar way I have geeked out with other journalists. And since I have a new set of students every semester, I decided many of my former students would be very curious about new Facebook tweaks. So I started inviting current students and alumni. Once again, very few members invited other people. But students and alumni have contributed comments and links. So far, most conversations have started thanks to my prompts, but I don't think that will be the case forever.

Neighbors - Jen's Neighborhood - Secret group
My final group is for my neighbors. I invited all of my current Facebook friends who live near my house. Not everyone knows each other personally. In this early stage, each person who's commented said they were really excited to have an easy way to connect all of our busy families together. One neighbor saw me walking on the street and told me the group has encouraged her husband to start figuring out a way to formally create a neighborhood watch program in our area. I love the fact that a virtual group has the potential to foster even better relationships in person.

Conclusion

My experience with groups may not be the same as everyone, but I'm really glad I've taken the time to explore them in order to engage with different sets of people. The conversations in some groups are very Twitter-like, but they're now taking place inside Facebook. So far, I don't see groups growing past Facebook fan pages. They do seem like a chance to expand the pages and take conversations beyond a static page.

Just like anything else in social media, this new community opportunity requires attention. If I ignore my news group, a member could easily take over and use the space as a venue to push their own interests. I need to peek in on a regular basis and encourage diverse conversations.

My student/alumni page is mainly driven by my conversations -- but it is also focused on a class I run. Hopefully its members will soon feel more comfortable to share more of their own thoughts and opinions. My students probably don't realize the number of connections they could start if they start talking to members of the group who are working in different industries.

As for my neighborhood group, I do not plan to push that community. I will chat with each member face-to-face as I see them and we'll talk about what we want the group to become. I envision it as a place to warn about wandering dogs and upcoming vacations, and to search for trustworthy babysitters.

My three groups have different focuses, but all have the potential to grow new and existing communities based on common interests.

Jennifer Reeves worked in television news for the majority of her career. In the last six years, she has moved from traditional journalist to non-traditional thinker about journalism and education. Jen is currently the New Media Director at KOMU-TV and komu.com. At the same time, she is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and was a part of the inaugural class of Reynolds Journalism Institute fellows (2008-09).

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July 30 2010

17:57

Learning From Failure in Community-Building at Missouri

news21 small.jpg

Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

I recently had an opportunity that is rarely handed to a journalism school professor: The chance to be a member of the inaugural class of the Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellows in the 2008-09 school year.

I already have a unique job. As an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, I am also a new media director at the university-owned NBC-affiliate, KOMU-TV. I teach new media and I manage its production in a professional newsroom that is staffed with students. (We have a professional promotions, production and sales department just like any other television news station.)

Screen shot 2010-07-29 at 8.50.40 AM.png

I had a big idea back in 2007. I wanted to find a way to bring multiple newsrooms together to make it easier for news consumers to learn about their candidates leading up to election day. I wanted to partner with the other newsrooms owned by the University of Missouri: KBIA-FM (the local NPR station) and the Columbia Missourian (the daily morning paper in town). I wanted to plan for the big election in November 2008 and had already tried a similar project during the mid-term 2006 November election season.

Smart Decision '08

In 2006, we put a lot of content into one place but it was all hand-coded. I won't go into the nit-picky details. What I will tell you is it was time consuming and almost impossible to keep up to date as three newsrooms populated the site. I wanted automation and simple collaboration so the site could make it easier for news consumers to learn about information without worrying about where it came from. Information first, newsroom second. In the end, news consumers would end up using all of the newsrooms' information instead of just one or none.

I launched the Smart Decision '08 site and went into my RJI fellowship with a plan to complete my goal. I had already started building a new website that would collect RSS feeds of each newsroom's politically branded content. I had a small group of web managers tag each story that arrived into our site and categorize it under the race and candidate names mentioned in the news piece. It was a relatively simple process.

Unfortunately, our site was not simple. It was not clean and it was hand built by students with my oversight. It did not have a welcoming user experience. It did not encourage participation. I had a vision, but I lacked the technical ability to create a user-friendly site. I figured the content would rule and people would come to it. Not a great assumption.

Back in 2008, I still had old-school thoughts in my head. I thought media could lead the masses by informing voters who were hungry for details about candidates. I thought a project's content was more important than user experience. I thought I knew what I was talking about.

We did find a way to gather up some participation on the night of the big November 2008 election. We invited the general public to a viewing party where they could watch multiple national broadcasts, eat free food and participate in a live town forum during a four-hour live webcast we produced in the Reynolds Journalism Institute building.

We brought four newsrooms together in a separate environment where we produced web-only content while each newsroom produced its own content for air or print. We had a Twitter watch desk, a blog watch desk and insights from all kinds of people in the area. You can see a very quick video that captures some of the experience of that night:

Assumptions About the Audience

But in the end, my project was a failure.

Still, without that failure, I would not have learned so much.

You see, I came into this project with the idea that I was progressive. I was thinking about the future of journalism. I was going to change it all. But it all started out with a very old view of journalism: I made assumptions about my audience.

  • I assumed people wanted the information I was collecting.
  • I assumed the online audience wanted to take the time to dig into the information I was collecting for them.
  • I assumed the audience wanted to participate in a new space I created for them.
  • I assumed the newsrooms that were partners in the project would promote the site without any prompting.

My assumptions killed my project. I had invested so much time into the project that I had to finish it. I arrived into the fellowship with a work in progress and I wasn't going to stop -- even though I could see we were not getting the public participation. I created the content and hoped participation would follow.

The truth is that things work the other way around.

But I would not have learned that without my fellowship.

I worked with an amazing team of people. Jane Stevens and Matt Thompson led me into a new perspective in community building and content collection. I watched as we talked about community building. My biggest "a-ha moment" was when we discussed how community builders need a personal relationship with its first 1,000 members on a website. I realized that my Smart Decision project was doomed to fail from the start because I did not start with my community first. I expected the community to come to me. I needed to go to them.

I also learned a major project needs two managers: One to keep up with the content and one to make sure it gets promoted. That promotion needed to happen in each individual newsroom and in the public.

Being More Agile

During my fellowship, I also learned to be more agile. These days, when I start a project, I'm ready to move on to the next idea a lot faster. I launch multiple ideas at the same time and see what floats. I also cherish the relationships I form with members of the community. Instead of creating many different sites, I'm bringing the information to where they are. I'm focused on delivering information to Twitter and Facebook. I have news employees working on blogs, but most people go to those posts through Facebook. They do not go directly to the sites or from our main news web page.

Screen shot 2010-07-29 at 8.52.40 AM.png

I'm constantly learning as a news manager. But I will always cherish the time I had as a fellow because I was allowed to fail. The Smart Decision project was not something I could have managed while I was also in charge of a newsroom. It was an experiment that taught me how not to launch a new website.

I learned Drupal sites can be awesome if you know what you are doing. (I did not know what I was doing until it was too late). I also learned that my job in my newsroom does not make it easy to launch major multiple-newsroom projects. I am not sure if I will do it again in 2012. I would like to, but I'll need to consult my community first.

Jennifer Reeves worked in television news for the majority of her career. In the last six years, she has moved from traditional journalist to non-traditional thinker about journalism and education. Jen is currently the New Media Director at KOMU-TV and komu.com. At the same time, she is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and was a part of the inaugural class of Reynolds Journalism Institute fellows (2008-09).

news21 small.jpg

Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

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