It has been my pleasure to attend a number of KOMU anchor Sarah Hill‘s interesting Google+ newsroom Hangouts since July 19, 2011. In this detailed article, I will try to share some of my general experiences, observations, and insights. To help this article flow better and less bogged down by highly technical ideas/solutions, I am gathering my technical-orientated observations and suggestions in a separate article.
Since Google+ (and its Hangouts) is a new tool that is only one month old, these notes only reflect my initial thoughts/impressions. I expect my views will be changed later when I learn more. I’ve tried to reference ideas I read elsewhere as best as I can by providing crediting them and provide links to them.
Location, what Location? – Think Global, Act Local
I first heard of KOMU and Sarah likely from “5 Ways Journalists Are Using Google+” (July 17th, 2011 Mashable article). On the internet, the location really doesn’t matter. I live in Calgary, Canada and I participated in KOMU-TV newsroom Hangouts in Columbia, MO. And through Sarah, I’ve got to know and Hangout with Angie Bailey, KOMU Anchor, Stephen Clark (Detroit, WXYZ TV), Amy Wood, (South Carolina, WSPA TV), and KOMU Interactive Director Jen Reeves. Where they are “physically located” have no impact on our interactions at all.
By attending these newsrooms Hangouts, I have now hungout with people from around the world. People who joined from different parts of US, Canada, and Europe. So far, no Asian countries because of time zone differences, I suppose.
Will evening news stay as “appointment television”?
“appointment television: the decision of tv viewers to schedule their time so that they watch a specific program at a specific time“
With the advent of around the clock news websites (often with videos) updates from major national and international news outlets (BBC, CNN, Guardian, etc), plus the local newspapers getting into the same game (with video), the evening news, especially for the younger people, are no longer “appointment television“.
The viewers won’t want to be locked into watching news at a fixed time, from one news source when they can and are getting news from many different reliable sources online, whenever they want.
I believe the “commodification of news” is close to done. Many news programs are working hard to differentiate their news programs by supplementing “regular” news that they must report (even most people have heard/read elsewhere) by adding special unique segments, panel discussions, etc. For example, in Canada, CBC National “At Issue” panel (a political panel of 2-3) or “Rex Murphy” segment (like 60 Minutes’ Andy Rooney).
I should emphasize, I write this section with an optimistic mindset as I don’t believe not “appointment television” is entirely bad. I believe there are new ways to make money in this new time. Stories may need to be packaged differently. Ads need to be sold differently. In the next section, I will talk about two ways to make money.
How to make money? – Revenue Generation
One thing I enjoy a lot from Sarah‘s Hangouts is the brain storming sessions. When the environment is open and the participants are engaging, the sessions can be very illuminating and productive.
Some people suggested the following ways to generate revenue (make money) online,
1) advertise or product placements on a news programs like other entertainment contents;
2) popup ads;
3) tickers on the bottom of the screen to display ads;
4) display “FIFA soccer game style” ads/sponsor names at the corner of the screen at the same time as the news program is running without ads.
Before I share my views on revenue generation, I want to mention three things that may give you some context of my reasoning and analysis.
1) I am a journalist and a free-lance TV reporter.
2) I see TV as a money making business. You see, I’ve attended the last six consecutive annual Banff World TV/Media Festival as a project pitcher, reporter and also attending to keep track of lastest money-making potential opportunities. :)
3) I have an MBA. Yes, I often say “I have an MBA” with a smile (and show people this funny ad) even though I have an MBA (seriously).
For me, journalistically, product placement is absolutely out of the question. And sponsors’ logo sharing the same screen space as the reporter affects the image of “independence” a bit but more importantly, it is not too exciting for advertisers. And a running tickers on the bottom (ala financial network) are also a bit boring comparing to cute women/men selling things in an ad.
Of course, having ads outside of the main reporter’s screen/rectangle is ok with me.
“Revenue generation” is really the 64 million dollars question. Since I make money as a consultant so I can’t afford to spend a ton of time on this for free.
But as my personal thank to Sarah and the generosity of KOMU-TV team in having me in the Hangouts, I’ve spent some time to provide two ideas/advices that are tailored to KOMU-TV‘s current practices and how to improve them. Other TV stations are free to implement these suggestions if they so wish. (Disclaimer to readers: these are free ideas so they don’t come with free support! :)
How to make money #1: I am allergic to black screen (aka lost revenue opportunities). So off the top of my head, this needs to be fixed.
This is one of the ways: During commercial breaks: drop the black screen, instead, show behind the scene news room stuff (telling people they have an inside look) and discreetly & tastefully show geotargeted video ads somewhere on the same screen.
Remember, this is during a commercial break, and the reporters are NOT reporting news, so showing ads do NOT violate my strict journalistic standard stated previously when I rejected product placements, etc.
Opportunity #2: Currently a *local* pre-roll ad (pizza restaurant?) is displayed before the newscast.
How to make money #2: I enjoy pizza but I doubt a Columbia pizza shop want to deliver pizza to Calgary, Canada. :) So it makes more sense to serve geotargeted video ads and make targetted money from international viewers.
Note: I have no insider info of the contractual arrangement of KOMU-TV with its online advertisers. I hope whoever structured the existing ad contracted flexibly. E.g. the ad contract doesn’t locked KOMU with the one client for the next 5 or 10 years! And the contract allows some flexibly for fine tuning.
Of course, even if the contractual arrangement isn’t ideal, if it was up to me, I will try to find a win-win way to renegotiate the contract so that both sides are happier at the end.
Opportunity #3: If you work in a newsroom and think that I can assist your organization as a consultant, please private message me via Kempton (G+) and we can talk about fees and terms, etc.
How to spend less & maintain quality? – Expense reduction
I will talk about a few solutions in my next technical article.
Update: I’ve decided to remove this section in the technical article because I originally planned to talk about how to make Electronic News Gathering (ENG) more efficient which, in hindsight, is a bit off topic and will take more time than I wish to spend.
Newspaper & TV online polls, G+ Hangout opinions – Self-selection bias
At the same time, I know we have to remind ourselves that opinions from G+ Hangouts should be considered as individuals’ opinions or feelings and not to be generalized towards a wider population due to self-selection bias. Quoting Wikipedia (which does a good job in this case),
Many local TV news shows (including in Calgary) love to quote their online polls results to show audiences’ responses and engagement while sidestepping the statistical problems in quoting those percentages. Statistics may seem hard but it can be and should be better understood to be an informed citizen.
Sarah with people who want to send a message to Norway.
At the same time, I was deeply touched for the opportunity to send a message of love and care to the people of Norway after that tragic Friday. A Google employee attended the Hangout initially as an observer but ended up also sending a personal message to Norway as he has friends and family living in Norway. This example, to me, is one of the many powerful things we can do with Google+ Hangouts. And we are just at the one month birthday of G+, at the beginning of all the fun.
The insecurity of a G+ Hangout
At the moment, Google+ Hangouts is known to be insecure, in the sense that each hangout participant has the clear text “https://talkgadget.google.com/hangouts/…” link (see the top of the above photo) and can copy and then share with anyone they wish without knowledge or permission of the originator or any participants of the Hangout. In a sense, once the host initiate a Hangout, she/he becomes just like one of the participant.
Some cool screen captures.
Sarah & Nina.
Sarah, thanks again. Thank you for having us in your newsroom.
You are really cool!
“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” – Marshall McLuhan
Reference for the record.
From Google official blog, “Introducing the Google+ project: Real-life sharing, rethought for the web”