KOMU Sarah Hill Google+ Hangouts – General insights

KOMU Sarah Hill G-Plus Hangouts - pix 00 - Sarah


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

KOMU Sarah Hill G-Plus Hangouts - pix 01 - Sarah, Location

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 AnchorStephen 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”?

KOMU Sarah Hill G-Plus Hangouts - pix 02 - appointment TV

I heard the use of “appointment television” from one of the television executives attending Banff World TV Festival a few years ago. Here is an useful definition,

“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 longerappointment 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! :)

Opportunity #1: Currently, in KOMU-TV‘s streaming newscast, it displays a black screen during commercial break.

KOMU Sarah Hill G-Plus Hangouts - pix 03 - black screen

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

KOMU Sarah Hill G-Plus Hangouts - pix 04 - Kempton opinions

First of all, I quite enjoy the experience in able to share my opinions on TV vis G+ Hangouts re the U.S. Debt Crisis and sending a video postcard to Oslo.

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),

“In statisticsself-selection bias arises in any situation in which individuals select themselves into a group, causing a biased sample with nonprobability sampling.”

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 percentagesStatistics 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.

KOMU Sarah Hill G-Plus Hangouts - pix 06 - 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

KOMU Sarah Hill G-Plus Hangouts - pix 07 - Norway https link

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.

You will find a draft solution I have to fix this Google+ problem in my technical insights article.


Some cool screen captures.

Sarah & Nina.

KOMU Sarah Hill G-Plus Hangouts - pix 05 - Sarah and Nina

Stephen Clark

KOMU Sarah Hill G-Plus Hangouts - pix 08 - Stephen Clark

Jen Reeves

KOMU Sarah Hill G-Plus Hangouts - pix 09 - Jen Reeves

Sarah, thanks again. Thank you for having us in your newsroom.

You are really cool!

P.S. I might have gone to J-school if I had met Adjunct Professor Hill earlier in my school days! :)

KOMU Sarah Hill G-Plus Hangouts - pix 10 - Sarah


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

The Google+ project: Explore Hangouts

5 Responses to KOMU Sarah Hill Google+ Hangouts – General insights

  1. Nice to see all your thoughts about video hangouts. Moderation tools would be great.

  2. kempton says:

    @Steve I can see some cases where it will be great to have moderation tools.

    It is hard to define or describe this early in the game but let me try. It will be nice to have a courteous and cool host without the host being “too controlling”.

  3. Love your insight. Thanks for shining a spotlight on the wonderful work Sarah and the KOMU crew are doing. We are enjoying watching them play in this space. It’s fascinating!

  4. kempton says:

    @Amy Thanks for your kind words. We are all learning about this new (and powerful) tool at the same time. I forgot where I read it, but I think G+ Hangout being used in newsrooms is an ideas not expected by Google. And definitely not at the speed that G+ Hangouts have been deployed.

    P.S. I hope WSPA TV can join in to push the boundary soon. :)

  5. […] July 19, 2011. For my general and business insights, you can read my previous article. In this detailed article, I will try to share some of my technical observations and […]

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