KGMB9, the local CBS affiliate, launched a bold (and technologically tricky) initiative tonight during its 5 p.m. newscast. Called ‘i9News,’ it carved out a significant portion of the half-hour broadcast to share feedback from viewers.
Sure, any newscast worth its salt pimps its e-mail address these days, and “picture of the day” submissions are a staple. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a Facebook or a Twitter mention. But on KGMB9, the viewer feedback was sent in live, during the broadcast itself.
Comments on the designated ‘i9News‘ story (closing city parks to clear out homeless people) came in via e-mail and Twitter, and anchor Tannya Joaquin could read them at the anchor desk on a small netbook. Of course, the comments that made it to air were curated and typeset for the screen behind the scenes.
To participate, viewers could post public @replies to the @i9News Twitter account, send a direct message, or send an e-mail to email@example.com. The Twitter account was also set up to republish comments sent by e-mail or direct message, so Twitter users can get a sense of the public response (even though only a handful of the comments make it on air).
For a first run, it flowed pretty smoothly. KGMB9 interactive guru Jared Kuroiwa managed to choreograph the complex ballet of collecting, selecting, composing and meanwhile responding to the comments that streamed in.
Joaquin certainly seemed to enjoy the interactivity, and multitasked brilliantly. Halfway through the broadcast, she tweeted: “It’s a new balancing act for me. Trying to respond to these while staying on top of my news stories on air too.” And after the weather segment, Joaquin pointed at the netbook, and told Malika Dudley that viewers were complementing them on their wardrobe. The real test of the live-at-the-desk setup, of course, will be when unfriendly or downright disturbing commentary pops up (as it undoubtedly will — this is the internet, after all).
After the broadcast, the feedback on Twitter seemed pretty positive. And new ideas were suggested, from integrating TwitPic photos to integrating the live feedback with an interview — why not take questions for the governor or a lawmaker live? Also, some of the Twitter chatter suggested that the ‘i9News’ account post the story or topic in advance, but there are good reasons why that won’t happen.
First, it’s all about live, and that differentiates this experiment from every other news station’s “talk back to us!” schtick. More importantly, it makes the newscast compelling viewing for those who participate. They’ll watch to respond, then tell their friends if their comment turns up on TV. Meanwhile, others will see the conversation and want to be a part of it, and tune in as well.
Second, of course, is competition. As Kuroiwa explained: “The risk in [posting topics in advance] is it may be a breaking or exclusive. I plan to ask for it at 5 and post something online right at 5.”
All in all, I think this was a successful and compelling TV news experiment. Whether it will continue depends on whether there’s a tangible boost in viewership for the 5 p.m. broadcast, or at least enough positive chatter to make all the work worthwhile. To get an inside perspective on what it’s all about, read Kuroiwa’s blog post explaining the ‘i9News’ concept: KGMB9 News at 5: Hawaii’s Interactive Newscast… What Does That Mean? It Means Social Media… It Means You Get Involved!