Google today announced that they’re adding new functionality to a popular feature of Google+, the hangout. A hangout is a group video chat that’s hosted within Google+.
Most exciting, perhaps, is the addition of Hangouts On Air. Initially, it will enable those who have large followings to turn their hangouts into broadcasts. When the hangout is finished, they’ll have the ability to upload the session to YouTube. Eventually, the feature will be generally available, Google said.
Another exciting new feature is the ability to start hangouts from inside comment fields. “Just click “Hangout” underneath a post that you’re passionate about, and we’ll add your invitation to the comments. If others are hanging out already, you’ll see their invitation in the comments as well,” wrote Vic Gundotra a Google senior vice president.
Hangouts are also coming to the Google+ mobile apps. They’ll be available within days for Android users, and “soon” for iOS users.
The ability to hold dial-in hangouts (for those without a computer) is also coming. It appears that this new feature is based on the Google Voice integration that’s seen within Gmail.
Some cosmetic changes to make hangouts more visible were also made. You can even be alerted via mobile device when you’re invited to join a hangout.
For publishers, these changes, particularly Hangouts On Air, hold a lot of promise. Being able to broadcast concerts, debates, meetings, speeches and other live events, without a 10-person cap is a very attractive to publishers with large audiences.
Just last month, Google+ allowed brands to join. With these new features, it seems that Google+ is becoming even more useful to news organizations.