Cox-owned KIRO TV in Seattle will air a live special tonight that has been named, planned and even given a time slot by the audience over social media. As it airs, trending topics and audience participation will dictate much of the content. Called “Social7,” it will be hosted by Jenni Hogan, one of the most-followed people in local TV (129K on Facebook, 45K on Twitter). The show is an outgrowth of KIRO’s earlier experiment, a show called “Connect with Jenni Hogan,” that aired in March.
Social TV shows aren’t always easy to pull off — several stations have tried and failed — and KIRO seems to be taking an aggressive, yet experimental approach to figuring out the right balance of engaging TV and interactivity. We interviewed KIRO News Director Todd Mokhtari, who by the way, just accepted a new job as VP of news of KNBC in Los Angeles:
Lost Remote: How do you make a social show a good TV show? What’s the balance between entertaining the lean-back crowd and engaging interactive participants?
Mokhtari: Good TV is cool, hip but also relevant. Good TV takes into account what the audience wants and delivers. Social media is about as immediate and “right now” as it gets. So, when you combine “right now” with what the audience wants, you have the ingredients. After that, it’s how you produce the show and involve the audience that gives the show its flavor. As for the lean-back versus engaging, we’ll find out, but for now, it seems that interactive participants drive the show. The audience gets excited when the topics they want to trend are the ones you talk about online and on TV. We will have a mixture of both in this show and see how it goes.
LR: How did this show come about?
Mokhtari: This first came about trying to come up with a way to create a show that used social media, the online audience of KIRO 7 and Jenni Hogan, and the power KIRO’s ability to produce high quality, relevant content. We decided to do Connect as an experiment knowing we would learn a lot from the viewers about how to better produce a social media show, take that information and look for an opportunity to produce more shows this summer.
LR: How have viewers helped create Social7?
Mokhtari: First of all, they picked the time slot. We gave them three options and 7 p.m. won. Next, they picked the name. We opened it up for suggestions and they picked Social7, then we asked them, should it be “The Social 7 with Jenni Hogan” or “Social7 With Jenni Hogan” and in Facebook fashion, they decided to drop the “the.” Next, on Thursday night, the social media audience will decide the topics by making topics trend. We have blank spots in our show that we will fill in Thursday night based on what’s trending.
LR: How important is Jenni Hogan’s own social followers – and the fact you’re in Seattle – to the show’s success? Could it work in other markets?
Mokhtari: As I explain above, we definitely were looking for a way to involve Jenni’s audience. We also know Seattle is engaged online and add to that, KIRO 7’s Facebook page is highly engaged locally. So, we knew we had the right combination of people in Seattle. We also knew from our use of social media in news coverage that our audience is willing to respond. To answer your second question, while the show is based locally, we believe it has potential to work in other markets because social media can create its own circles, narrow or broad.
LR: What’s next? Could Social7 turn into a regular show?
Mokhtari: For now, we’re planning on three more shows this summer with the next one tentatively schedule for the second week of July. After that, we’ll do what we always do which is leave it up to the audience. If they want more, we’ll likely find a place to produce more shows.