Obama’s ‘Fireside’ Shows Google’s Still Into Hangouts

Prez follows Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson on social video feature

Less than 48 hours after his State of the Union address, President Obama will participate in a question-and-answer Google+ Hangouts session dubbed "Fireside Hangout." The online session starts at 4:45 p.m. ET today, borrowing a thematic page from FDR's fireside chats during the 1930s and early '40s and following a Google+ Hangouts appearance by Vice President Joe Biden three weeks ago.

It marks the second day in a row that Google has had high-profile programming lined up for its Hangouts feature, which lets some 100 million active users (per the Mountain View, Calif.-based digital giant) do video chats. On Wednesday, actors Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn utilized Google+ Hangouts to premiere the trailer for The Internship, an upcoming comedy about two laid-off 40-year-olds making a go of it as interns at a successful Web-based company where their managers are twentysomethings. Social-media-savvy Conan O'Brien—of TBS late-night renown—led the interview.

In terms of Wednesday and today, the search site has pushed the Hangouts on its homepage—highly coveted real estate that Google rarely leverages for house advertising. According to comScore, 13 billion Google searches in the United States occurred during January.

So while to many it appears that the Hangouts feature has struggled to gain traction among consumers since being launched in 2011, the past two days suggest that Google remains committed to cultivating an audience around it.

It seems to be tough sledding in the social realm when it comes to developing entertainment or infotainment programming that attracts eyeballs. For instance, Google rival Facebook has pushed Facebook Live in recent years. But the Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm hasn't aired a program on the channel since pop star Rihanna appeared on Nov. 8, 2012.

Meanwhile, Obama continues to embrace his unofficial title as the first "digital president"—today's Hangouts appearance follows up his Reddit campaigning last year and Twitter town hall in 2011. At press time, 24,000 Google users had indicated they plan to attend 44's Fireside Hangout.