How my local TV station is taking its next step in social TV

By Paul Balcerak 

This Thursday night, I’m going to be one of the lucky participants in the next phase of social TV at the Seattle TV station I work at, KIRO 7 Eyewitness News. Even better is that we’re encouraging all of you to join in and help us out, as well.

Starting Thursday at 10 p.m. online, and at 10:30 p.m. on TV and online, we’ll be airing Connect with Jenni Hogan, a TV special about how people can get the most use out of social media, and we’ll be making the audience at home a huge part of our show.

You may recognize Jenni from a couple posts here on Lost Remote, as well as from our Twitter leaderboard. She’s the most-followed local TV personality in the country and our resident social media aficionado here at KIRO 7, so she’s a natural to host Connect.

We have a definite vision for the show — we have great guests and contributors lined up, and they’ll be weighing in on a lot of interesting topics (more on that below) — but the part I’m most excited about is how much control the audience will have in deciding what the show becomes. What will set Connect apart from traditional local news specials is that a fair bit of what we do and talk about will be determined by what our audience is talking about on the second screen — in this case, mostly Twitter and Facebook. I don’t mean that we’ll just pop up tweets from time to time, either. The audience will have a legitimate voice in the content and direction of the show, and they’ll be able to help shape that direction in real time.

That’s where I come in, as a matter of fact. Throughout the show, I’ll be keeping an eye on our social media channels (use #KIROConnect on Twitter if you’re watching) to see what people are talking about and reacting to. For example, we may start a discussion about the best lifehacking apps, and then want to know what users’ favorites are. I’ll keep an eye out for that, and when I find that have-to-share app, I’ll interrupt Jenni on TV and turn the discussion toward, “Check out this cool iPhone app that @username found.” It’s a very huge responsibility, and I’m really excited to be the guy who will channel our followers’ voices.

Jenni Hogan on set at Banyan Branch's offices, during a run-through for Thursday's show.

I’ll be right next to our two panelists; Ben Huh, CEO of the Cheezburger Network, and Josie Bissett, who starred on the original Melrose Place (she’s a fellow tweeting Seattleite who wants to learn more about social media). We have a lot of other great guests on hand, too, who will be lending their voices to the conversation, including Blake Cahill, President of Banyan Branch; Porter Gale, Chief Evangelist of Kred; James Sun, CEO of Pirq and former contestant on The Apprentice; and Jean-Sun Hannah Ahn, Miss Seattle 2012.

The entire show will be livestreamed at, so you can watch even if you’re not in Seattle. We’ll begin a pre-show livestream at 10 p.m., go on TV from 10:30-11 p.m., and then wrap things up on the livestream sometime after 11. You can follow along there, and on Twitter with the aforementioned #KIROConnect hashtag. Jenni’s Twitter account and the KIRO 7 Twitter account will be driving a lot of conversation from our filming location, at the offices of Banyan Branch. We’ll be taking feedback on Facebook as well via the KIRO 7 Eyewitness News page and Jenni’s personal account.

All of us involved in the show are really excited about it, and I’m really happy to help KIRO 7 take this next step in its on-air social media presence. Up until now, we’ve been steadily increasing the amount of social interaction in our newscasts and specials. Last year for Seafair, Seattle’s big summer festival, we paired all-day TV coverage with on-the-air tweets and Facebook posts, which helped drive our anchors’ and reporters’ conversations with the athletes and organizers involved. In January, when snow and ice storms crippled parts of Western Washington, social media played a huge role in figuring out where the hardest-hit areas were and where we sent our news crews. We also brought a lot of user-generated content — whether it was photos, videos or status updates — on air to help us tell the story of how the storms affected people.

Connect is the next logical step for us in the sense that, we’ve always built our programming around what our viewers say is important to them, and now we have the ability to know what’s important to them right now. Our hope for Connect is that it sets a new standard for our brand of social TV engagement, and that we’ll be able to see it in practice on a more regular basis.

I hope to be able to chat with some of you and bring your feedback into the show on Thursday night. See you then.