Social media on TV news

How do you go beyond reading tweets on the air to make social media an integral part of the newscast?  CNN International’s Etan Horowitz is charged with making that happen daily.

“It used to be the reverse,” says Horowitz. “We were trying to put TV online; now we’re bringing interesting social media to air.”

Horowitz says that TV producers need to do more than monitor social media, they have to “show” it.  He offered a couple tools that can help stations visualize social media content:

1.  Mapping – with tools like Bing’s Twitter Maps, you can show all the tweets on a particular topic with their geographic locations mapped for you (including any Twitpics).  Imagine how useful that might be during breaking news when you could show relevant tweets in the immediate vicinity of the story.

2.  Trending stories – check out TrendsMap to monitor the topics getting the most tweets for a particular geographic area.  It’s the modern-day equivalent of the “water cooler,” a way to illustrate what people are talking about.

Horowitz suggests that stations could also do more with Skype to gather interviews and video from people who might add unique perpectives on stories that are difficult to get to otherwise.

He gave an example of a World Cup fan who used his laptop and Skype to stream celebration video back to CNN, when the network was caught without a crew in Holland, following the the Dutch victory over Brazil.

To get the information to air, Horowitz says you need the following:

  • A computer routed to air or a whopping big monitor to display content
  • The ability to record Skype interviews
  • A grasp of relevant laws
  • Good relationships with your Web team
  • Getting plugged in to the local conversation
  • A willingness to experiment

Horowitz also adds this caveat, “Social media on TV works best when it adds context for viewers who never use Twitter or Facebook.”


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