Modern online audiences don't just want to consume the news, they want to be a part of the story. Once upon a time, that meant leaving comments below an article or video; today, it increasingly means chiming in to a live broadcast, both with written opinions and as a guest on air. "Allowing our readers to mix it up with our journalists has given a huge lift to some of our recent stories," says Jimmy Orr, the managing editor overseeing digital products at the LA Times. "When it comes to a story like Carmageddon in Los Angeles, our readers love having a place to voice their anger."
The LA Times has been experimenting with different platforms for video chat with readers, including Google Hangouts. But increasingly the newspaper is turning to Spreecast, a social video platform co-founded by Jeff Fluhr, the main founder and former CEO of StubHub. The small San Francisco-based startup, which launched in November of 2011, has raised just $11 million in venture capital funding, but quickly managed to score major clients like Time Warner, Disney, and Viacom, going toe to toe with Google.
"I can remember the days when streaming RealAudio was incredible."
Dow Jones announced today that its going to start using Spreecast to power interactive video on WSJ Live. Sources say that the company, which manages video for a large segment of Rupert Murdoch's empire, has largely switched from Google Hangouts to Spreecast.
"Google Hangouts can be incredibly useful, but coming from a TV background, there are lots of things, especially with live guests, that need to be produced," says Neal Mann, the social media editor heading up video innovation at the Wall Street Journal. "Spreecast allows us to vet audience members before they come on and prep question and answers live."
Spreecast's service is going head-to-head with Google Hangouts
In some ways, media companies' use of interactive video on the web harkens back to established models of TV news and talk radio. Interactive video "adds a certain kind of energy to a story that younger readers really appreciate, and often that spills over into a new conversation on social media," says Mann.
It's an exciting time for veteran journalists. "I can remember the days when streaming RealAudio was incredible, when just getting a choppy video up on the site at all was a revelation," says the LA Times' Jimmy Orr. "Now our reporters and readers are going to be able to patch in with their iPhones and have a live video conversation. Imagine how that will change live events, being able to communicate with the first people on the scene, not needing to have a news van there to broadcast footage back."