Tuesday, October 09, 2012

News 2.0? Reporting with Google hangouts.

California gasoline prices jumped to record highs this week, and the Los Angeles Times covered the story in their print edition. But, when I asked a class of 25 students how many read the LA Times, only three said they did.

I can also imagine this being covered on TV news -- a reporter standing in front of a gas station ... the camera pans from her to the price sign and back ... she comments that prices have risen by a dollar a gallon in a short period of time ... she interviews a customer who complains about the price hike ... It ends up being a 60-second spot, then on to the next story or a commercial.

I also asked my students how many watched TV news regularly. Again three said yes.

It turns out that the LA Times also covered the story in the following 8-minute Google hangout between two Times writers and an expert on energy and gasoline prices.

During this interview/discussion we heard why the prices shot up, how high they might get, when we might expect to see them come back down, why gas does not come in from out of state, tactics of the gasoline station owners, the global determinants of oil prices, etc.

Is there a demand for this sort of relatively in-depth reporting? Will this sort of coverage become common in the future? If so, how will people discover the stories they want to focus their attention on?

And, what about the business model? How much did this hangout cost to produce? Perhaps the two Times writers spent half an hour planning the interview and getting in touch with the expert. The participants all stayed in their offices and the call itself took no more than 15 minutes. When the hangout ended, it was automatically posted on YouTube. That is the good news. The bad news is that the three people were well-paid, articulate professionals so their time is valuable.

Can we find a viable business model with revenue from ads, subscription fees, pay-per-view fees, etc. to cover the cost?

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