The Joys and Perils of the Live Broadcast

In a corner section of the main editorial floor at the L.A.Times is a mini television studio. It’s surprising to come across it because so much of the editorial office space still feels like a print-only operation. But sectors of the cavernous building are devoted to video production. The Times embeds a lot of video on story pages, has a section devoted to video on its main site, and has a strong presence on video outlets such as YouTube.

The studio is used for live or recorded interviews on the small set, which features three cameras, a bank of lights, a small table and a backdrop featuring the Times logo and brand signage. Everything is ready to go this Monday morning with a live online broadcast of a chat between Outlander actor Sam Heughan and entertainment reporter Yvonne Villarreal. Well, almost ready.

Heughan, who will be appearing via Skype, is late connecting with the Times team and the live interview will have to be delayed. The live chat has been widely promoted on Times social media and its online site, so this sets off a small panic as the team scrambles to get the word out to the many Outlander fans expected to tune in to the live event. Tweets are rushed out, headlines are changed, and the waiting audience is told to stay put for 30 more minutes.

On mornings like this, the Times seems more like a broadcast network than a media company deeply rooted in print.

envelope broadcast

Heughan finally connects on Skype and the live broadcast begins 30 minutes late. In the end it’s a success as the actor is engaged and personable. While Villarreal is doing the on-camera interview, Times web producer Tracy Brown is off to the side working her smart phone and busily tweeting out key moments from the interviewThere is a heavy social media component for this broadcast.

The live broadcast was facilitated using the Google Plus feature of Hangouts on Air. This seems like a convenient tool for student journalists to use to produce a live broadcast.

The Times also got the audience involved. Smart. They created a hashtag before the event so interested viewers could submit questions to ask the guest when the interview started. Villarreal used a few audience questions during the interview, so this was audience engagement in action. When you integrate the live broadcast with your social media and digital product, as the Times does, you have a great way to boost page views and increase an audience.