Google announced a new Hangout video show called Versus today on the YouTube blog. It's a partnership with Intelligence², a worldwide forum based in the U.K. that has hosted debates for radio and television since 2002. Well-known participants debate a proposed motion, and the audience can vote in real time on the value of the arguments.

The first motion will be "It's time to end the War on Drugs." Participants include Richard Branson, Russell Brand, Julian Assange and the former presidents of Mexico and Brazil. The moderator is Emily Maitlis of the BBC. It airs on the Versus YouTube channel on March 13 at 7:00 p.m. GMT. By participating on the Versus Google+ page, you could be picked to participate, too.

While the bloggerati discount Google+ as a social network by holding it to Facebook's standards, Hangouts continue to be the bold new feature that can't be ignored. Most Hangout activity is only known to the people who use Google+, but it has gained some mainstream visibility through some well-played promotions...

...such as that time the President of the United States hung out.

The Presidential Hangout was a remarkable production. Its quality surely rivaled anything cable TV has done recently. In fact, the informal nature of Google+ Hangouts, scripted though this one was, produced some refreshing candor.

It's too early (and tech-bloggy) to think of Hangouts as "game-changing," but they're certainly changing the channel. As people cut the cord and turn to the Web for their viewing, Hangouts offer a two-way experience that's more engaging than TV. The debate format will up the ante on how social big productions via Hangouts On Air can be, though. But if viewers can participate to any meaningful extent, cable is already beaten.

Hangouts Are Undeniably Cool

Google+ is going asymmetrical with Hangouts. It has no competition here. No "social network" in the conventional sense has YouTube's infrastructure as a back-end. The Wall Street Journal's dismal-sounding statistics about Google+ were misleading in one key way. They averaged out time-on-site across 90 million people. A much smaller number realizes that something truly awesome is going on with these Hangouts.

At ReadWriteWeb, we're no strangers to Hangout shows ourselves, even though our production value is less cable and more webcam. We also just have regular old Hangouts from time to time. They're social in a way no text-based app could ever hope to be. You get nervous. You talk over each other. In other words, they're like real life.