Home The Incredible Engagement Feedback Loops of Startup Loving TV Host Shira Lazar

The Incredible Engagement Feedback Loops of Startup Loving TV Host Shira Lazar

You could say that Shira Lazar lives by the sword and dies by the sword, but these days media mavens like Lazar can create safety nets by engaging internet audiences with the same tools that sometimes get them in trouble. When Lazar’s show about Internet trends, called What’s Trending, was promptly canceled by CBS last month after someone on her staff wrongly Tweeted that Steve Jobs had died (before he had), it might have been the end of a TV show in days of old.

What’s Trending has built its own audience online though and a faux pas that would have axed the connection between a content producer and its audience in the past is now not such a game ender when media pros can build direct connections without complete reliance on major distribution deals. Now that the What’s Trending team is on its own again, it’s taking dramatic steps to build and deepen that audience by juggling a dazzling assortment of new media tools simultaneously. All while streaming live to thousands of people online.

Here’s what What’s Trending is experimenting with right now to combine live TV with online social media:

The show streams live on Livestream.com but that stream is embedded in a chat room on Chill.com. There, while the show is being broadcast live, up to three staff members are in the chat room at once participating in conversation. They share links in support of the on-screen content, they moderate conversation to keep it high level and they grab highlighted questions and feedback to share it live with the show’s on-camera social media correspondent. Guests are encouraged to engage in the chat as well and Lazar says Snoop Dog was particularly active there when he was a guest.

A day after the show broadcasts live, the crew does a live replay and chats with viewers live again. They share what they were thinking at each moment in the show, take feedback from viewers and answer questions.

In between episodes, the team solicits video comments on another service called VYou. They ask for viewers’ thoughts about whatever the topic of the week is, then they edit video replies they get down to a one minute highlight reel that gets broadcast as part of the show. “Getting people to post video comments is one of the hardest things to do online,” says the show’s Executive Producer, Damon Berger. Berger notes that each episode gets seventy give to one hundred thousand views each, including as many as fifteen thousand concurrent viewers, but that audience has so far produced only ten to twenty video responses per week.

That feature may or may not work with the show’s audience, though the team seems convinced that there’s more than enough material to produce sixty seconds of high quality edited content already.

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Different things are experimented with all the time, though. Lazar says the show’s staff is a regular participant in the technology startup community and is always looking for new tools to experiment with. They then maintain a tight feedback loop with their audience and are willing to drop things quickly and try something new when feedback supports it.

One tactic the team says is working well is prompting viewers to check in to the show on entertainment check-in network GetGlue. The show has amassed more than thirty thousand check-ins in just a few months of using the service. Users who check in on GetGlue get rewarded for their loyalty to the show and can get What’s Trending stickers sent to them in the mail. Each time they check in, a users’ friends are all told about the show as well.

What’s Trending is broadcasting live right now at 3pm PST with a special episode about internet bullying and teen suicide, a topic that might seem trite if you’re a cynic but is actually very relevant to the internet community the show draws from and serves. The episode will combine guests from related organizations, internet celebrities, debut music videos and more.

It will all be run through the living experiment of multi-platform viewer engagement that What’s Trending is using and building at the same time. It’s an effort that could help illuminate some developments in the future of entertainment on the web and it’s ambitious enough to be downright inspirational.

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