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Summary:

Sprinkling a little Twitter dust on your broadcast is the hot new trend in television. Both Current and C-SPAN have displayed “tweets” alongside their political coverage, and CNN’s Rick Sanchez created a news show based around Twitter. Showing watcher tweets on the air doesn’t make you […]

Sprinkling a little Twitter dust on your broadcast is the hot new trend in television. Both Current and C-SPAN have displayed “tweets” alongside their political coverage, and CNN’s Rick Sanchez created a news show based around Twitter.

Showing watcher tweets on the air doesn’t make you truly interactive, but it’s a nice start. In the first month of his new show, Sanchez increased his time slot’s audience by 25 percent, to almost 900,000 viewers. And for Current TV, the progressive cable network that has yet to make a big mainstream splash, its “Hack the Debate” Twitter project has been a huge breakthrough.

Over at Current TV headquarters, which happen to be just around the corner from our office, folks were beaming with excitement when I visited them just before and during the final presidential debate last night. See my annotated video of the scene above.

Current isn’t rated on TV, but it says its pleased by other measures of the broadcast, like being the No. 1 keyword used on Twitter during the debates. Oh, and it got lots of press attention for the project, helped along in part by an appearance from Current co-founder Al Gore at the first debate.

Current’s always trying to combine web sensibilities and TV distribution, but it hasn’t always made a ton of sense. For instance, a Digg-like revamp of Current.com, built to solicit new on-air stories, alienated contributing video producers.

The “Hack the Debate” project worked a lot better from the start. For the project, Current used Ruby on Rails to suck in keywords from the Twitter API, and built a Flash display that acted like an additional camera in its San Francisco control room where it was overlaid on the video feed before being sent up to the satellites. During each debate, Current used a team of editors and a lawyer to find the most topical and FCC standards-compliant tweets (though apparently, Current staffers told me last night, the username “Chewbacca” did slip through, a no-no as the term is owned by Lucasfilm). The fastest a tweet could travel from submission on Twitter to airing on Current was 20 seconds.

Current did try to air as many tweets as possible, with some 2,700 tweets making it to TV over the course of each debate. That made it nearly impossible, and a little stressful, to try read each of them. Also, in a somewhat out-of-character move, the channel also tried to make its tweet selections somewhat politically balanced.

So is this what TV of the future will be like? It’s a sign of confidence from Current that the company’s chief architect, Ofer Shaked, said last night he is going to become CTO of the whole shop, overseeing both Current.com and Current TV.

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  1. Ah Ruby! RoR is awesome stuff. Any idea how to get sample code (assuming such exists)?

  2. I took a pole myself in medway ohio. 82 of a 100 people realize our vote don’t matter anyway. electrol votes picks the president. Oboma says McCain voted 90% with Bush. Oboma voted niether with or against , He voted PRESENT . They want us to go vote just to fill good about ourselves. I say to Obomans do like him and vote PRESENT

  3. No…it’s not truly interactive…but it’s a good start to build upon.

    This is a topic I’m very interested in at the moment.

    Click on my link to see my current blog entry on McLuhan and Internet video interactivity.

  4. Current Picks Rotten Tomatoes for TV Show « NewTeeVee Monday, December 15, 2008

    [...] such as when it will launch or exactly how much interactivity will be a part of the show (maybe live Twittering?). But this move is in keeping with Current’s shift to a cross-platform strategy that will [...]

  5. Current Hires New Media Pres « NewTeeVee Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    [...] channel. Recently the San Francisco-based company has made better efforts to include services like Twitter and 12seconds.tv in its live news coverage. In November, Current got rid of 60 positions and said [...]

  6. Get Ready for TwitterTeeVee Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    [...] new ways. CNN’s Rick Sanchez was an early adopter of the service, last year Current TV hosted Hack the Debate, which let users chime in during the presidential campaign, and in a less-lofty use, Bravo recently [...]

  7. Twitter Search Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    thats great that you are talking about the twitter api,a good example of searching with the twitter api is on twiogle.com because you can search on twitter and google at the same time.

  8. Charles Bernardo Wednesday, August 5, 2009

    I think its great, don’t pay for any of the Twitter apps, get them free here: http://www.thetwitterstore.com
    and participate with more organized following.

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