Peter Kafka

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Local TV News + Twitter’s Talking Heads = NBC’s “The 20”

If you’re reading this, there are decent odds you don’t watch your local TV news broadcast. Would you be any more inclined if it featured a dollop of Twitter?

NBC will find out. Its Local Media unit, which owns 10 stations around the country, is integrating Twitter into its programming, bringing a select group of Twitterers to chat about the day’s news within the broadcasts themselves.

“The 20” starts this week on NBC’s Washington, D.C., and New York stations, and you can see a demo of what it looks at the bottom of the post. But it’s a pretty straightforward concept: Use Twitter to find 20 (get it?) newish, youngish talking heads to liven up the show.

And that’s supposed to set up a virtious cycle–the Twitterers that NBC features already have people paying attention to what they’re saying, so perhaps their offline followers will tune in to see them on TV, too. And exposure on TV should increase “The 20″‘s online following. Repeat.

A couple of thoughts:

  • Lots of people are already watching TV and using social media at the same time. But it’s pretty hard to effectively integrate Web/social commentary into TV news. Think of that weird CNN segment that used to feature women reading blog posts out loud, or TweetDeck’s awkward appearance on multiple TV news reports last month. And when news anchors read people’s tweets aloud on “The 20” segment below, that seems odd, too. But the other part of the bit, where the commentators actually show up on TV, via Skype, and start commentating, is a much more promising notion.
  • NBC does seem to have done a pretty good job of finding interesting people to bring on their shows. Or at least they have by my self-interested standards: I’m already following about a third of NBC’s New York crew (congrats, Anil).
  • Regardless of how this plan turns out, it’s interesting to see NBC working to bring a younger, tech-savvy demo back to its local news broadcast. That’s a switch from an earlier strategy, where Comcast’s broadcast unit essentially gave up on trying to get Web users to pay attention to its TV news, and set about creating a local news site that more or less ignored the stations altogether.

Untitled from Peter Kafka on Vimeo.