Back when Jenni Hogan was working the morning show at Seattle’s KIRO 7, she became frustrated. As a small earthquake rattled parts of Washington one morning, anchors asked viewers to call the news station or email with what they felt.
To Hogan, this was so old school.
“I was sitting at my computer and my Twitter stream was going crazy with viewers reactions to the earthquake,” she said. “At the time there was no way to quickly get those comments on TV. I felt powerless and I wanted to help.”
Now, Hogan has a solution to that problem.
The traffic anchor-turned-entrepreneur is behind a new company called TVinteract that enables TV anchors, reporters and hosts to select social media content they’d like to show on live TV and simplifies the entire process of moving all that chatter to the screen.
Hogan, a 2011 finalist in the worldwide Shorty Awards (the “Oscars of Twitter”), hopes that this helps her former colleagues become more interactive with their viewers.
“The technology I’m creating will help empower talent in breaking news situations to stay on top of social media rather than chasing it,” she told GeekWire.
Many news stations already display tweets on-screen, but the workflow is a bit complicated to actually make that happen. TVinteract’s app allows on-air talent to simply search for a certain topic, person or story they want to watch and pick which tweets to show on the live broadcast.
Anchors access the content with an iPad that’s already connected to the live broadcast either via HDMI or wirelessly with Apple’s AirPlay.
The app, which is powered by Seattle’s Buddy.com, is set up so that even if anchors and reporters have no knowledge of Twitter or social media, they can still search for content they want to share.
“The dream is for every anchor and reporter to have this in their tool kit,” Hogan said. “They already have pen and paper; hopefully they’ll all have this app as well. It’s just another tool for the talent.”
Seattle’s KING5 implemented TVinteract Wednesday morning and the station hopes that the new tool helps bridge social media and live TV.
“We’re excited to experiment with this new technology that makes it easy for our anchors to quickly share social content with the audience viewing from home,” said Mark Briggs, Director of Digital Media at KING5. “TV stations everywhere are trying to solve the problem of connecting social media with the broadcast in a way that is authentic, timely and adds value to the content experience on all platforms.”
TVinteract is still waiting for submission to the App Store. In terms of pricing, Hogan wouldn’t specify but said it will cost TV stations far less than the $400-to-$600 per month they are shelling out for current monthly licensing fees for graphic packages. She also has plans to implement in-app purchases and give stations the ability to use their own branding within the app.
But Hogan is only starting with live TV and has plans for something much bigger. She thinks there is an opportunity for the product in other spaces like Vlogging and digital broadcasts. Eventually, the UW graduate and former national champion rower would like to create a complimentary app for viewers, too.
“I’ve got a big vision for TVinteract,” she said. “While there is huge commercial opportunity in this [live TV] space, there’s an even bigger opportunity to impact how consumers of traditional media engage with social media.”
Hogan is bootstrapping the company herself and is thankful for all the help she’s received from mentors and others in the startup world including Buddy.com CEO Dave McLauchlan, who has worked with Hogan to get the project off the ground.
“I’m definitely not alone on this ride,” she said. “That is a big part of how this has moved so quick. My network and advisors I have are very experienced and it’s allowing me to jump on big opportunities, make important decisions, get the top access to decisions makers in the broadcast industry and most importantly get this in the hands of talent who are the ambassadors of a product like this across America.”
Hogan, who has more than 200,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter combined, is certainly an innovative thinker who pushes the limits of traditional media and the ways we consume information. One of her more notable projects at KIRO was an experiment in social television when Hogan hosted a one-hour show that blended live television and online streaming with real-time interaction on Facebook and Twitter.
She’s moved on from TV and is now trying her hand as an entrepreneur. However, TVinteract actually isn’t Hogan’s first entry into the startup space. She launched something called Mission Hot Mama Inc. a few years ago and it saw mild success but never came to fruition.
Hogan has learned a lot since then, however, and now she is ready to do it big.
“My number one focus is to knock this product out of the ballpark,” she said. “If I can create my dream product for my industry and help broadcast stations transition into embracing the social media space, I feel like the rest will take care of itself.”
Previously on GeekWire: Next Big Thing: InsideSocial Co-Founders Brewster Stanislaw and Joey Kotkins