We invited law enforcement officers and community members to come to the station to watch our story on Distracted Drivers BEFORE it aired Friday night. After they watched the story the panel reviewed and discussed the story amongst themselves and on their personal social networks. The discussion was broadcast live on Ustream allowing more participation from those who watched.

This is one of the news collaboration projects of which I’ve been writing. Those on the panel became supplemental resources to the story, from the personal stories that were shared to those that know the law. They each agreed to turn to their social networks to discuss the story. They will be resources to all of their followers. I will refer viewers to them.

No, we did not show the story during the Ustream broadcast. We did share our promo videos of the story so those who joined the conversation outside of the panelists would have an understanding of the story. The discussion we had and that continued on Twitter as #cbs4chat was the word of mouth advertising we hoped would influence someone to turn on the news to watch the story that created all the chatter.

The conversation started before people even came to the station as several of the participants started talking about it on a blog, Twitter and facebook. Even if we don’t get any viewers out of this, our brand is reaching people that we may not ever turn to us, or have turned away from us. Consistent collaborative efforts like this will connect our brand in the long-term.

Such a panel and live broadcast make sense as Distracted Driving is state and national issue. Even Oprah has taken the issue to task. Families in Colorado have been tragically affected by accidents caused by distracted drivers. The issue lends itself to conversation.

The way the story is done and the resources we used are not things we need to keep hidden from the competition. The promotion for the story started to run yesterday. We know other stations have already produced stories along the same lines because it is such a big issue. We do want to make ourselves stand out from the competition though, and this live panel discussion is one way we can do this.

Other stories don't lend themselves to such extensive efforts. I've discussed Dr. Robert Forto's collaboration with us on a story last week. A large panel discussion on canine dementia, or overall pet health concerns, wouldn't have worked. We didn't rely just on Robert's efforts though. During the afternoon newscasts we hosted an Interactive HelpCenter with two veterinarians who discussed pet concerns on the air with Reporter Suzanne McCarroll, as well as answered questions from viewers live or through our web chat, facebook and Twitter.

There are many ways news collaborations can take shape. One model is not the answer. Flexibility is the answer. You should think of what the story incorporates and which of your audience members will relate to it the most. Then decide what methods are best to reach that audience. Don't be surprised if the answer has nothing to do with social media. Sometimes traditional promotional efforts are the best.

We have two more collaborations for stories next week. Each is different. One involves pure review and reaction of an investigative story where the two people we've asked to join us will take their opinions to their social networks, including a Ustream show. The other incorporates a panel and Interactive HelpCenter rolled into one to provide tips and resources on the most complained about industry in the state.

*UPDATE: The Ustream panel was a success for the most part.  The success comes from the conversation the panel had amongst themselves and are continuing to have on their social networks.  The for most part comes from technical difficulties where Ustream stopped recognizing the mics right at the beginning of the broadcast.  After a restart of Ustream Producer we got sound back!  However, for some reason it wouldn't record the show, so there's only a 3min archive section of the show available - of course from the non-audio time.  There were also problems with the chat.  Most of us on the panel couldn't get chat to work.  I'm looking into the reasons this may have happened.

Also, the numbers are in from the overnight ratings:  for Thursday, May 13 the 10pm newscast had its biggest demo (age 25-54) of the May ratings period up to that date.  Yes, the number could be attributed to the large lead-in audience from program of The Mentalists, and to the traditional news promotional efforts.  I, however, believe some of this number is due to the conversation that was had all day on various social media streams.  The retention of audience that stayed from 10:00 to 10:15 held steady.  This means we didn't lose viewers before 10:15.  The Distracted Driver story ran at 10:15.  When I chatted about the story, I included the time it would run so everyone knew exactly when to pay attention to the news.