CBS's new show will help integrate social networking into the media mainstream. Why this may not be such a good thing.
Social media has finally come to American television.
CBS has announced the launch of a new web-centric program What's Trending, a live show focused on current events, news and pop culture as seen through the lens of social media. Streamed live through CBS's partnerships with YouTube, Ustream and Livesteam, and billed as "a new kind of news show connecting you to the top stories and people heating up the conversation online around the world," What's Trending looks to put social media front and center as a storytelling tool.
"Unlike some other shows that include social media as an added tool to the content, our content itself is social, and the show is powered by that conversation and our community," host Shira Lazar told GigaOm's Liz Shannon Miller via email. "Everything we do involves digitally connected tools -- from how we discover and source stories to how we curate them on the blog and on-air."
The launch of What's Trending closely follows the unveiling of Al Jazeera English's social media experiment The Stream, which looks to spotlight stories around the globe powered by technology and social media and build a web community around a broadcast program. (I wrote about The Stream for Nieman Journalism Lab in April.) Structurally, the two programs are incredibly similar: Using Storify, a social storytelling software, onsite and Tweetriver in the studio, both programs are bold attempts to effectively integrate commentary and questions from Facebook and Twitter directly into a program's production. While major American networks continue to sequester blase calls for feedback at the end of regular segments, CBS is taking the first step towards successfully harnessing social media in the regular flow of a conventional American television product.