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Media Pioneer Awards 2013: Rock Sound

The latest addition to the 2013 Media Pioneers shortlist, writes Carolyn Morgan, is independent music publisher Rock Sound, who have used Google Hangouts to grow both their online followers and their print copy sales.

By Carolyn Morgan

Online video has been out of reach for many smaller publishers, but Rock Sound has used Google Hangouts, YouTube and twitter to run broadcasts with their cover stars and seen dramatic growth in their social media reach plus newsstand sales.

Rock Sound is an independent magazine for rock fans, and has always been keen to experiment with social media and to discover new ways to talk to their community.

In the last three months, they have been using Google Hangouts to run live chats with their cover-stars, and it has made a dramatic difference to their Google plus following, growing to 12,500 in just 2 months. Plus YouTube channel subscribers went up by 25%. And the Twitter hashtags they use for fans to post questions have been known to trend at no 1 in the UK while the Hangout is live.

Rock Sound ran a Google Hangout with Asking Alexandria recently and the newsstand sales of the magazine were up 35% compared to recent issues.

The broadcast plays on the Rock Sound website, on YouTube and Google+ simultaneously, fans tweet in questions and the band answer them live.

Watch the Asking Alexandria broadcast here.

Editor Ben Patashnik came up with the idea and explains how it works.

Q: Where did the idea come from?

I had a general meeting with Google Plus and the possibility of running Hangouts came up, so we tried a couple out. We'd previously run live webchats via UStream with a certain degree of success, but as soon as we found out they'd be streamed on YouTube and therefore visible on tablets, mobiles and all desktops it became a lot more attractive.

Q: What does it take to set up the Hangout? And how does it work with YouTube?

All we need is a decent broadband connection and a laptop - because we run it through the Rock Sound G+ account, which is linked to, all our subscribers immediately see the video, and anyone else can view it on links we tweet out or embed on our site. It's incredibly flexible - basically anything you can do with a YouTube video, you can do with a Hangout (except embed it into Facebook news stream).

Q: How do you promote it to your audience?

We produce flyers asking for questions in advance which we put out on our social networks, and ask the band to do the same. Running it through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and the site means we have a massive visibility, and when the band get on board and promo it as well we see great figures.

Q: What other impacts is it having (eg on your other social media channels or your website)?

We've seen our YouTube subscribers jump by 25% in a couple of months, and our G+ profile has gone from 200 followers to over 12k. Google has supported as because few publishers are co-ordinating print and online this way. Future Hangouts are going to be more technical, showing off the capabilities of the system, eg dialling in other fans to take part, and hopefully we'll see a similar level of support from Google.

Rock Sound’s Google Hangouts are a great way for a small publisher to showcase their cover stars, and they have cleverly integrated their presence on twitter with Google Plus, YouTube and their own website. The bands get more exposure, the fans get a treat and the publisher gets more sales – so everyone’s happy.

The Media Pioneer Awards are designed to highlight innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in specialist consumer or B2B media, across print, web, digital or events. Winners will be announced at the Specialist Media Conference on 24 April 2013. The Media Pioneer Awards are run by the Specialist Media Show and supported by InPublishing.

More about how to enter the Media Pioneer Awards and stories of past entrants.

More about the Specialist Media Conference on 24 April 2013.