Journalists have new ways to use the group video chat Hangouts in Google+ thanks to new features announced today. A new version called "Hangouts On Air" allows a discussion to be publicly livestreamed and recorded.

Some news organizations have used workarounds to broadcast their Hangouts publicly, but now it's a built-in feature. Journalists can use this to conduct public discussions in new ways:

  • Create a virtual town hall where reporters or outside experts discuss an issue in the news via a Hangout.
  • Reinvent the editorial board meeting by having a guest and the board join a Hangout, then publish the recorded video with the written editorial.
  • Moderate a political debate with several candidates in a Hangout.

Google announced several other new Hangout features as well, including support for Android phones with front-facing cameras (and soon the iPhone). Participants can also share a video stream of their computer screen (useful for training or product demos) and can share a Google Doc (which enables people to plan coverage or edit a story while video chatting).

Earlier: How to set up a virtual writers' hangout in Google+