Q&A: HLN’s Hecht on Charting a Social-First Course

22 Jan 2015 -

(Above: A group shot of the HLN team in Atlanta with Executive Vice President Albie Hecht, center in blue suit.)

By Elise DeVoe

Thanks in part to its recent rebrand, HLN is making waves across the social media community. Albie Hecht, executive vice president and general manager of the network, discussed the idea of a social-first channel, HLN's new slate of programming (including the network's first-ever original series) and more in the Q&A below.

Last year HLN rebranded as the first TV home for the social media generation. Tell us about the idea of a social-first channel.

HLN's mission is to give the social media community the first all-screens home for the best social news and lifestyle content in the world. In order to do that, HLN is redefining news as news you share. We found our voice by making content for social first. Traditional TV makes good TV, then drives viewers to the website, and puts out a tweet after the show. What we are doing is crafting a story for social first—say on Instagram or YouTube—put it out, collect the best ones on our digital sites, and then push that back to TV. That’s how we’re looking at it right now.

We also want to have a voice that people come to recognize as, “that’s HLN.” Optimistic is the most important word I want people to associate with us. The other part is about participation—we’re not the news network, you are. We want our audience to participate, that’s what social demands. They want to like it, they want to share, they want to engage. We want to give them the forum to do that.

HLN has just debuted a new set, logo and on-air look. Tell us about the thinking behind the new look—how does it fit with the social-first theme?

HLN's new set was designed with our mission in mind; it's a start-up meets coffee house, and a space that inspires, encourages and evokes conversation. The new set, coupled with a new graphics look and logo, visually rethinks the way news and information is delivered. For example, a prominent feature on the new set is the HLN index—our exclusive social tool that uses an algorithm to track Google, Facebook and Twitter—and displays the top five trending topics in real time.

The Daily Share and Jack Vale: Offline are two shows that premiered under this refresh. How do these shows fit into HLN's new brand?

The Daily Share launched on social media platforms in October, and now encompasses HLN's entire dayside schedule (12-5 p.m. ET).  Hosted by Ali Nejad and Yasmin Vossoughian, the show aggregates the best social media news and lifestyle content of the day, as well as engages viewers with a digest of what people are watching, searching, playing, sharing, shopping and creating.

And in prime, we gave a TV home to YouTube megastar Jack Vale, which is killing it among HLN's new key demo, P18-49.   

HLN has strategic partnerships with social media platforms. How are they being used across the channel?

Partnering with social networks is instrumental in HLN's success and a big part of our strategy. These partnerships are testimonials to the strength of the HLN brand and builds authenticity and trust with our community. 

During the 2014-15 Upfront, we announced a strategic alliance with Twitter to create an all-screens experience for news that includes the use of Twitter to engage audiences during coverage of the 2016 election.

And this past December, we announced that we are teaming with Facebook to produce a pilot for a series that will use the wildly addictive social network to tell interesting stories. 

We are also proud of our recent content partnerships with The Daily Dot and TheDailyMail.com.

These moves are the latest phase of a larger rebrand announced last year. What else can viewers look forward to in 2015 and beyond?

More HLN originals debuting at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays! Next up: The Social Life on February 24. This half-hour show follows our very own Ali Nejad as he hits the road on a quest to prove that with the power of social media, anything is possible.  He'll visit amazing places and dive into the incredible experiences these locations have to offer suggested by his Twitter followers. 

Photos courtesy of HLN