The live streaming battle hots up
At the conference new arrival Meerkat was the main focus, but its tenure as talk of the show was short lived after Periscope – a startup that had been purchased by Twitter several months before arrived shortly afterwards.
A year on and live video streaming is starting to become part of the media landscape. There are countless examples of publishers using Periscope in interesting ways, from the live q and a’s hosted by the editorial staff of The Next Web through to the on the fly transmissions of the aftermath of the Paris bombings by Welt from Germany. Media companies, like the BBC with its Outside Source channel, have also taken viewers behind the scenes to see how the news is constructed.
Facebook and Google respond
The success of Periscope, which due to its Twitter integration and superior set of features appears to have eclipsed Meerkat, caught other mainstream tech companies by surprise. Facebook was first off the blocks with its response. Several months after the launch of Periscope it started trialling a concept which has now become known as Facebook Live. The initial users of the service were verified organisations and celebrities, however in early 2016 Facebook opened the feature up to US iPhone users.
Facebook Live is both easy to use and instantly accessible. When a person creates an update on the app on their mobile, they are offered a live streaming tab which gives them the option of sharing their footage with their friends. There’s no requirement to download an external app as there is with Periscope and Meerkat.
Another key difference between Facebook Live and Periscope is that Facebook Live’s footage is archived and can be accessed by others later. Periscope videos hang around for a day or so, and then disappear, though the company does apparently archive all its footage so it may change this at some point in the future.
The opportunities for both individuals and media brands on Facebook Live is immense. For media brands there’s no need to build up a following on a new platform – the content can be shared with their huge Facebook communities from day one. Already many media brands are enthusing about its potential with Al Jazeera English, PBS Newshour and BBC News among its pioneers. An article for Business Insider reported that Sky Sports pulled in 400,000 views on a live stream, while the BBC attracted 120,000 and BuzzFeed drew in 80,000.
In early 2016 The Guardian’s Media Labs conducted an experiment with both Facebook Live and Periscope in taking viewers behind the scenes at a dog show. Its viewer figures – it used the Guardian’s Facebook account and an individual journalist’s Periscope account, make for interesting reading as they underline what could be Facebook’s core advantage. “Periscope registered 144 viewers for the livestream and 22 viewers who watched in the hours following. The Facebook Live broadcast registered a rough average of 30 viewers at a time watching live, but was watched several hundred times by midday the next day.”
Are Vloggers Google’s secret weapon?
Meanwhile in late March rumours swept through the tech media that Google was building a live streaming video service, YouTube Connect, which allegedly will launch in May. The company has offered limited live streaming through Google+ and Hangouts on a desktop, or through the YouTube creator app if on mobile. Neither offers an especially satisfactory experience. With YouTube Connect it sounds like Google is offering a similar service to Facebook Live and Periscope in that it is including chat and tagging features. There’s also apparently a news feed that displays videos from friends and brands to which a user has subscribed as well as an option to archive live feeds like Facebook Live.
YouTube will inevitably rely on its coterie of popular and high profile vloggers to push its content and it might be in this space that it has most success. That could mean Facebook becomes the de facto place for media companies who choose to live stream footage. However, given the current debates about publishers embracing social platforms some companies may feel slightly queasy about giving Facebook even more exclusive, high value content. Much may depend on the quality of the revenue shares on offer.
There’s also the question of what exactly magazine brands will use live video streaming for anyhow? There are endless opportunities for news organisations, but arguably significantly less for magazine brands. The resources that are available, the creativity of the team involved and the way that live video sits with a magazine’s brand values will also play a role in whether companies embrace Facebook Live and its rivals.