With services like Periscope and Facebook Live integrated into the world’s most popular social media services, and smartphone adoption fast reaching ubiquity, almost anyone can live-stream video whenever they want. Facebook pursuing new live-streamers through avenues more incongruent with their image, like television advertising, is bringing live video to a larger audience of creators every day.
Something that has already been happening, though, is the use of live video streaming by many people and organisations to spread stories and information whilst cutting out the middle man and eliminating the associated delays. This way, viewers can get their information with a rawer, more human connection to the footage. Live video is being used in a variety of ways to tell stories and inform in a wide variety of sectors, and it’s only likely to become more prevalent throughout this year and beyond.
In some of the more technology-based enthusiast circles, live streaming of press conferences has been readily available for many years now. For conventions like CES, MWC and E3 there have been fans watching online to see what’s coming next in the digital fields for over a decade. Many companies are lucky to have a following that will look directly to them for information, effectively eliminating third party sources. In fact, a lot of these press conferences have been transformed into flashy consumer-focused shows. More interesting, though, is the way that less consumer-focused organisations have shifted to using live streaming as a communication tool. For example, over the last few years NASA have been live streaming their missions, conferences and notable achievements directly to space fans on social media. This helps to share their stories and achievements around the world faster and more directly.
For music fans, live streaming has been used to allow a whole new level of access to their favourite artists. From backstage streams to live footage, live video gives artists the ability to present themselves directly to their fans. By communicating and sharing directly, artists are able to promote themselves through their personalities and activities – this allows fans to engage with an artist’s growth, achievements and story much more closely. On a larger scale, festivals and awards shows use live footage to share what’s going on to anyone that isn’t there. As well as getting more eyes on them, it helps to provoke FOMO (fear of missing out) – increasing their potential for ticket sales next time around.
News media have adopted similar methods in the face of shocking world events. Live streaming by outlets like VICE telling the stories behind the Crimea dispute, Syrian civil war, refugee crisis and more have achieved a humanising effect on events that initially seem to be a world away. In this way, stories have been brought closer to home and viewers have been introduced to the human experience behind large-scale disruptive world events. Recently, this technique was used domestically by US media like the New York Times to communicate the fallout from the US election. Journalists travelled to Republican-voting areas to gather reactions to Trump’s presidency, to Mexico to interview citizens about the border wall announcement, and within the nation’s capital to follow the resulting protests.
Live streaming has been an effective tool for activism ever since the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. That protest, and more recent ones like Black Lives Matter and the Womens’ March, have made extensive use of video to communicate the perceived strengths of their movements. This footage has most often been used to publicise activism, document incidents and communicate their reasons and aims. Jackie Zammuto of Witness, an international non-profit promoting the use of live video in activism, noted: “You cannot deny that this is happening because it’s happening live in front of your face.” Doubtless, the direct nature of live video provokes sympathisers to causes like these and will continue to – it’s a natural fit.
The nature of live video evokes feelings of directness, authenticity and connection. In doing this, participants from many areas have been able to communicate stories and events in a human way that increases engagement. As the major social media platforms make a push to diversify this, with services like Periscope 360 coming very soon to all users, and look to make live streaming available and encouraged for everyone, it will be interesting to see how it evolves as a storytelling medium – not just for large stories like those discussed, but for the lives of ordinary people.