About eight years ago, while still at secondary school, I was hooked on the idea of creating YouTube content for a living. I set up a gaming channel where I’d include live audio commentary (in the sense that I would talk at the same time as capturing the game footage, it wasn’t recorded afterwards) or post-edit my face, via webcam, into the corner of the video to add that human aspect. It’s quite common now, less so back then.
My YouTube channel did pretty well. In less than six months I’d gathered up 2,000 subscribers and around 400,000 views. I’d started to see value in monetising videos through AdSense and had clocked up about 50 quid as a result of my efforts.
But then I packed it all in.
I’d garnered negative comments on some of my videos towards the end and my 15 year-old self though it better to delete my account than simply ignore them.
So that was that. It was about this time that YouTube commentators, the ones sharing every aspect of their lives, started to arrive in droves. MSN was also a big player back then and it wasn’t uncommon for my friends and I to spend a lot of time live webcamming with eachother. The two experiences combined (YouTube and MSN) are, to me, what live streaming means. From my perspective, live streaming is either a YouTube-style thing or something you share with friends. But Meerkat and Periscope would disagree with that.
In case you haven’t heard of them, Meerkat and Periscope are two mobile apps that do pretty much the same thing. Periscope was acquired by Twitter so it’s faring slightly better in the consumer interest stakes, but it’s all much of a muchness.
These apps are designed to let people live-stream video direct from their smartphone to the web. As you’d imagine, a lot of what’s shared on these apps is dull. But there is one real, tangible benefit to live-streaming applications – providing a real-time account of breaking news.
It’s no surprise, then, that news associations are getting involved with Periscope and Meerkat in a big way. There’s been lots of experimentation. Some are using corporate accounts to share breaking news, others are relying on the recognisable names of their reporters to do the same thing.
But I’m not convinced we need this level of input from established news organisations, no matter which approach they take.
Live streaming apps are just another example of how “social journalism” is in the hands of the masses and not the major news corporations. For example, there was a fire on Great Portland Street yesterday, which I was made aware of fairly quickly via a user on Twitter. I didn’t need a news corporation for that, but I did, later on, head over to the BBC website for an in-depth run down of what had happened.
And this is what I don’t understand. Live-streaming is a nice-to-have for news coprorations, but where’s the value? Unless they’ve got a reporter in the right place at precisely the right time, they’ll always be late to the party.
Journalism has already changed through the advent of the internet. As a teenager, when deciding what career path I wanted to pursue after university, I spent many hours listening to stories from my grandfather about his long career as an investigative reporter.
His career was in its prime well before the internet, so he’d regale me with stories of travelling the world reporting the news. And, surprisingly, it didn’t always require a lot of writing on his behalf. After finding the story, he’d nip into a phone box and call it in to the editorial team back at base. This didn’t apply all the time, of course, but it did when it was breaking news outside of London.
Evidently that’s no longer the case. Social journalism, if you can even call it that, is now so common that I suppose it doesn’t matter either way whether ‘proper’ journalists jump on the live-streaming bandwagon or not. Anyone with a Twitter account can be the first to break a news story, which is why the role of journalism has changed. There’s still lots of room for both – journalists and social news hounds – but they’re performing very different roles.
These days, more so than ever before, it’s more about analysis than being first to the punch. So include or reference the live streams of other users by all means, but don’t feel the need, news corporations, to provide this content yourselves.