Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites fuel the rise of live video
Forget the expensive camcorder and fancy studio. No need to shout “Lights, Camera, Action!” The ability to broadcast live video to Facebook and Twitter fans already fits in the palm of your hand.
Texas tattoo artist Liz Cook tries not to let her nerves show when her husband Cookie starts filming a live video of her at work by pressing a button on his smartphone. On one recent day in the studio, she held a buzzing needle over a partially inked tattoo of Russian witch Baba Yaga and conversed with viewers on Facebook in real-time.
“Just being able to film videos from a phone and not worry about editing made it more realistic for us to do,” said Cook, who has more than a million followers on her Facebook page. These live videos, she said, also allow potential customers and fans to see the tattoo in more detail than they might in photos where lighting could throw off the color.
With more people watching videos on mobile devices, the quality of cameras on smartphones improving and the appetite for on-demand content growing, social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter are competing head to head to encourage more people to stream raw footage. For now, these live videos are far less common than the pre-recorded videos one finds on seemingly every website, but they are multiplying much faster.
Twitter jumped into the fray early last year with the purchase of live-video-streaming app Periscope, which as of Monday had more than 200 million broadcasts. Periscope users who downloaded the video app on an iPhone can also broadcast live action-packed videos directly from their GoPro HERO4 camera. Twitter paid $86.6 million for both Periscope and social media startup Niche, a regulatory filing shows, but did not detail the amount of each deal.
Months later, Facebook started rolling out a live video feature in its mobile app, moved live videos higher in the News Feed and confirmed that it was in talks with the NFL to live stream games. It is hoping celebrities will post more video too.
“At the rate that Facebook and Twitter are moving on this, the next year will probably tell us whether this is just a fad or if this is something that’s really going to take off and represent a new way with engaging with video,” said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst with research firm eMarketer.
Marketers already spend big bucks on video ads online as they try to reach customers who also watch footage on smaller screens. Live video could become a larger part of that. Brands have already started experimenting with live video to preview big events, promote campaigns, show behind-the-scenes tours or educate viewers about a new product. In 2019, eMarketer forecasts that digital video ad spending in the United States will hit $15.15 billion, doubling from 2015 estimates.
Live video already works well with Twitter, a place where people go to follow breaking news, but don’t underestimate Menlo Park based Facebook, Williamson noted. With its 1.6 billion users, it far surpasses the size of other social networks.
Some already think that live video is here to stay. Joel Comm, a digital marketing strategist and author who uses Facebook Live and Periscope, predicts that live video will go mainstream in the next two years, calling it the most social form of social media available.
“It feels like old school talk radio where you can take callers and immediately engage and interact with people,” he said.
On average, people watch a video more than three times longer when it is live, according to Facebook, which says the medium is “a different and complementary experience to conventional TV programming.”
“More and more people are choosing to watch and share live video on Facebook because it is personal, real-time and authentic,” the Menlo Park tech firm said in a statement.
Startups that are launching new social media sites are also betting big on the future of live video. Nom, a social media site for food lovers, includes a variety of live videos that teach viewers how to make recipes from Filipino eggrolls to breakfast bowls. The site launched in March and was started by YouTube co-founder Steve Chen and Vijay Karunamurthy, who worked at YouTube as an engineering manager.
“It’s pretty amazing when (video) turns into a two way channel and you’re not passively watching someone perform on television. You actually feel like you’re part of the experience too,” said Karunamurthy, Nom’s CEO. “That’s why in real life people go to cooking classes. It’s as much of a social experience as it is learning about the food.”
On Thursday, there were also reports that Google is building a live streaming app called YouTube Connect, though the company hasn’t confirmed the rumors
But live video often requires people to think on their feet, find vivid images to film and juggle multiple tasks at the same time. It can be a nerve-racking experience for even the most seasoned broadcasters who can now see in real-time how many people are watching or commenting on their streams.
Dan Snow, a historian and BBC television personality, said he gets a buzz from the challenge of live video. There are no editing tricks or second takes to hide behind.
Snow was part of a team that attached a GoPro camera to a drone to film a live video on Periscope of a sunrise over Stonehenge. He’s traveled throughout the world, talking about the history of different places via Periscope from the NASA Johnson Space Center in Texas to the summit of a sacred mountain at La Gomera, a Spanish Canary Island.
When Periscope first launched, Snow was in Turkey and he said the experience of broadcasting live video from his smartphone felt game-changing, bigger than sending his first email.
“I honestly felt like I was witnessing a revolution,” he said. “I spent my whole life working in TV, but this is clearly to me a paradigm shift.”
Contact Queenie Wong at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/QwongSJ.