I used to work for a TV station. I was the editor of a weekly newspaper. Now, I’m living in both worlds. I’m an online editor and multimedia journalist. Of all the tools that seem to bridge the gap between broadcast and print journalist, live streaming has to be the most revolutionary.
Today, any one person, let alone any given news organization, can broadcast video live out over the internet using live streaming services such as Livestream.com or Ustream.tv for the cost of a simple video camera, laptop and a few video cables and accessories. The ubiquity of broadcasting power brings with it a lot of trash that clogs the Internet. This is where journalists have the opportunity, and I would argue the responsibility, to more contentiously and professionally harness the medium.
Here are a few considerations:
1) Set it up right. Ensure your brand, your logo and you organization’s live stream account looks good. Livestream.com allows you to upload a variety of logos to various positions like a 300×300 logo, 960×80 banner, and 300×250 promo image. Take the time to ensure these are uploaded and that your “channel” looks good. It will say a lot about the professionalism of your news service.
2) Thoughtfully consider how and what to live stream. Should you live stream your local school board meeting? Too boring? Already available on the school district’s web site? How about live streaming a public debate your newspaper is hosting for the next election? There you go. Not everything is ideal for live streaming. Consider what people would take the time to watch and how timely it is. If you purchase a wireless card you could conceivably live stream from any location with a camera and laptop. This could open up great possibilities for your news organization. Cover the downtown fire live on the web or an important press conference, all without the live satellite truck those TV stations rely on.
3) Market you live stream service. Getting the audience is perhaps the hardest part of adding live streaming to your web site. You need to find a place to embed your live stream player that people will be able to find. You also have to let them know that your web site is the place to view the event live. Most people won’t think to go to their local news site for this type of service. In the week leading up to the event, use every opportunity to let your web site visitors know what you’ve got planned for the live event coverage. Then follow through consistently to let build your audience. Let them know that this is a service they can consistently rely on to be there for important live event coverage.
4) Lastly, take full advantage of live stream host service options. Livestream.com allows you to loop your videos in a replay format so even though your stream isn’t live 24/7, the video of the last live event you covered is. And, make sure you approach live streaming with a “producers” mind set. Use Livestream’s graphics and titling to put up names and locations as needed during your live broadcast. Take advantage of the live chat function to engage with your audience during the live broadcast.
Live streaming is a new tool for news web sites. When used effectively and to its full potential, this service can revolutionize the way you cover your community. One truly remarkable web site that has taken full advantage of live streaming tools is www.theuptake.org. This site is a citizen journalism web site that covers Minnesota politics through live video coverage. Imagine how your organization could do similar work.
Just remember, if approached half-heartedly, live stream services can flounder. Live streaming is about engagement. Consider carefully how it can enhance your coverage.