We have all witnessed the rise and demise of a number of apps that started exploring the live streaming experience. There was a surge in enthusiasm and lots of hype when Meerkat, Blab and Periscope entered the scene in 2015, with the community of early adopters blossoming at that time.
Many have immediately assumed that the next massive thing is going to be live streaming as it emerged just at the right moment when the Internet has become strong enough to support the demanding bandwidth that the live streaming requires and phones are sufficiently advanced in terms of camera and processing power. So now that these elements are in place (plus there are number of apps currently providing live streaming to the point where it is just added as a feature to social networks), we truly wonder why is the whole world not streaming in greater numbers?
Perhaps it is because we haven’t looked at what live streaming entails at ground level. For starters, setting aside the technical enablers, live streaming requires a different mindset for the population at large to accept it and there are 2 main aspects to this.
The first is the fact that only relatively few people are truly comfortable in presenting on live streaming. The reasons are obvious — personal inhibitions, possibility of accidents or trolling in real time, concern that it won’t be sufficiently engaging,…et cetera. Wider adoption of the medium seems to require a certain amount of social change, at least for prospective presenters to take the leap onto the small screen. Maybe we can even go so far as to speculate that live streaming is in fact a harbinger of social change that will occur in boosting confidence and casting off the fears of presenting a version of ourselves performing in a less than perfect mode.
The second aspect is that on a technical level is the overall sense that the live streaming is lacking production tools and the ability to edit and improve raw content. Many believe that live streaming is a mediocre product in comparison to, say, other video focused services and therefore doesn’t really have a great chance of becoming a mainstream medium. In that context, live streaming seems to be constantly scrutinized through the lenses of perfect video productions elsewhere.
Is live streaming in fact a boring, low production, low quality relative of videos published on, for example,… youtube?
I do not think so and here is why:
Even if some well-established industries/individuals in video consider live streaming to be boring and that the retention of consumer attention is low due to the above technical shortages (inability to produce), live streaming is not a mere passing phenomenon nor a mere extension of a video production; rather it is an extension or upgrade of blogs, writings with accelerated tools to establish a worthiness, authenticity and a spontaneous communication with like or diverse minded people, forming a cross -connect bridging of cultures and gaps of all sorts.
Most social networks just focus on retaining their “users” by seeking to provide everything that “users” might need or that might be of entertainment value to the largest possible group of people. However, I have to ask, are we the kind of civilization run by the entertainment calculating machines between producer/consumer so that we can trade or are we rather inspiration-ignited individuals trying to re-invent our creative outputs? Which one is more valuable, a functional or fictional model? Maybe both? If combined properly, they produce a Gaussian bell curve and advertisers can focus on the middle of it? Industry would only be interested in the middle/the average anyway? How can live streaming become this average?
Categorizing live streaming with video is the greatest blind spot for many. The true potential and the overall vision are not in consumerism but rather in the power of community and global reach. While somewhat limited today due to competing forces, the live streaming phenomenon is powerful because it can generate community very fast, being interactive, in real time — time exponentially being of the essence) and it also has the power to establish the most desired element of all, which is trust building.
Since the beginning of the Internet the first thing people were able to do was to exchange information and this resulted in the Information Age that we experienced. This information has gradually changed it’s form from words, to images, infographics, short clips, videos, and each one of these elements served to bring the creator closer to the viewer who is probably another creator.
The Internet is a tool in the hands of all, and the real core behind every post is the trust building mechanism. If we compare posts, let’s say blogs, combining text and images (which is a standard that many people rely on) and streaming by a person in real time of this same activity that is being blogged about, I believe that the difference is huge. The amount of time a person would spend reading and watching content from a blogger before trust is established is many times longer than when given a chance to actually interact with the person in real time, which is something closest to actual meeting (which we all know beats any interaction over Internet). Additionally, as there is a lack of production, cutting, editing and framing the best parts for a “consumer”, a viewer is able to perceive and experience a real authentic atmosphere that the live streamer is sharing, and the live streamer is not just a video maker, or even a content creator (which is a popular term today and seems to cover live streaming) but an actual human being with whom one can connect and explore topics of mutual interest together while building a community, not to mention that a very important factor which is that personality of the broadcaster comes through in much greater clarity when live streaming when compared to any other editable media.
Psychology of accepting/rejecting live streaming:
There has been criticism and indeed outright rejection of the phenomenon of live streaming classifying it as a non-viable model for the majority of the people. This has ranged from emphasizing the lack of production, poor quality, a proportionally small number of people comfortable enough to press a broadcast button on the platform, lack of entertainment and overall calculated spontaneity when compared with, say, TV companies production of ‘morning live’ or reality shows, etc. It is true that TV may have merit in projecting morning live shows, as a background scenario when people are getting ready to go to work/school,…etc; however, that paradigm, while still applying to a large demographic, will increasingly come under scrutiny as changes in our working habits from 9–5 industrial machines to the remote working creators intensify. There are so many people, myself included, who don’t even own a TV, not because of the quality of production or there are too many ads, but plainly because time is too short to be spent on watching something that isn’t tailored to our immediate and customizable desires or needs and watching such output leaves us with the sense of being only a consumer.
Additionally, the arguments emphasizing the technical shortcomings of live streaming are only temporary because with AI we will soon be able to edit videos on the go. They will be edited for us (I already know one company that was featured on producthunt.com this year that does this https://www.producthunt.com/posts/velapp and I am sure that there are many others) as the Internet and phones become even more powerful and available. VR, AR will follow, so we will not only be experiencing and interacting with screens but VR glasses, being able to experience the world of the broadcaster in spatial terms. This is already available and evolving and in a few years pending technological improvements/infrastructure we will migrate from screens to VR glasses and many other immersive means to interacting with machines and one another.
I choose to believe that we are an inspiration and innovation-ignited civilization, no matter how small the percentage of those using and believing in those ideals. If we review history, it has never been what was delivered to the masses in a state of stasis that moved us from one Era to another; it has always been when the aspects in which a passionate minority believe are perfected to the point of applicability to the masses then the world changes.
I can’t help but ask myself what are the intrinsic powerful reasons behind live streaming that makes believers of a small minority while the vast majority of people remain for the moment perfectly happy with youtube subscriptions taking the place of their regular cable tv subscriptions, the models of promotions and advertising just changing from one platform to the other, within internal innovation, while overall staying the same, and sometimes an eye sore in the eyes of observers.
Why do I believe in a bright future for live streaming?
The reason is: I am a live streamer and I want the world to turn around me. This is a joke of course, but as somebody who decided at the age of 15 to turn down every request for an interview from TV, Radio, I can confirm now, what I felt then — interviews felt outdated and such a waste of time, and this was my primary reason for declining them. At the time I was focused on the discoveries of the world, philosophy and lives of various crucial figures that shaped the history of art which further reinforced my position and confidence to believe that we really live in a creative world and just standard questions that I used to answer hundreds of times on an interview did little to promote “value” to the audience or myself and indeed the interviewer — other than her/his job/salary satisfaction. There was nothing inspiring for me to just sit and answer questions that may or may not be of interest to the audience after it was cut, edited, produced and aired. However, when it comes to live, interactive, unofficial, raw documenting my actual doing, it is a totally different situation.
Isn’t it peculiar that the phenomenon of vacuous “reality shows”,…etc. became so popular in so short a period of time and that many people gained fame by exposing themselves to the world in this way? I am hoping that this trend is changing and that we are migrating from celebrity culture, asynchronous, accumulative advantage processes towards the long tail, indie type, individuals and small particular niche communities live streaming across the world and truly connecting to each other without the need of any middleman which is the initial ideal scenario for which the Internet was created.
How will live streaming develop amidst two opposing forces in today’s world -
on the one hand, the need to profit (by using the most logical well-established methods such as employing sensationalism, race for many clicks, viewers and hearts and what the middle or majority of people would respond to regardless of the quality or inventiveness) and on the other, the need to innovate (by using the least logical evolutionary step on the quest for power, which is create for oneself, with strong vision and further the building blocks of culture which only few will understand and appreciate)?
Technical advancement will inevitably remove the technical excuses given for not using live streaming (lack of production tools,etc.) but I think that it may require something more than just technical upgrade for live streaming for it to be really accepted by the wider population. It is a process akin to learning to use computers and the Internet which we all went through and we all know how some have had a hard time accepting these new tools and adapting to the change in the way we communicate and live our lives.
Now we have to upgrade our psychological attitude; we have to learn how to face our insecurities and inhibitions, possibilities for mistakes and embarrassments, because once it is live, it can’t be withdrawn, and I believe that this process will be invaluable for humankind and holds huge potential, if used properly, to be genuine, honest and bring more understanding of others, now that we have the options of watching and being watched.
If you like or dislike this article, please feel free to comment, fragment or dissect the text as you see fit and you can connect with me directly via www.twitter.com/ideasrex or join the journey by subscribing to my newsletter at www.ideasrex.com or indeed visit me live on www.periscope.tv/ideasrex
The only live streaming service I am passionate about currently is Periscope/Twitter because the algorithm seems to be developing in a direction of connecting the whole world, irrespective of the aggregation of followers, and I believe that is the right objective as the purpose of the Internet is to connect the whole World rather than using an approach made on location based, demographic based and/or other metrics that may or may not be misused.
The only metric I believe in is interest based + global reach and I hope that Periscope/Twitter will continue to promote that too.