Live streaming is not a new concept, but the success of next-generation live streaming applications like Periscope and Meerkat indicates that people are ready to embrace this new way of interacting. Some predict that “periscoping” will soon become a way of life for many. This new approach to information sharing has profound implications for journalists. Here’s a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Live streaming allows journalists to connect with their audience more easily and immediately than ever before. The process of production and the need for expensive equipment and pre-production planning are all but eliminated. When a story breaks, coverage can begin immediately and experts can weigh in from wherever they happen to be. Often, live streaming is designed for a “second” screen to augment more traditional TV broadcasts.
Although more advanced methods of measuring the impact of live streaming will develop along with the technologies themselves, there are some valuable data points available today. Today, most journalists and outlets are able to measure views, followers and engagement as a measure of the success of live streaming.
Back in the old days, it took a lot to get yourself on TV, but just as the internet has made it possible for anyone to publish photos or written articles, live streaming makes it easy for anyone with a smart device and an internet connection to broadcast live video. In short, pretty much everyone can take on the role of journalist if they want to. This means that professional journalists will need to work harder than ever to add value to the content they publish. If they are reporting live from the scene of a news story, they must be aware that non-journalist bystanders are likely doing so as well. It is essential for journalists and outlets to earn the trust and attention of their audience well before the story breaks.
The (Potentially) Ugly
Getting the news out faster is a great benefit of live streaming, but it can also lead to disaster. Many of the checks and balances that prevent errors in reporting are absent when it comes to live streaming. As events and stories unfold instantly without giving sufficient time to synthesize information and compose quality work, journalists will have to adapt and learn what is essentially a new skill. Reporters have always had to balance the need to get information out quickly with the need to get it right, but with live streaming they’ll be doing it in real-time and without a net.
Live streaming is one more example of how the internet’s open access to information is shifting the responsibility of vetting the trustworthiness of information from producers and publishers to the consumers of information themselves. It behooves journalists to educating their audience on how to determine if a news source is credible and if a particular broadcast is likely to be accurate. The profession of journalism has no choice but to embrace new technology and welcome a new generation of social media apps based on live streaming, but journalists can work to do it responsibly in a way that brings more value, not more confusion to their audience.