Why all the hype about live streaming?

Another week goes by, and I hear of yet another hip and trendy webcasting project that will stream its video live. Another technology-based project that is sending people out with smart phones to live-stream a political action. Another that is streaming studio discussion as it actually happens. So I thought I should respond.


What exactly is the added value of being “live”? Firstly, the viewership will be three people and a dog. Ever since the invention of the domestic video recorder, time-shifting, the ability to watch a programme whenever you like, has been an important freedom for media consumers. So with studio shows, by webcasting live, you’re basically going back to the 1970s. Except that, most of the time your technology will fail. You will put your efforts into trying to get the streaming to work rather than into the quality of your shows, which will be rambling and long-winded, precisely because they’re live. The smart phone live-streaming will mainly fail in the field, where 3G is most likely patchy and wifi non-existent. Whatever does get uploaded to the web will be fuzzy wobbly-cam lacking in journalistic values and basic story-telling, precisely because you have failed to emphasize these difficult skills in your concern that everyone has the right url or hash-tag.


At visionOntv we don’t make live-streamed studio shows. Instead we make live-edited, one-take, multi-camera shows that try to give an empowering and effective voice to people who don’t normally get one. They typically last seven minutes or less. And because they require no editing or encoding, they can be online very fast. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. And as we try to master this difficult craft, we’re getting better at it. Soon we’ll be able to template this method, so that others don’t have to scale our learning curve. See some shows on climatecamptv.


We don’t do live-streaming on location either. We discourage the use of qik.com, the app which allows you to share live “special or spontaneous moments on video using your mobile phone”. A friend commented on his use of qik that he was forever missing the beginning of an important action or speech, or switching off before something really exciting happened. He was trading the good shot for the “happening right now” shot. Instead, at visionOntv we encourage the taking of informative one-shot reports with your mobile phone, with time, place, commentary and context – the standard journalistic “who, what, where and why”. (See our video production templates at http://visionon.tv/produce) Then they can be posted online from a smart phone wherever there is 3G or wifi.


Live-streaming then is the triumph of “new and exciting” tools over effective tools. Of the appearance of the technologically “advanced” over the watchable and informative. Of the immediate over the quality. And of the fashionable over the useful.


Why does this matter? Well, we’re passionately committed to seeing thousands of citizen TV reporters all over the world, and the diffusion of many different views and voices that rarely get heard in the traditional media. So let’s use the right tools and learn the right skills.


By the way, there is successful live-streaming, which can have good presenters, cool music and lively discussion – it’s called radio.

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