Unleashing the power of live broadcasting

A camera, a laptop and an internet connection... and you can broadcast live to the world. Rob Salmon outlines some of the ways that individuals and organisations can use the new opportunities.

In March 2010, writing about the US Embassy’s decision to broadcast a press conference live on Justin.tv, the site’s blogger said: ‘We’re excited to have the Vice President on Justin.tv. And we’re even more excited that this isn’t a big, elaborate production that most users would have no chance of replicating. The folks running the broadcast are plugging a camera into a laptop and going. That’s the way we think live video can be really powerful for everyone to use, and that includes the Vice President.’

This quote neatly sums up the how the power to broadcast live now lies in the hands of anyone who has a laptop, video camera and internet connection.

And the US Embassy is not alone. More and more organisations are now taking advantage of the ability to broadcast live - and then using the footage as video content that can be fed into an archive.

Who has been using live broadcasting? Here’s a couple of examples...

Glastonbury Emerging Talents Competition: Every year Glastonbury runs an Emerging Talents Competition giving bands the chance to play off and win a spot on the festival line up.

Traditionally the competition has only been watched by the local community who come along to support the event. However, this year, the festival organisers broadcast the event live on their website using Ustream.tv.

Live broadcasting - glastonbury
Upcoming bands broadcast live from the Glastonbury festival.

They made their wider community aware of the broadcast via their website and social channels.

Greenpeace: In September 2009, Greenpeace activists blockaded a giant dump truck at the Albion Sands tar sands mine in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Greenpeace utilised Ustream to broadcast the protest live. 

Interviews were undertaken with a campaigner as he was locked onto the cab of the truck - what a great piece of content!

Does live broadcasting have to cost a fortune?

No it doesn’t, particularly if you take advantage of one of the online services that are available. These ones are worth looking at:

Justin.tv - ‘is a website that allows users to produce and watch live streaming video. Like YouTube, Justin.tv user accounts are called channels, and users are encouraged to broadcast a wide variety of user-generated live video content, called broadcasts’ Wikipedia

Ustream.tv - ‘established March 2007, Ustream is a website which consists of a network of diverse channels providing a platform for lifecasting and live video streaming of events online. The website has over 2,000,000 registered users who generate 1,500,000+ hours of live streamed content per month with over ten million unique hits per month’ Wikipedia

bambuser.com - ‘live video streaming from your mobile phone or webcam’ Bambuser site

So what can live streaming be used for? Here’s a few starters for ten...

Events: From conferences to concerts, if someone has something interesting to say or sing, you could broadcast it live. Very often people who would love to attend can’t attend because or the travel involved or the fact that tickets have sold out. A good alternative would be to watch live on the internet.

Protests and demonstrations: As the Greenpeace example above illustrates, there is no longer a need to rely on the major news organisations to broadcast live. Bring the action live and direct to your audience as it happens.

Question & answer sessions: Give the people who are passionate about your cause the chance to interact directly with stakeholders via live video.

People could be given the chance to submit questions via Facebook, Twitter and email. The featured guest would answer the questions live.

Live broadcasting - Fair Trade face to face
Fairtrade USA brings producers and consumers together via the internet using Ustream.

This is something that FairTrade USA did when they brought five coffee producers from Latin America and Africa together on Ustream.tv to answer questions about how Fair Trade has improved their business.

A regular programme: Any organisation could start a regular programme where they broadcast live to their audience. You could answer questions, interview guests, run features etc. You could promote via the platform you use such as Ustream.tv or Justin.tv as well as on your website, to your mailing list etc.

Something fun: At Torchbox, we wanted to do something fun at Christmas so we set up a live video link to our office on Ustream and embedded the Ustream player into our website. People who tuned in would see a member of staff dressed in a Santa costume.

They would also see a button on the website. If they pressed the button a snow machine was triggered and flakes of snow (well, shreds of paper!) were sent flying all over the Santa!

Live broadcasting - torchbox office
Torchbox's interactive Christmas snow machine.

This novelty piece of content resulted in loads of coverage across the internet. From a standing start we received 34,000 visits from people in 109 countries in 24 hours... We’ve got a full case study of this: please do drop me a line at rob.salmon@torchbox.com if you’d like a copy.

Does live streaming have fundraising potential?

I believe it does!

When U2 broadcast a gig live on YouTube, millions tuned in. As a result millions would have seen the button which gave them the opportunity to donate to the Red campaign.

Moving forwards, I think pay per view may be a viable model. Recently, Ustream.tv ran an experiment using pay per view that gave people exclusive access to a comedy performance by Dane Cook (he’s big in the States don’t you know!) before, during and after the gig. People were given the chance to pay $5 for the event and could ask questions and see what was going on back stage.

Read more here: http://mashable.com/2010/01/22/ustream-pay-per-view/ and here: www.fastcompany.com/magazine/144/payday.html

What does the future hold for live streaming?

There are a couple of developments that I’m really excited about.

Firstly - and I think this ties into the pay per view fundraising stuff above - before too long more and more people will be watching online content via their TVs. We’ve seen Samsung partner with Yahoo to launch their internet TV offering and in May 2010, Google announced details of Google TV which (in their words) ‘combines the TV you know and love with the freedom and power of the Internet’.

When internet TV reaches a reasonable level of penetration then I believe the potential for live broadcasting is huge.

Imagine you’ve got a campaign launch. You want as many of your audience as possible to tune in. So you email your database. You set up Google Adwords. You promote via your social channels. All encouraging people to tune in and watch the announcement live on their TV. Effectively your offering becomes a media channel in its own right. And once the campaign has been announced, you have an audience there and then that you can ask to undertake an action. I think that’s really exciting.

The other area I’m really excited about is mobile. Right now it is possible to broadcast live from your mobile through an iPhone app like Ustream or via mobile with bambuser. The next generation of handsets are likely to have HD video capability. That means anyone with such a handset will be able to broadcast live from their mobile in really good quality if they can get a good internet or 3G connection!

Imagine you’ve got a protest going on. Every person with a mobile could broadcast from the demonstration of what they are seeing. The live images could be fed back into a video wall on a website which gives anyone who isn’t there the opportunity to see what is actually happening rather than rely on footage from traditional broadcasters.

To conclude...

The power to broadcast will increasingly be in the hands of anybody, anywhere - and that gives a powerful new tool to e-campaigning practitioners.

Rob Salmon is Director of Digital Marketing at Torchbox, a creative agency based in Oxfordshire, with a special focus on campaigning.



by Rob Salmon, Torchbox published Jun 10, 2010,
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