Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Living with Live Streaming: A Shift in Viewership Attention

Blake Dava

The trend of Live Stream has reached new levels of popularity in recent years and has become adopted by many different social media platforms and digital technologies to make live stream more accessible for producers of content and for viewership.

Traditional live streaming sites have reached new levels of popularity, like Twitch.tv, where a culture of live media entertainment has taken the world by storm. Sites like these mostly appeal to fans of video gaming and comedy and can still feel like niche websites offering very specific content in a very wide variety.

Also, the easy accessibility of entertainment live streaming means that there's always a large collection of people creating content. For most, all that's needed is a decent quality computer, audio recording equipment and a camera. This had lead to people trying by the hundreds to stand out from the crowd and establish a strong fan base, which can lead to a life-long career in entertainment and media creation.

Live streaming is also seen in a much more casual format, such as Facebook's recent feature simply called "going live." With the push of a button, anyone can begin recording from their phone and immediately be streaming it for any of their friends to see.

What makes this seemingly casual practice so effective is that Facebook also notifies any of their friends when their live stream starts, so people are instantly informed and can choose to go watch immediately. There's no work needed in order to draw in viewers. Facebook does the work for them.

The increase in popularity and accessibility in live streaming indicates a shift in what people want to watch. Up until now, it's been easy to say that the attention span of viewers, especially on the internet, has been very limited and our media has grown to reflect that. Trending YouTube content five years ago used to be less than a minute long, and live streaming was not seen as widespread entertainment.

But now, YouTube is flooded with videos that average around four minutes and twenty seconds and the larger media producers put out content ranging from 15 to 35 minutes. Popular YouTubers like Markiplier, Jacksepticeye and Game Theory all produce much larger content like this daily.

What this means for us is that the way people desire content is changing. There's so much content out there, that now people have to choose what they want to watch, and once they make a decision they're willing to watch more of it. Live Streaming is an inherently slow media to watch, because there's no post-production editing, but it still captures millions of viewers.

It's possible that, because streaming is all done in one take, the viewers feel like the content is more genuine. Watching an entertainer live gives you a better sense of who that person is. Watching a live stream of a police riot gives you a clear, and potentially unbiased, view of the situation.

People want to trust the media that they watch, and live streaming has the potential to fill that need. We, the journalists, just have to decide what to do with it.

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