Live Streaming in 2018 – What you need to know.
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For those planning a video campaign in 2018, choosing a format can be like walking into a sweetshop. Out of the hundreds of new video tools and social platforms, there are 10 times more opinions on which is the right for you. From Virtual Reality to Interactive Storytelling, the video world has never been more spoilt for choice in new and exciting ways to get across its message.

One tool, however, has seen a rise in popularity previously unheard of in the media world. Having only come to major platforms in 2014, today 100 million internet users will watch live video content, a meteoric rise in popularity that is unrivalled by anyother format. And yet, platforms and marketers alike have been somewhat slow to the draw to maximise on the formats popularity, instead only utilising the bare minimum of what the format offers.

This is about to change. In just a few short months 2018 has already seen platforms make huge investments in live video capability, adding new, revolutionary features to the format to enhance both the viewer and creator experience, alongside industry-wide shifts in how live video is valued within platforms. For brands the format is looking to be indispensable to video campaigns, with a reported 82% of users preferring to see live video than traditional social posts and an average view time 8 times that of traditional video on-demand. For influencers the live-streaming market has never been bigger, with live-streaming platform Twitch reportedly clocking in 10 million DAUs while YouTube gaming grew by a massive 343% in 2017. So what steps are platforms taking to nurture this titanic industry

Vimeo

The most exciting announcement for livestreaming in 2018 comes from the unlikely source Vimeo, an industry favourite for hosting though notoriously ineffectual as a social platform. In February Vimeo announced the update of its streaming service Vimeo Live to provide a previously unheard-of feature – cross platform simulcasting to stream live video through Facebook Live, Youtube, Twitch, Periscope, and beyond. While streaming live video through any RTMP site, the source video will remain on Vimeo alongside a whole host of high level analytical tools to track the video’s performance across platforms in real-time. The service is not free however, available only to Vimeo’s premium creator network billed at £70 a month for full accessibility to Vimeo’s creator tools.

This announcement comes as part of Vimeo’s new direction as a video creator’s toolbox rather than a social destination. Speaking with

TechCrunch, Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud explained that “We’re starting this year with this creator-first mission, and the first launches we have are really about helping creators get distribution anywhere. This is a new strategy for us, and it’s different from others are doing in the market”. Though met with excitement from the video production community, the project appears to have already ran into a roadblock concerning Facebook permissions surrounding use of its Live API, preventing third-party sites from simulcasting with its Live player. Though it is unclear at this moment as to how Vimeo plan to remedy the situation, currently streaming between Vimeo and FB live is allowed within an exclusive simulcast thus making creators choose between FB Live and any other combination of RTMP services.

YouTube

After a well-documented rough year for YouTube power users in 2017, the video hosting giant has decided to implement a new set of creator tools to improve the publishing process for its monetised YouTube Partnership Program (YPP) creators. While this update includes wider powers such as improved analytic tools to measure video and ad performance, an exciting new live-streaming tool dubbed ‘Super Chat’ was launched to more directly remunerate creators, reducing creator dependency on ad-sense revenue. The tool is simple in practice, during a livestream the user has an option to pay to have their message pinned to the top of the chat bar for a period of time, viewable by all watching the livestream. The more they pay, the longer the user’s message is pinned and the character limit is increased.

Among several other funding features in the near future, Super Chat is designed to replace YouTube’s previous tool for user-creator support Fan Funding, an issue-ridden system allowing direct donations from fans that was often forgone in favour of services like Patreon. The move is also a clear effort to reduce the pull factor of Twitch for top-creators, YouTube having had issues in 2017 with users frustrated by ad-sense complications moving over to the simplified Twitch Cheer system. Once Super Chat becomes established and YouTube implement other promised funding systems, we should be seeing a huge uptick in YouTube as a live streaming platform. Though these changes appear to largely centre around personality-driven power users rather than conventional brands, industry wide investment in features like shoppable video will no doubt lead to initiatives supporting branded live video and e-commerce driven features being woven into the established live network.

Facebook and Instagram

 Though not the originator of popularised live video streaming, Facebook no doubt gave the format the audience it enjoys today. In the recent top-level announcements that Zuckerberg was going to spend 2018 ‘fixing Facebook’, it has been clear that Facebook is making a decisive shift to value their own native tools far above VOD or linked media. Though officially Facebook have vowed to primarily support user content It is unclear at this stage what kind of Live content will be most encouraged, Facebook having recently developed an interest for live sports rights and live news journalism. This alongside with the recent announcement that video content is going to be heavily judged on its content rather than share/like metrics to stem the tide of engagement-bait video shows Facebook is changing course to organically promote meaningful over statistically strong empty content.

Instagram has in the meantime followed a similar vein of encouraging live engagement with an October announcement releasing the ‘add’ livestreaming feature wherein live streamers can choose to add in a splitscreen view of any user watching the stream. The feature is designed to both push live-streams to audiences beyond initial followers, the video being broadcast to the add-on’s audience additionally, and to alleviate the anxieties of would-be streamers by allowing them to broadcast with a friend. Though this option is also open to brands as a means to interact with audiences, the feature is marked primarily as an effort by Instagram to follow its parent company in creating a live network of high-engagement and high-quality content, ultimately in an effort to tackle Facebook’s new target of engaging ‘passive users’.

While Facebook’s New Year’s message appears to directly target reducing organic reach for businesses on the platform, those who play ball in building an engaged and active community will no doubt see huge returns form the site’s new algorithm. Through opportunities for cross platform campaigns made possible with the introduction of Vimeo Live simulcasting, savvy content creators have the opportunity to use this clear cross-industry initiative to encourage live video in a far more dynamic and measurable way than has previously been possible. For those developing video content calendars it should be clear that when properly developed, a little live video in 2018 will go a very long way indeed.

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