For those planning a video campaign in 2018, choosing a format can be like walking into a sweetshop. With 100s of new video tools and social platforms, from Virtual Reality to Interactive Storytelling, the video world has never been more spoilt for choice. 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 streaming video content. This is a meteoric rise in popularity unrivaled by any other format. Live streaming capabilities extend far beyond the bare minimum of what the format offers. And yet, platforms and marketers alike have been somewhat slow to maximise on the format’s popularity.
This is about to change. In just a few months platforms made huge investments in live video capability. These include adding new, revolutionary features to the format to enhance both the viewer and creator experience. 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. In short, there has been an industry-wide shift in how live video is valued within platforms. So what steps are platforms taking to nurture this titanic industry?
The most exciting announcement for live streaming in 2018 comes from the unlikely source Vimeo. Though an industry favourite for hosting, Vimeo is also 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 this, a host of high-level analytical tools can track the video’s performance across platforms in real-time. However, the service is not free. It’s available only to Vimeo’s premium creator network, 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, “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 run into a roadblock. There are concerns around Facebook permissions surrounding use of its Live API, preventing third-party sites from simulcasting with its Live player. It is unclear how Vimeo plan to remedy the situation. Nevertheless, currently streaming between Vimeo and FB live is allowed within an exclusive simulcast. Thus, creators can choose between FB Live and any other combination of RTMP services.
After a well-documented rough year for YouTube power users in 2017, the video hosting giant has implemented a new set of creator tools. They hope to improve the publishing process for its monetised YouTube Partnership Program (YPP) creators. This update includes wider powers such as improved analytic tools to measure video and ad performance. Additionally, an exciting new live-streaming tool dubbed ‘Super Chat’ was launched to more directly remunerate creators. The tool reduces creator dependency on ad-sense revenue and is simple in practice. During a live stream, a user can pay to have their message pinned to the top of the chat bar for a period of time, viewable to all watching the stream. The more the user pays, the longer the chat is pinned.
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, following YouTube’s issues with users frustrated by ad-sense complications. These issues caused many to move over to the simplified Twitch Cheer system. Once YouTube implement other promised funding systems, we should see a huge uptick in YouTube as a live streaming platform. These changes appear to largely center around personality-driven power users rather than conventional brands. However, 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.
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, as Facebook have recently developed an interest for live sports rights and live news journalism. Additionally, Facebook has announced that they plan to judge video on its content rather than share/like metrics. This will over time stem the tide of engagement-bait videos. 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. Their October announcement released the ‘add’ live streaming feature. Live streamers can now choose to add in a split-screen view of any user watching the stream. The feature pushes live streams to wider audiences by broadcasting to the add-on’s audience additionally. It also alleviates the anxieties of would-be streamers by allowing them to broadcast with a friend. This option is also open to brands as a means to interact with audiences. However, 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’.
Facebook’s New Year’s message appears to directly target reducing organic reach for businesses on the platform. But those building an engaged and active community will no doubt see huge returns from the site’s new algorithm. Through opportunities for cross-platform campaigns made possible with 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, know that when properly developed, live video in 2018 will go a long way.