Live Streaming: A Must or a Bust?

In Journalism by UFSocial Staff

by Alicia Slate, UFSocial Contributor


Live streaming is journalism for Millennials, but is it being used to benefit audiences or simply because it’s the thing to do?

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have all developed live streaming applications and their popularity is continuing to rise. News organizations specifically are finding their footing across live streaming platforms such as Facebook Live and Periscope, and also adding live streaming channels to their websites. I put to well-known traditional news conglomerates in a ring to go head to head in a live streaming match.

IN THE LEFT CORNER…. ABC News, a long-time, popular, traditional TV news media with ties to Disney offering Live Streaming News.


IN THE RIGHT CORNER…CBS News, an American commercial broadcast television network, with a prime time audience and now streaming live.


Round 1: Content

Both of these opponents came out swinging in this category. No surprise that each source was actively covering the protests in North Carolina. In a head to head match it came down to how they chose to present the content and how they stayed with the protests. While CBS covered the same protests they offered a pretty narrow perspective. Additionally, CBS narrated a lot of its content, which I think detracts from the impact and purpose of a live stream. CBS’ footage appeared to be more of a production than what we would anticipate from a live stream. ABC stayed with the protest and really focused in from beginning to end whereas CBS shifted their coverage throughout the night. Judging from a single event coverage, I give this one to ABC.

star_png1585And the winner is……ABC


Round 2: Quality

ABC and CBS filmed in the same style and have relatively the same quality. ABC showed the crowds at different points and really just kept a distance from the scene. We could hear them occasionally talking to the crew or personal conversations, but there was little direct interaction with the crowds. The quality was relative low on both feeds and very unsteady. However, you can see below that CBS’ footage was of a high quality and resolution.

It was clear the event was being recorded without the assistance of fancy studio equipment and that the cameras were reacting to the events as well. I think this added to the overall impact of the feed. Both news organizations used the live coverage as B-roll for their nightly news coverage for TV. ABC had better vantage points and streamed a more compelling depiction of the events. However, overall production quality goes to CBS.star_png1585And the winner is…..CBS


Round 3: Engagement

The reporters from CBS were having people call in and incorporating voice over interviews as a narrative to what was being broadcasted. As I was watching the streaming protest from ABC, they were currently at 18k views. Within 2 minutes this increased to 19k. ABC did not get too involved on the scene. Occasionally I could here them talking to the crew or personal conversations, but there was little direct interaction with the crowds. It often felt like ABC was experiencing the events with us and reacting to it. In contrast CBS reporters were talking to people on scene and getting reactions from the crowds. In both cases people were not able to comment directly to the live feed.

However, ABC’s Twitter account was running coverage on the same event simultaneously. Many of their posts have a high number of responses and were from the local news affiliates were provide real-time updates with images along with the live stream.

star_png1585And the winner is…..ABC


Round 4: Variety

As reviewed earlier, both news stations were covering a live protest unfolding in North Carolina, however ABC was fixated on only this event. ABC provided the viewer an option to move on to other topics, but they chose to feature the protest. In contrast CBS had a scrolling news feed of live content. They presented their feed in a way that we are used to seeing in a live news broadcast. It seemed much more, live action and active in comparison to the static feed from ABC. The alternative live streaming content by ABC during last night’s protests was a dark and cloudy reel of Old Faithful at Yellowstone. In contrast CBS was reporting events such as the President’s Medal presentations and Donald Trump’s reaction to the riots.The viewers had much more of a selection all of which were relevant.

star_png1585And the winner is…..CBS


Round 5: Value

In terms of value I think both CBS and ABC gave us content that informed us of an event taking place that many of us would not be able to witness otherwise. The value these feeds gave to its audiences is simply the experience in real time of a impactful event. Though, if I had to choose a winner in this round I would choose ABC. This is based on the rawness of their content. I think they was they covered multiple views and moments throughout the entire riot added value in the story by way of knowledge, information and perspective. Their footage was given to viewers in a manner allowing them to formulate their own opinion, CBS attempted to control the viewers perspective much more.

star_png1585And the winner is……ABC


Round 6: Accessibility

It was not too difficult to find either site’s live streaming footage. However, ABC has the slight edge here in directing viewers. When typed into a search engine we can easily see the top result is a link directly to the content. What gives ABC the advantage is that many of their videos our featured above the links and as Live News. Also, ABC  took this round because of how they utilized their local affiliates to be their “boots on ground, ” ultimately making their live stream, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter present all around. With each post they directed viewers to the live footage which made it easy to find, without even needing to search for it.

star_png1585And the winner is……ABC


Overall winner of this match…….

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Live streaming offers transparency in reporting, audiences value the raw unfiltered content. Many feel that live streaming is the only way to get an unbiased account of current events. I am among those people. While statistics support predictions of growth with live streaming content, reports also note that many prominent news organizations and celebrities have accepted contracts to stream live. This commercializing may strip live reels of their most compelling effect: its unpredictable.

Feedback for both ABC and CBS news is to remember who your audience is and why you are broadcasting. It can feel as though the use of live streaming is in alternative to actually reporting. A lazy man’s journalistic style, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Make sure the content is not narrowly focused if it doesn’t need to be. When a big story breaks change up the perspective, there is no need to live stream from the exact same spot for four hours. Also, engage your viewers more. Many of the videos were nothing more than a reel of surveillance footage. It was static. Incorporate more social interaction, read the Tweets about the event, take calls, use sound bites, have people describe the events and let people comment on the live reels.

As members of the audience, we need to proceed viewing live content with caution. It is important for viewers to understand that while unfiltered content in real-time, these videos are still a view from a single perspective. I challenge individuals to consume content from multiple sources and also engage with the content as it is being broadcasted. In many instances news fails to capture the voices of the audience, live streaming is an opportunity to share the impact of the content and respond with questions or additional details.

Be an active audience!

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