(This was written in 2015.)
Trends within social media are nothing new, and journalists usually wonder whether it’s worth it to jump on the bandwagon. A few months into 2015, live streaming became extremely popular with the help of Twitter. Now anyone with an iPhone can become a broadcast reporter.
Periscope is owned by Twitter and connects users with their followers. When you initiate a live broadcast, you title the video and can enable the text to be shared through Twitter with a link to your video. While you’re streaming (vertical is preferred), watchers can leave comments and hearts (likes) in real time. You can respond to questions and have direct interaction with your audience. When you’re finished recording, you can make the video available for replay. This is specific to Periscope. Viewers from all over the world can replay your video and continue to add hearts for 24 hours.
So what does this have to do with journalism? A lot. We are a visual society, and live streaming adds that extra layer of storytelling. With an app like Periscope, you can bring your audience with you wherever you go. It gives journalists another great way to report and interact. People are clearly using Periscope, and journalists should go where their audience is.
Michael Anthony Adams has worked as a breaking news reporter for The Indianapolis Star since Oct. 2013. He covers night breaking news with a focus on crime, violence and law enforcement. He primarily uses Periscope on his way to and during his time at crime scenes.
“As a breaking news reporter, Periscope has changed the way I unfold my stories to my audience by allowing me to relay information in realtime as I’m learning it,” Adams said. “While Vine and Twitter limit the amount you can share in each post, Periscope gives my viewers a unique look into my role as a journalist and a front seat to news as it happens.”
Adams answers viewer questions so his stories “become interactive” and his audience can “get the sense that they’re contributing to the report.”
Many overnight and crime reporters at the Chicago Tribune use Periscope in a similar way. Tony Briscoe, a breaking news reporter for the Tribune, used the live streaming app most recently at a police brutality protest in Chicago’s South Side.
“The protest was stemming from the aftermath of the things going on in Baltimore,” Briscoe said. “I was able to live stream it and actually talk with the people who were watching and answer their questions.”
Some journalists may run into access issues depending on their beat. For example, some professional sports organizations have restrictions on broadcasting. Chicago Tribune sports reporter Chris Kuc has used Periscope to show Chicago Blackhawks practices and warmups before games. He is currently taking a break from live streaming while the NHL makes guidelines about where and when people are allowed to record.
How should journalists get involved? “Just jump in and do it,” Chicago Tribune social media editor Scott Kleinberg said.
“I absolutely think you just have to try something and see what sticks,” Kleinberg said. “Everything you do – especially your first attempt – is not going to be amazing and Oscar-winning. I actually think that’s part of the charm. Show that you are human and willing to try. Ask readers/viewers what they want to see. Practice really does make perfect.”
Live streaming can be much more than a fad; it has great possibilities for journalists. It’s popular with crime and breaking news reporters as well as those on sports beats. Features reporters can use it to sample restaurants, watch parades, do cooking shows, showcase exhibits. Any event is great if it’s interactive and exciting. Journalists can even search trending topics and locations on Periscope.
“For it to to work beneficially for all, though, I think the journalist has to embrace the power of community in social media and realize that granting this level of access to a reader is part of the overall experience,” Kleinberg said. “That that experience doesn’t end with a story in the paper or posted on a website.”
Below is an example Periscope video. After the live broadcast, it was saved to the phone’s camera roll and then uploaded to YouTube. The saved videos don’t show the comments or hearts, but you can tell when the broadcaster responds to questions by the viewers.