Hackernoon logoLivestreaming is destined to fail. by@jsneedles

Livestreaming is destined to fail.

Jeff Needles Hacker Noon profile picture

Jeff Needles

Data & Analytics

….very few people. Probably nobody.

Last year livestreaming was my life. I streamed pretty much everything. I even got a job at a live streaming company. But as time went on, this realization hit me: “This isn’t super fun all the time. People really don’t (and shouldn’t) care about my daily life.” At least not the people who would watch me on Meerkat.

Let me say this though — I am SO GRATEFUL to all those who watched, supported, commented, liked & retweeted last year. Whether it was an early morning coding session, a Product Hunt review or a 24 hour meerathon, you were there, you were (mostly) nice and you were helpful. I appreciate every single one of you.

Being LIVE is not a natural state of being for most people.

Mobile live streaming in the broadcaster & audience (one-to-many) paradigm is simply not sustainable as a standalone business or platform. As a feature to an existing network, it makes sense (but barely).

I spent many months analyzing data for Meerkat; the users were as ephemeral as the streams they created. Thinking about why, leads to one very important question.

Why are you streaming?

1) You’re famous and trying to “connect” with your fans

This one is easy. You go to with the platform that has your biggest audience built in. You want the best integration with that platform. Your live streams are now just another form of content that goes into your presence on that platform.

2) You’re trying to get famous

Sorry, nobody is going to get famous livestreaming. You’re going to go where there’s a real valuable replay capability and easy native sharability. But your content is going to be geared not towards live interactivity that LIVE is good for, because that doesn’t replay well. You’re basically just live-recording your youtube uploads. You’ll realize that this is a lot of work and a lot lower quality… so you’ll stop and focus on post-production.

The argument can be made here about how YouTubers, Viners, Snapchatters etc… become famous, so why won’t live streamers? The answer in my opinion, is all about the medium. Discoverability and sharability of live HAPPENING NOW moments is just not feasible for mass consumption. It is exactly the inherent asynchronous & distributed consumption of those other platforms that can lead people to become famous. LIVE doesn’t have this, and realistically, I believe never can.

3) You’re trying to get paid

Again, super easy — who is PAYING broadcasters? The answer was NEVER Meerkat. This is something I’m super proud of. Live streams are a part of a package a brand can buy, in addition to other social posts, mentions etc... Not standalone, you have to have a presence elsewhere. There’s also YouNow, for (primarily) younger streamers. When fans can directly support broadcasters, there is a direct incentive to stream and a barometer for what your audience thinks is valuable content.

4) You’re looking for “community”

I do believe that there was a genuine closeness of broadcasters and watchers in the very early days of Meerkat. But I don’t know that many people showed up (as streamers or watchers) to be a part of some newfound community. Streaming about your interests can certainly help you attract like-minded people, and community can form… But is live streaming the right vehicle for this? Is it not better suited as an extension of an existing community of friends/strangers?

5) You’re into marketing (self-promotion)

This is the big one. The one I personally dislike the most. People who hop from platform to platform hocking their “services” and trying to become (be thought of as) experts. They espouse “rules” and “wisdom” and it’s pretty awful. Just because you were there first, does NOT make you an expert.

6) Teleportation Streams

This is where most streams are heading, and where livestreaming has always flourished. It’s teleportation. It’s streaming a conference, an event, a one-off thing that gives the watcher a feeling like they’re there, but is limited on the interactivity and spontaneity that made the early days of Meerkat fun. Brands will continue to see value from this, and it’s a great way for the #5 people to “prove” their livestreaming prowess.

7) Livestreaming is fun

This is the one that got me. It was a ton of fun. But the emphasis is on “was” — it gets real old, real fast. BUT even from the beginning I always asked why people were watching. These people are the hardest to retain: if fun relies on viewership, then streamers have to have an audience, but why should people watch this average joe? It’s really a chicken-and-egg problem and the people won’t come back to stream (or watch) again. How does one turn entertaining voyeurism into long term value?

Be together, but apart.

Live video has this amazing potential to bring people together. But it doesn’t and cannot start with “I want to talk to anybody” — in order to build a comfortable, understandable medium, it must begin with “I want to talk to the people I know.” The movement away from being LIVE may seem small, but it’s monumental. There’s something else — a shift from “me” to “we” as in, not just me alone on screen… but we are together, video of equal importance for all in the conversation.

The “Me” to “We” transition is both imperative and counterintuitive in the transformation from a public to private medium.

Before anyone compares Houseparty to Skype, or Hangouts, or Oovoo or anything that’s been around for years… Use the product. Please. It’s a drastically different experience that makes a conversation a fluid experience. Blurry lines between beginning and ending… Like at a party, you can walk up to someone, say hey and walk away… there’s no commitment, there’s no formality to it. It’s not a meeting, it’s a conversation.

But you work there

I do! It’s true. Houseparty is a foundation for a new type of social interaction, built on top of concepts in the real world that we experience every day. For me, transitioning away from Meerkat was extremely tough at the beginning. But as we saw the usage on Houseparty explode… it was just a no-brainer. RIP Meerkat, but welcome to the Party.

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