Live-streaming has grown from virtually no-where to become a significant trend in social media circles in 2015. Of course, live-streaming's been around, in different forms, for some time, but advances in mobile technology and network capacity have revolutionized the offering - it's now possible for virtually anyone to share their perspective on the world, anytime, at the push of a button. This new capacity has lead to some amazing, compelling insights, highlighted again recently with users streaming their experiences in Paris in the aftermath of the terror attacks in the city. That live, 'in-the-moment' content is as close as we can come to experiencing and contextualizing the situation for ourselves, and that capacity is powerful, and something that should not be overlooked.
On top of this, live-streaming has also, itself, evolved into a new form of entertainment, one which is gradually gaining traction and audience. On this front, multi-person live streaming app Blab stands out and has built a dedicated community, strengthened by the fact that Blab is very dialled into their audience and what they want and need from their app. Since its inception, Blab has enabled users to download audio versions of their live-stream content and save their Blabs for re-viewing. The app has also added in a raft of helpful new features on this front, like the ability to embed a live Blab on your website, send notifications to Facebook and upload your Blab video to YouTube.
It's in these, important features that Blab has been able to ingratiate itself with the blogging and podcasting communities, and gain traction among influential users, helping spread its message and accumulate a larger audience. And while Blab's various updates, in themselves, are relatively small scale, they're always adding helpful tweaks and changes which improve the functionality of the platform - and earlier this week, they released a couple of new refinements to the Blab experience.
Personalization is becoming increasingly important in the social media/online space. Largely lead by Facebook, user expectations are rising as people grow more and more accustomed to having their online experiences tailored to them and their interests. This is why Twitter's looking to uncover more relevant insights by uncovering tweets you might have missed, why Snapchat's introducing more discovery tools to help users find what they want to see. The more personalized and intelligently tailored your on-platform experience is, the more likely you'll find utility in the service, and come back more often.
Blab's well aware of this, and they're looking to introduce more customization and personalization to each users' experience. With this new update, each person's home page banner will look different, as Blab takes into account a range of factors in deciding what content you'll most likely want to see.
As you can see, the featured Blabs are now listed as 'Recommended for you' and will be displayed based on a range of factors, including who you follow, which Blabs are trending, Blabs which use the tags you're interested in and even replays of relevant Blabs you might have missed.
This is a clever update - one of the big problems with live-streaming at present is that a lot of the content is very niche and not of interest to large audiences. This was highlighted in a recent piece by Jason Tanz on Wired - Tanz spent two days binge-watching Periscope via the new Periscope TV app. His conclusion:
"...for the most part watching the Periscope App is a little like mainlining an Internet comments thread; you walk away with an occasional splash of insight, but not enough to combat the sensations of nausea and misanthropy."
In this sense, we likely haven't yet realized the full value and potential of live-streaming - but the issue is that if people do hear about streaming services and they come over to the apps to check it out, there's high potential that they might not stick around, or come back, if they find the content mix unappealing.
Definitely, one of the valuable aspects of live-streaming is that it offers everyone a chance to share their unique perspective - in no way am I suggesting the platforms should focus on refining their content by restricting or limiting access (which is what Facebook has done with their Live offering) - but in order to build significant audience, the platforms need to provide engaging content, which, obviously, is a subjective measure. By focusing on providing more relevant content to each user, Blab's working to highlight the platform's value and ramp up engagement by delivering a more compelling experience for each person.
In addition to the new, personalized home page, Blab's also upgraded their sidebar comment features, adding auto-complete capabilities to make the process easier.
Now, if you want to use any of Blab's in-built commands, like, for example, posting a question (which makes the question stand out in the comments feed), the auto-complete function will show you how to do just that.
The auto-complete tool will also help you tag relevant people in your comments.
These additions will be welcomed by the Blab community, particularly in regards to the Blab commands - it can sometimes be confusing to the uninitiated when you see people posting questions and you're not sure how to do the same. Now you'll have that info at your fingertips, at any time.
Islands in the Stream
It's interesting to see the live-streaming landscape evolve and grow, and to consider where it's headed and what the next advancement in the process might be. At present, Periscope leads the way, with Blab carving their own niche, but other providers like Facebook, and even YouTube, are watching on. Facebook's started to push their Live offering a little harder - at the recent Latin GRAMMY Awards there was a Facebook Live booth at the event where celebrities could stream video content direct to the platform. At present, Facebook's shown no sign that they're going to open up the Live option to all users, but you can bet they're considering it and that they're watching how the offering evolves. In 2016 we'll get a real indication of where live-streaming is at and what it could be - if it generates audience and interest, and there's a way to monetize it, you can definitely expect Facebook to move on it, and YouTube will look to provide their own offering, both of which will change the landscape and the viability of the current platforms. In this sense, it's sort of a catch-22 situation - the current providers want to build audience and engagement and grow their platforms, but the bigger they get, the more likely other players will look to come in and compete.
It's impossible to say exactly how it'll play out, but it'll be interesting to watch and see what offerings and advances come into the space - and then, how those tools shape the way people communicate with the world.