Facebook Announces Expansion of Live-Streaming to All Users, Adds Photo/Video Collage Tool
Dear live-streaming communities - get ready for a shake up.
Back in August, Facebook unveiled Live, a live-streaming tool for Facebook, though it wasn't made available for every Facebook user. Live was added into Facebook Mentions, which is accessible only by users with verified profiles, which essentially limits it to celebrities and public figures. While the move was criticized by some, the strategy, on Facebook's part, made sense - one of the biggest challenges for the live-streaming apps available thus far has been content quality and ensuring they're delivering a consistently great viewer experience. By making Live available only to celebrities, Facebook's live streams immediately captured attention, leveraging the followings of celebrities to showcase the offering, while at the same time giving those high-profile users a level of exclusivity with the function and boosting their response rates by making their live content stand out in News Feeds - if everyone had given access to Live, a heap of streams and notifications would be flooding through all at once, but with only celebrities able to use it, their content gained more attention, and subscribers as a result.
Focusing on celebrities also gave Facebook a way to test the waters and see how users would respond to live-stream content. And clearly they have responded, as Facebook's now announced that Live will soon be available to all Facebook users, a move that'll cause a big shift in the live-streaming landscape. How? Through Facebook, content creators will be able to achieve massive reach and audience - and they'll do it like this:
Going Live In...
Facebook Live will be built into your status update field - as you can see from the first image in the above set, when you go to post a new update, there'll be a new 'Live' icon at the bottom. Tap it, and you're taken to a screen (second image) where you can name your live stream and choose the audience you want to share with, then you tap the big 'Go Live' button and you're on. Similar to Meerkat or Periscope, broadcasters will be able to see the number of viewers, the names of people who are tuning in and comments as they come through, in real time. Interestingly, the comment and viewer info takes over the lower part of the screen as you're broadcasting, which gives the broadcaster a smaller window to view their content as they record - other live-streaming apps have made these details transparent so as to avoid a reduction in recording size.
Once you're done with your stream, you click 'Finish' and the video will be saved to your Timeline like any other Facebook post - it'll even autoplay in News Feed like other Facebook video content. It's a pretty straight-forward and basic process, and one that anyone who's used the existing live-streaming apps will be familiar with. Viewers can also subscribe to your streams to be notified of future live posts.
River to a Stream
Live-streaming has become steadily more popular over 2015, growing from the introduction of Meerkat at South by Southwest back in February. Meerkat's release was quickly followed by Periscope, which has grown to become the dominant live-streaming player, noting, at last check, that they have close to two million daily active users watching the equivalent of 40 years of video content on the platform every day.
Numbers like that underline the popularity of the offering, and as such, it's no surprise to see Facebook paying attention and looking for a way to provide similar functionality to their user base in order to meet that growing user demand. In recent months, new options have come onto the market - Blab allows multi-person live-streaming and has gained traction with many, particularly podcasters, with its user-friendly features and functions (like the ability to download audio streams of your broadcasts). FireTalk's another that's gained some attention.
As the platforms have progressed, we've also seen a gradual shift in focus in how they're being marketed. This is particularly true FireTalk - while other apps have showcased the capacity for anyone to broadcast live, any time, FireTalk's made a conscious effort to partner with influential content creators, making agreements with The Young Turks, TMZ and various popular online identities. That shift has come as a result of how we've seen people using the live-streaming option - while it's great that everyone can use the tool to broadcast any aspect of their daily life, the stats show that there are way more people watching live-streams than are actually broadcasting them. As such, focusing on content quality, as opposed to function availability, is a better way to go for the long-term viability of the offering.
And incidentally, this is where Facebook is best positioned to win out.
You see, while people are interested in watching live-stream content, there are, essentially, two big ways in which the platform comes into its own. The first is in major events - during the recent terror attacks in Paris, Periscope became the go-to resource for many, for example. Periscope's worked to enhance this capability, adding in a world map to help users connect to different regions and cities and get a glimpse of what's happening across the world in real-time. And while that capacity's great, and powerful, it's not sustainable, it's not going to keep audiences coming back to live-streaming day-in, day-out. For that, you need regular, every day content - in that element is where live-streaming has the potential to become something really big.
Through Facebook Live, celebrities are already broadcasting their content to thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of viewers across the world's largest social media network. By focusing on celebrity content, Facebook's made Live a more valuable offering, content-wise, before they've even looked to roll the option out more widely. Now imagine if Facebook decided to make a new 'Live Streams' tab which showcased all the live broadcasts happening at any given time, sortable by location, subscriber numbers, verified or non-verified profiles, etc. Imagine if you could have your live stream showcased in amongst those from major celebrities. That'd likely increase your exposure and viewership right?
While Facebook is rolling out Live to all users slowly, cautiously, this, I suspect, is where Facebook will be headed with the option. As it grows in popularity, it'll be given more focus, and anyone who wants to reach a large audience via live-stream will eventually see best benefit by using Facebook Live as opposed to any other streaming provider. Individuals, brands - everyone will have greater capacity to reach a wider audience via Facebook Live than they would through other live-streaming means. It's a step-by-step process, Facebook's ensuring they get each element right - and they're putting the focus on connecting family and friends via live-stream at this stage. But the takeover is coming. Just wait and see.
In addition to the wider roll out of Live, Facebook's also introduced a new photo/video collage tool which groups content taken at the same place and time into a 'scrolling, moving collage'.
"When you tap on Photo, you'll see recent moments from your camera roll organized into collages based on when and where you took them. You can edit your collage by adding, removing or re-arranging the photos and videos that you want to include. When you're done, you can add a title to the collage before sharing."
It's a simple, way to share photo and video content, which helps showcase various aspects of your experiences. The presentation format also aligns with the rising popularity of collage format images - PicStitch, which enables users to create image collages, has become one of the most popular editing tools for images posted Instagram.
New Sharing Format
And the final element of today's announcement from Facebook relates to how content is shared via mobile - with an increasing amount of options on offer for sharing content on the platform, Facebook's testing a new design for content sharing to make it easier and faster to do.
When you tap the 'What's on your mind?' prompt in the update field, a new drop-down will display all the various options for sharing content on Facebook, including Live video (as shown in the above screenshot). The drop-down will also make it easier for Facebook to add in new sharing options in future - like, for example, 360 degree video.
Facebook's beginning its wider rollout of Live to a small percentage of iPhone users in the US from today, while Collages will also begin rolling out on iPhone from today and will be available on Android early in the new year.
Follow Andrew Hutchinson on Twitter