Facebook has announced a new set of Facebook Live updates, though they'll only be available to public figures with verified profiles. At least initially.
The new tools will be available via Facebook Mentions, their celebrity-only app which is designed to 'enable public figures to interact with their fans' on The Social Network. Facebook expanded access to Mentions late last year, opening the tool to journalists and other use-cases, but it remains an exclusive app - regular users can't get access.
And while Facebook has said that there are no plans, at this stage, to release these new Live additions to all users, it's worth noting that Facebook Live itself was initially only available to Mentions users, so there is precedent for it being a testing ground for Live tools.
Here's what's been announced.
1. Pre-Broadcast Drafts and Scheduling
The first new tool is called 'team prompts'.
As described by Facebook:
"With our new team prompts feature, a public figure's team can create drafts of Facebook Live post descriptions, making it easy for the public figure to review and post via Mentions when going live. The team can also schedule reminders for a public figure to go live or publish posts from the Mentions app at a specific time, such as from an event."
You probably don't have a team creating posts for you, but the option, if released more widely, could give businesses a new way to plan and schedule broadcasts from staff, enabling better co-ordination of streams in order to maximize engagement at optimal broadcast times.
It could also help ensure you're not cross-streaming - for example, if you were running an event and you wanted to get the most bang for your buck from streaming, you might have several representatives 'stream enabled' and looking at different aspects of the function. By planning these in advance, you could ensure you're not cannibalizing your audience by having any two streams going live at the same time.
2. Comment Moderation
Facebook's also adding a new comment moderation tool, which will no doubt be of significant benefit for live-streamers.
As has been widely discussed, one aspect of live-streaming which is a concern is that because the comments are coming through live, it makes them very hard to censor and/or filter out. That opens the medium up bullying and harassment, with many reports of users jumping into the live-stream comments to spew forth offensive remarks - such incidents have reportedly put a lot of people off using live-streaming entirely, particularly female users.
Periscope have sought to address this by using viewer input to police such incidents, but Facebook's solution may actually provide more benefit. The same tool is available on Facebook Pages and in Instagram comments - and while there are ways around this (slightly mis-spelling a word so it passes the filter but still conveys the same meaning, for example), the system has proven to be an effective way to limit offensive comments, as most commenters won't bother going to the effort of trying to work out what words have been blocked - it's often more an opportunistic action than a targeted one.
3. Adjustments Tray
Facebook's also adding a tool they're calling an 'adjustments tray' which will give broadcasters 'more control and customization over how their broadcast appears to the viewer'.
The tool enables broadcasters to flip the camera orientation at any stage and adjust the brightness of the video, along with other minor editing tweaks.
The functions also enable creators to choose whether the video is mirrored or not, which, as Facebook notes, may come in handy for those looking to showcase a sponsor logo during the broadcast (i.e. it won't appear backwards for viewers).
4. Status Bar
Facebook's also adding a new Live status bar which displays details like audio level, signal strength and battery status as you broadcast.
This is a very handy addition, and one which Facebook does specifically note that they are looking to release more broadly 'within the coming months'.
For comparison, here's the current Facebook Live broadcast screen.
There's not much to go on there, and it can be hard to keep track of the various elements as you broadcast. The new status bar will make it easier to stay on top of all the necessary details to help avoid cutting out midway through or dropping out, while also ensuring that wind noise is not cracking in viewers' ears.
5. Broadcast Trimming
And the last addition announced by Facebook is broadcast trimming.
As anyone who's ever hosted their own live-stream knows, broadcasting yourself is hard, and it's normally most difficult in those initial moments of the stream, when you're not sure if people are going to tune in and you're getting into the topic. Actually, even if you're not a broadcaster you've probably seen this on streams, where the host waits a bit after beginning to ensure everyone who's coming along to join in is present, meaning there's often dead time before the real content kicks in. And that's fine with a live broadcast, but replay viewers may not be as patient.
To help with this, celebrity users will now be able to trim excess footage from the beginning and end of their live videos after the broadcast has ended.
As Facebook notes:
"Trimming gives public figures the control to create a more polished viewing experience for audiences who watch a live video after it airs."
These are some good, functional updates for Facebook Live, and they'll no doubt prove beneficial for all users - if, of course, they're ever released more widely. Previous history would suggest they will be at some stage, but by providing them to celebrity users first, Facebook can both test the new tools and work out any kinks, while also giving those high profile folk a level of exclusivity, which helps better ingratiate them with the app.
The new updates are rolling out to Mentions users over the next few weeks, with no timetable set for any extended release at this time.