Everyoneâ€™s A Star
March 27, 2015
Last week, it was Meerkat. This week, it's Periscope. Either way, we've suddenly been inundated with live video straight from people's iPhones, pumped through Twitter contact lists and once again changing everything, at least until it changes again. Whether this is revolutionary -- while there have been live streaming apps before, these are clearly the easiest to use and have a few features that are conducive to impromptu broadcasting -- or evolutionary -- we've been through YouTube, Google Hangouts, Vine, Instagram -- it's a thing, no doubt.
A thing for what? At the moment I'm writing this, the videos listed on the top page of Periscope for me are "Turkish tea and cake with carrot" (15 viewers), "lol" (8 viewers), and something called "Another week of CTV ML in the books, how about some live Q&A;" (2 viewers, so you can imagine the Q&As are coming fast and furious). One, with no viewers, is enticingly titled "This class is boring af." And the utter depression that must follow posting "Ask Alex a question! He's a magician and knows your life" and getting no viewers -- none -- has to be profound. Turns out that given the tools to be creative and produce their own programming, people do... that.
But they can do more. You can't define these things by the "bored AF" kind of streams any more than the worst, least interesting YouTube videos define YouTube or the most brainless clusters of 140 characters define Twitter. If you let that color how you see these apps, you're missing out on the real revolution, which has something to do with what you do for a living.
The common thread among these technologies is that anyone can be a star. It does not mean that everyone WILL be a star, but that anyone, anywhere can produce material and that someone, someplace can watch it or listen to it and that good material will find its audience somehow. (This explains how a wave of "YouTube Stars" and "Vine Stars" have developed, people you don't know but who your kids will instantly recognize.) The middleman has been cut out. You don't need a TV station or cable channel to agree to air your video; you don't need a broadcast radio station to have people hear your show. You don't even need to schedule anything. You can broadcast when you feel like it, and instantly notify anyone who cares that you're doing it live. You can even be a live news reporter: You see something happening, you open Meerkat or Periscope, you press a button, you're on the air.
But so is everyone else. And, like YouTube and Vine and Instagram, there's so much stuff in the pipeline that you have to really cut through to find that audience. Turns out that your experience producing things people want to hear and see can't hurt in that regard. Right now, I've seen some of you in radio and TV experimenting with the apps, seeing what you can do, taking tentative steps. I enjoyed seeing Sheryl Worsley at KSL in Salt Lake City give a tour of the station's newsroom and studios on Periscope, or Jay Onrait spending an entire edition of Fox Sports 1's "Fox Sports Live" goofing around with Meerkat, flashing hand-written messages to the viewers and randomly exclaiming "MEERKAT!" I saw some shows trying out pre-show video, or behind-the-scenes stuff. That's a start, but someone is going to figure out content that is unique to the medium, and that's when things will get really interesting.
And that might be you doing that. Right now, it's true, the top audiences you're going to see for anything you do on those apps will number, at best, in the hundreds. You might think that there's no point in bothering with that small number. You'd be wrong. As more people download and install these things, you want to be there to greet them. You want to be the first thing they follow. You want to get to them before anyone else does. You can't do that by waiting. And as for monetization, that's also something that will work itself out, but it's not like you're really spending anything to do this other than time and effort, and the repayment is in engagement with the audience. If these things DON'T catch on, you aren't going to lose anything. If they DO catch on, you're there.
So, what's it gonna be? A daily live aftershow? "At Home With (your name here)?" Streaming yourself playing video games, interacting with the barista at your favorite coffee shop, visiting unusual places in your market? Something way, way more creative than any of that? The tools are now at your disposal, and they're free. Make yourself a star.
Whether it's on the radio or on cell phone video, you need things to talk about, and that, as we say every week right in this space, is what All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics is all about, with hundreds of items and ideas to make your show better. Find it by clicking here. And the Talk Topics Twitter feed at @talktopics has every story individually linked to the appropriate item.
Full Disclosure: I also serve as Director of Programming for Nerdist Industries (a division of Legendary Pictures), which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities.
Oh, one other thing: Thank you for all the great feedback on this weekly column, but also profuse apologies if I haven't responded. I plead idiocy. Is that a permissible plea? Also, I get so many emails that I tend to lose the ones I intend to return. If you want to get my attention, may I suggest following me and sending a tweet my way at @pmsimon? Because I'll see that. And, no, I haven't started my own Meerkat or Periscope "show" yet. But you never know when that might happen.