Facebook Live 101

How Publishers Can Use and Monetize Livestreaming

Since Facebook launched the livestreaming service Facebook Live to all users in April – following an initial launch only to celebrities – publishers have been eager to experiment with live video streaming for news. And for good reason: Facebook users are watching approximately 100 million hours of video on the platform daily, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.  Outlets such as CNN, The New York Times, Mashable and NPR have begun utilizing Facebook Live to tell stories and report news in real time, offering a new type of engaging content to their audiences.

Livestreaming offers publishers two key benefits: a convenient, low-cost way to produce video content and a new opportunity for collaboration between news outlets to further expand their reach and engagement. It also has its drawbacks. Facebook has yet to offer consistent, long-term monetization opportunities within the platform, or detailed analytic information, to further aid publishers in their experiences with live video streaming.

Facebook Live allows users to stream and watch videos in real time, appearing as posts in users’ News Feeds as well as on the broadcaster’s Facebook Page. With the ability to stream for up to 90 minutes, videos continue to live online even when streaming has ended. Facebook has even updated its algorithm regarding live videos so that they are more likely to appear higher in a user’s News Feed than when the video is offline.

And publishers are certainly taking an interest. According to social media metrics company Socialbakers, “in May, 44 percent of the top 500 Facebook pages maintained by media companies posted at least one live video on Facebook, up from 11 percent in January.”

For example, the BBC used Facebook Live to cover the Euro 2016 tournament and Germany’s regional elections, while The New York Timesfeatured a live-streamed wedding ceremony and even solved a mystery after reporter Deborah Acosta found a number of photo slides on the street, which she livestreamed on Facebook to try and get the answers.

While there are undoubtedly many possibilities for livestreaming content, to drive engagement, publishers should create content that will actually benefit and shine because of the platform on which it is being featured. Scott Montgomery, head of digital news for NPR, told Digiday that there needs to be a real story to tell behind it all, “not just turning on the camera and hovering around.”

Aside from working within their respective news outlets to produce compelling, live video content, publishers are using Facebook Live for collaborative purposes as well. In June, Epicurious and The Daily Mailworked together to produce content for National Martini Day and showed audiences how to create the perfect concoction themselves. On Father’s Day, The Daily Beast posted a similar cocktail-themed video produced with Food52. Not only does collaboration offer the ability to create unique content, but it may allow publishers to reach new audiences.

While Facebook Live offers publishers access to Facebook’s approximately 1.7 billion monthly active users and gives them the opportunity to utilize live video streaming at a lower cost, it currently does not offer a way for publishers to generate revenue from Facebook Live. Some media outlets – and even celebrities – are being paid by Facebook to broadcast on Facebook Live, through a recent contractual agreement, but most publishers don’t have such agreements. While this shouldn’t be a deterrent to experimenting with Facebook Live, for now other channels, including Facebook Instant Articles, may provide better revenue-generating opportunities.

As live video streaming continues to grow within the news media space, publishers using Facebook Live and other livestreaming platforms will have to approach storytelling in a new way, but one that still stays true to their voice and appeals to their audiences. Though Facebook Live poses a few challenges at this time, it offers publishers a low-cost way to experiment with livestreaming and complements the compelling content they already provide.


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