Even as coronavirus has canceled much of everything in 2020 so far, you can still get live performances from the likes of Coldplay, Garth Brooks and even former news anchor Katie Couric. You just have tune in on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook in recent days.
And it’s not just the rich and famous hitting the social live streams.
Many couples have turned to Facebook Live to stream their wedding ceremony live, in the interest of social distancing. The governor of Mississippi led a prayer session on Facebook on Sunday in lieu of church services and the CEO of T-Mobile addressed customers’ concerns on Twitter’s Periscope. And children’s authors lead lunchtime live streams to engage their core audience.
“We’re seeing insane traffic,” says Tzafrir Rehan, the chief technology officer of BeLive, an Israeli startup that runs local homemade talk shows on its platform. “Viewers are home all day, and more likely to watch.”
Facebook says views for Instagram and Facebook Live have “doubled” in a week. YouTube says it’s working to “meet the increased demand for live streaming as university events, conferences, and religious services move their gatherings online.” Twitter didn’t offer any stats on increased usage.
Independent analyst Brian Solis says live viewership had taken a dip and has been now rediscovered for a simple reason: “The idea of live rekindles the early sense of social media,” he says. “It feels good to be with people.”
And Live makes it happen in real time.
Live apps first began appearing in 2015, when Twitter’s Periscope helped popularize the format, and they got notice but eventually took a backseat to more professionally produced and edited online programming. Solis thinks Live will end up post-COVID-19 where it was before. “It will be passed over in exchange for more dynamic on-demand content.”
He may be right. After all, Live is raw and unpolished, with no color correction, fancy editing, music soundtracks or any of the other add-ons we’ve come to expect from video programming.
But it’s so real, as the live living room concert by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood showed the other night. And it’s a whole lot of fun to do because you can get instant feedback from your friends while going live and interacting.
Maybe Solis is wrong and Live is here to stay. It’s certainly the place more of us are turning to as we hunker down in our homes.
So which live app should you be using? How do they compare?
Advantage: With just over 2.5 billion people on the social network, odds are more people you know are on Facebook and thus available to watch you and interact.
Disadvantage: Not everybody has a Facebook account. If you go live, only people who have signed up for Facebook can view you, unlike streaming on Twitter and YouTube.
How to go live: Go to your Facebook News Feed, where the choices are to create a post, add a photo or video, go Live or check a Life event. Title your live programming right there and click the button to begin broadcasting.
Where to stream: Facebook invites you to go live from a computer or mobile device. The mobile app has funny and colorful stickers you can add to the screen.
Advantage: Go where your friends are. YouTube is the No. 2 most visited website in the world, after Google and right above Facebook. So if you want to get feedback from the crowd that spends time on YouTube, this is the place to be.
Disadvantage: You can’t live stream with your mobile device unless your channel has at least 1,000 subscribers. That probably knocks out most readers. However, YouTube will let you live stream via a webcam and the computer.
How to go live: On your device, click the “Create” tab, the place where you normally upload videos. You get a choice (if you meet the requirements) of “Upload a video” or “Live.” YouTube then asks you to title the broadcast, smile for a quick automatic thumbnail photo, and that’s it.
Where to stream: On mobile devices (only if you have 1,000 subscribers) or computer. The mobile app offers a choice of 15 Instagram like filters to pretty up the picture, once the broadcast has begun, like black and white, soft colors and even wacko ones like “negative,” which looks like the old reversal negatives from the film days.
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The original Periscope app, which first helped popularize live video broadcasting, has been absorbed into the Twitter app as well, but stand-alone Periscope still exists. Both do the same thing – alert your Twitter followers when you go live, and air your live stream in the Twitter timeline.
Advantage: Unlike Facebook, when you go live on Twitter (and Periscope) anyone can see you, without having to register first. One really cool feature, when it works is being able to bring up to three guests to join you (audio only) on a live video tweet. The screen is on you, while the Twitter thumbnail of your guests also appears in the image. Note: Live video for Twitter and Periscope can be created only on mobile devices.
Disadvantage: Our audio tests had a low success ratio. One guest complained of massive feedback, another that their phone crashed in the middle of the broadcast, sending it off air. When it worked though, it was talk show beautiful and seemingly simple. You send a direct message to a friend and ask them to join you on a live tweet. Then once the broadcast begins, they ask to join, you click a + button to bring them in, and now you have a sparring partner or two to tweet with.
How to go live: On Twitter, the live button is hidden. To get there, click the camera icon in your new tweet window, and you’ll see a choice of “Capture” for taking a photo or video and posting, or “Live.” On Periscope, things are more straightforward. Open the app, click the red button at the bottom of the screen, title your broadcast and you’re good to go. You can invite up to three guests on Periscope as well, but only after the broadcast has begun.
Where to go live: Only on mobile devices.
Advantage: Many people prefer the Instagram app over Facebook, as it reaches a different, more visually oriented crowd. Younger people tend to congregate on Instagram. Also, you can invite a guest in to split your live screen, although getting there is complicated.
Disadvantage: Unlike Facebook, you can go live only with the mobile app, and you’ll have to hold your phone vertically. If you place the phone into a tripod holder horizontally to keep the image steady, you’ll appear sideways on the screen.
How to go live. Click the camera button at the top left of the main screen, the one you hit to create a “story.” The list of choices at the bottom begins with Live. From there, you’re on the air. Instagram puts a notice at the top of the screen to let people know you’re broadcasting. This is where you can add your guest. Since you get a notice of the people who are watching, click their name to invite them to split the screen with you.
Where to go live: Only on the mobile app.
It’s not a household name, but it’s hands down the coolest experience you’re going to find from the Live apps. However, it’s not totally free.
BeLive lets you bring in up to two guests on a webcam video feed and show more than just talking heads. You can also insert photos, videos and text within your broadcast, which in turn is webcast to either Facebook or YouTube. The free deal gets you two guests on three shows monthly or $24.99 for unlimited shows and up to four guests on screen. (BeLive has opened up the platform to everyone for free during the COVID-19 crisis.)
Advantage: The best looking talk show-like experience you can create yourself and friends can join in by clicking a link.
Disadvantage: It’s not totally free.
How to go live: Sign up with an account at belive.tv, click “Start Broadcast,” title your show, grab media to show off during the broadcast (photos and videos) and start talking to the world. Pick up a link to send to friends to join you on the show on the left navigation bar.
Where to go live: Broadcasting only via the computer, but guests can join you via mobile devices.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter