Live content has always been a draw for audiences. Think, for example, of Saturday Night Live - having broadcast over 850 episodes since its debut in 1975, the live comedy show is one of the most successful and longest-running television series of all time. Of course, it also goes without saying that traditional forms of live entertainment like stand-up comedy, live music, and theatre are still going strong.
Almost every social media platform now offers live video functionality, so live content is is now truly in the hands of the masses. However, content marketers are still in the process of developing an understanding of what live content has to offer, and what needs to be considered before reaping its unique benefits.
So, why could live content be right for your brand?
The way we consume media has changed radically over the last decade or so: the old broadcast model of watching a TV series as it was scheduled has given way to a non-linear model, where viewers can watch content at their leisure and on a multitude of different devices. Even in this landscape, there’s something to be said for the power of live content to centralise and unite an audience around a single event.
A study conducted by OFCOM into contemporary viewing habits highlights that, even in the midst of generally more personalised viewing habits, there is still a widespread desire for more collective audience experiences - with the study concluding that 68% of UK adults believed TV programmes and films were a great way to bring the family together.
There are a number of ways in which today’s live video platforms are able to make use of this collective experience. Most notably, they enable audiences to comment and discuss the content in real-time - the Social Media Examiner, when looking at YouTube personality Nick Nimmin’s weekly YouTube Live show, noted that Nimmin’s live audience had formed into something of an active community:
“The audience treats the show like an event. 15 minutes before the show, people begin waiting for the show to start and chat with each other. [They] watch the whole show and keep chatting after the live stream… Some people send a message when they can’t make the show.”
This interactive, real-time engagement can prove beneficial to all kinds of brands. Many universities, for example, have found that live video is a great way of attracting prospective students who can now experience the university environment remotely. They can ask questions and find out which university is right for them, without having to take multiple trips to open days around the country.
One criticism of live content could be that its greatest qualities diminish after the initial broadcast. It can be viewed again, but will - in many cases - be stripped of the relevance, freshness, and interactive promise that elevated it. This is not to say, however, that live content can’t have a “life beyond live”. With a bit of imagination, your live content can be the raw material that you use to sculpt other longer-lasting pieces of content.
Take the example of a lengthy live Q&A video. One way of easily and effectively repurposing this would be to extract the audio and turn it into a podcast, ideal for being listened to during long commutes. Alternatively, the video could be re-edited into a more polished series of shorter videos - perhaps even allowing for particularly interesting points to be revisited and expanded upon in more detail.
In his article for the Content Marketing Institute, Aaron Agius offers several other great suggestions for how best to give your live video a longer shelf-life across multiple platforms, and argues that it’s not enough to simply archive the original broadcast:
“Audiences watch livestreams differently than they consume videos… They don’t expect perfect quality or perfect presentations. Audiences of non-live videos expect more… They’re also not as invested in spending a long time watching the video.”
The unpredictability of being in the moment is a big part of what makes live production so special. The recent Halloween special of the BBC’s dark comedy series Inside No. 9 - a live episode beset with technological errors that gradually transpire to be a part of the fiction - was an ambitious metafictional feat that really effectively illustrates how live content offers up a wide expanse of possibilities for creative minds to run with.
The way in which the episode employed its array of tricks (which included fictional continuity announcements, cuts to “replacement programmes”, and actor Reece Shearsmith posting to his actual Twitter account) in order to enhance its eerie atmosphere and make its audience question how much of what they were seeing on screen was “actually” happening received high praise from critics, such as The Guardian’s Phil Harrison, who wrote:
“If you weren’t there at 10pm on Sunday, you missed the essence of it. What the show demonstrated was that in the hands of true masters, modern media networks like Twitter are simply more tools, more colours a writer can add to their palette.”
Though live video may seem, at first glance, like a medium with limited applications; the simple fact of its being live opens up several possibilities to be spontaneous, distinctive, and interactive, while also offering up avenues for future related content. Though it may demand a lot of content creators in terms of preparation, it can also really pay off in terms of presenting your audience with content that can make them feel like a part of your brand.