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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

The rise of live

September 16, 2015 | By Paul Shanley, Director of International Business—AP

From as early as 1953, when millions of people around the world watched the live coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey in London, the need to watch an event as it unfolds has been there.

These days, live video is on the rise with news consumers increasingly expecting to see events as they actually happen. They are still looking for breaking and key news events but now they also want to see political, cultural and religious events, red carpet coverage, product launches, technology shows, sports news and more. However the television platform is far from the only place people are consuming video. Today’s digital publishers are responding to increased demand, integrating video into their websites and thereby bringing richer storytelling to their audiences.

Never before, though, has there been such experimentation in live video content. Improvements in streaming technologies and increased Internet speeds have made it easier than ever to stream live content across digital platforms, and digital publishers, approaching live video from a fresh perspective, have been quick to adapt.

It was in 2013 when digital publishers really saw the power of live video. Ahead of the birth of Prince George, AP streamed a shot of the hospital’s front door to many of the UK’s online newspaper sites. The results: a stark increase in site visitors and engagement levels that was more akin to traditional linear TV viewing times than the usual brisk online viewing. Viewers gathered online to watch and wait, be there the moment the birth was announced, and to chat with one another during this exciting event.

It’s a formula that’s proven successful time and again, with events that take days or even weeks proving incredibly popular. From full coverage of the Oscar Pistorius trial, to 24/7 coverage of the Hong Kong protests, these breaking news events have proven live video’s capabilities to attract and engage an audience on an ongoing basis.

These are the kind of events where audiences can lean forward and get real insight into the story, or lean back and keep an eye on events while continuing with their day-to-day tasks. It’s a concept we call “slow news”.

In addition, streaming planned live events – like awards shows or technology events – gives publishers the opportunity to promote ahead of time on their site and across social media to attract an audience. It also gives important time to sell advertising or sponsorship around an event.

The experimentation continues as sites try to determine what works and what doesn’t—and the fact is that there is no one size fits all for live content. Digital publishers need to see what resonates with their audience while also staying true to their brand voice. In a social media world where Facebook and other platforms are becoming increasingly important to the overall news experience, staying true to the brand regardless of the medium used to tell the story has never been more important.

The needs of broadcasters are also changing when it comes to live video, along with the audiences they serve. Not only do they now have more television channels to fill, but many of them also have a digital offering. They are reaching consumers across several platforms and audiences want a different experience on each one. As a result, live video is playing a significant role in broadcasters’ strategies and they need to remain focused and flexible in order to retain and attract audiences across all platforms.

As technology continues to evolve and consumers consider watching live news unfold with video, rather than just text and images, understanding how to develop a story with live video will become more important than ever. At AP we’re offering around 400 live events a month and we’re continuing to invest in technology and newsgathering that will ensure we keep up with the continued growth in the importance of live video news.

As technology continues to evolve and consumers consider watching live news unfold with video, rather than just text and images, understanding how to develop a story with live video will become more important than ever.

Paul Shanley (@psshanley) is director of international business development and partnerships at AP (@AP). He joined the company in 2011, as part of the team leading the business strategy for the development of AP Video Hub which launched in 2012. Since then he has gone on to drive the global strategy for the platform as well as a number of other international products, focusing on revenue growth and customer engagement.

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