Live from Nowheresville
It’s mostly embarrassing, sometimes amusing; only few know how to do it professionally and the Israelis have not yet decoded the method: meet Facebook Live. Launched only a little more than six months ago, it now seems everyone is broadcasting their boring life on Zuckerberg’s social network, Twitter or Snapchat.
Even before the Pokémon Go Fever, 2014 became the turnaround year in which people spent more time in front of their smartphone screen than the TV. Concurrently, the popularity of Snapchat, a social network which youngsters initially had used mainly for sexting (sending images with a sexual nature) has been rising to 150 million users today and an ever high share of users in the 25-44 years old group.
Facebook Live was introduced at the end of 2015 and we already see the broadcasting revolution. Facebook’s new service is simple, readily available, requires no broadcasting or technical experience, only a stable arm, a sizeable palm and preferably charisma too.
In digital as in digital – reports on Facebook and Snapchat will always be ahead of the television or the large websites which are trying to become television. The images may be hard to watch but they are undeniably powerful, as in the case of Lavish Reynolds, who documented, in a clip that caused a tumult in the USA, her dying Afro-American partner after being shot by a police officer in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. Throwing the truth and reality in people’s face in such a hard-to-watch manner, with no filters or blurs is a social move that offers a potential benefit for weaker populations: if everything is documented nowadays, maybe police officers will become less violent.
Quick politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and Stav Shafir, already took the next step to the new world and are using the Live platforms for their purposes. Clinton, whose campaign is very present on the Snapchat app, has established a team that creates original content simulating news coverage and disseminates behind-the-scenes clips in the social networks. MK Stav Shafir recently broadcasted a discussion of the Knesset’s finance committee through the smartphone of one of her parliamentary aides after the cameras of the Knesset Channel had been turned off. Let us not forget the rebels in Turkey. Although they took over the broadcast stations, they couldn’t find the Facebook switch.
The new reality offers new commercial possibilities too: Assi Azar is broadcasting his noon show on Tel Aviv Radio also on his Facebook page. The high-end GUCCI brand broadcasted its last two fashion shows live on Snapchat. While these broadcasts do not yet replace the traditional media exposure fashion needs – magazines, TV, websites etc., – the ability to interact directly with the target audience and the absence of regulation, whether this is a commercial or political campaign, certainly reinforces the public’s engagement with the brand.
So, it this another nail in the coffin of traditional press? Not necessarily. In the same way it happened with digital photography, the traditional press needs to internalize that its professional development hinges less on documentation and more on the added value – the context, the focus, the highlighting of the details, the criticism and the prioritization. If it does it right, the press stands to gain from justifying its raison d’être in view of the torrents of content that threaten to drown us wherever we go.
At the same time, the new channels allow the stakeholders to reach out to new audiences in new ways, thus teaching the press a lesson in humility and in listening to other voices.