Monetizing Live Streaming Is Tough For Publishers

Panelists at MediaPost’s Publishing Insiders Summit discussed the challenge of monetizing live streaming, specifically on the Facebook platform. Publishers will need to continue experimenting to find the best way for the burgeoning tool to become a source of revenue, the panelists agreed.

The moderator of the panel, editor in chief of LittleThings, Maia McCann, asked a panel with Nojan Aminosharei, entertainment director of Hearst Magazine Digital Media, Jeremy Kaplan, editor in chief of Digital Trends, Drew Lesicko, general manager and product director of AOL Alpha and Dina Sartore-Bodo, managing editor of HollywoodLife, how they plan to make money from live streaming.



“No one wants to answer that question,” Kaplan quipped.

Lesicko added that as of now, there is “zero” monetization strategy for live streaming. “For live and Facebook content in general, there's really not a lot that we can do,” he said.

While the team at AOL can now mention a sponsor on a live feed and watermark their video content, there are still “a bunch of rules,” Lesicko said. For example, they cannot mention a sponsor in the first three seconds of the video.

“Facebook is trying to make sure we don't put a bunch of pre-roll and degrade the experience to the user because they want this thing to start to scale. But at some point, we need to find some way to monetize,” he said. “We have to reshape the conversation from an advertising standpoint, too. With the tools that we have we can't do targeting, we can't do attribution.”

While live streaming is a good way to “speak directly to our readers” as a brand, Kaplan added, it remains “very hard as a business. It's very hard to invest in this more as a platform when there isn't any return on investment and all we are getting is engaged readers.”

Sartore-Bodo said HollywoodLife has found roundtable discussions to be a successful format for Facebook live streaming, as well as streaming during a podcast recording. 

However, she found that a Reddit-style “Ask Me Anything” doesn’t work so well; answering comments live from an audience “wasn’t engaging enough.”

“Connection is the new way to engage users,” Lesicko said. “We want to figure out how to build that one-to-one relationship with users so that they can feel like they are part of the experience.”

The panelists agreed live-streaming platforms were beneficial for their brands especially when they were giving “direct access to users,” such as streaming events or answering questions live about a product or celebrity onscreen.

Promotion is also key. Sartore-Bodo said HollywoodLife has had success cross-promoting on Snapchat for Facebook Live. Aminosharei added it was “helpful” when a celebrity or “talking head” shared the live stream with their social media followers. It even helped jolt the viewership of that video by 30,000 views.

Video of the Publishing Insider Summit panel and presentations is available here.

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