'NYT' Marks 100 Million Live Streams On Facebook

While the definition of what constitutes live streaming video journalism may be open to debate — to say nothing of the business model that will hopefully support it — one thing is now clear: if a publisher live streams interesting stuff online, people will watch it.

Indeed, as 2016 draws to a close, The New York Times revealed it has passed 100 million views of its live streaming content after launching on Facebook Live in April of this year. According to the newspaper, its success was driven by an eclectic array of content, ranging from what might be termed “traditional” on the scene live reporting to… well, some pretty weird stuff.

The NYT’s list of its most popular live streaming content from the past eight months included a fairly straightforward visit by reporter Declan Walsh to a shelter for recent deportees from the U.S. in Nogales, Mexico, featuring interviews with deportees, people planning to cross the border illegally, and activists who work with migrants.

Among other interesting insights from Walsh’s live report, some of the stories of recent deportees revealed how migrants who have lived in the U.S. for long periods of time, frequently establishing families, may be deported for trivial reasons, leaving spouses and children (who may be U.S. citizens) unable to provide for themselves.

It would be hard to dispute the value of “boots on the ground” journalism from an editorial perspective. However, the NYT has also been experimenting with more unusual, even whimsical, live streaming video that pushes the boundaries of what is typically thought of as editorial content.

One great example is a series of “live drawing” videos with various artists, including one participant, Cari Vander Yacht, who translated comments from readers in real time. This creative presentation is strangely entrancing, akin to Bob Ross or other art video procedurals, with the added fascination of online interactivity. It forces the artist to constantly adjust to accommodate new suggestions.

Then there was the NYT’s live puppet show recapping the 2016 presidential campaign. And no, it did not feature Punch and Judy. Instead, it was a tasteful shadow puppet production using cut-out silhouettes of the key figures, as well as objects reflecting the main themes and events.

A floating sombrero, resting uneasily on Hillary Clinton’s head, represents the failure of her attempts to “pander” to Hispanics by comparing herself to an “abuela.”

As noted, the business model for live streaming content remains up in the air, as a number of publishers admitted at MediaPost’s Publishing Insider Summit in October. Product placements? Good old-fashioned on-air promotional spots, like vintage newscasts? Nobody knows – but at least the audience is there.

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