In any industry, whenever an invention shows it has the potential to be successful or lucrative, competitors will always show up. The intention is usually to emulate the great idea but make it better. It might be bigger, faster, more efficient, less expensive or anything to set itself apart. The video industry is no exception. Camera manufacturers are continuously trying to outdo each other. The options for video gear are endless. Even the livestreaming platforms that we use to showcase online events come in a wide array of options.
As a video creator, it’s important to choose a strong platform to get yourself in front of an audience. You may even want to use several platforms to leverage the best options. These are important decisions that you should make early on because it may inform some of your other decisions like which gear to invest in.
Livestreaming, however, is a different ballgame. Yes, getting the right gear still matters, but when comparing livestream platforms, there are a lot of factors to consider. Definitely think about the basics like content delivery, editing tools, security and customer support. You’ll also want to know about monetization as well as any fees or memberships. Then, be sure that you’re getting the right analytics and reporting tools to help you achieve your goals.
Social media makes livestreaming easy
Obviously a video platform giant, YouTube is the easiest answer. While it does expect users to maintain some semblance of community standards and ethics, everything else is pretty limitless. You can upload as much content as you want, as frequently as you’d like. Grow your audience into the millions, monetize, link to other social media platforms, sell merch and create an empire. Other social media networks like Facebook and Instagram have stepped up in recent times to meet the unprecedented demand for live video connectivity. If you have something to say or something to share, social media outlets can get the job done from your camera or mobile phone with very little tech-savvy or costs required. They also have easy-to-use analytics and reporting to help you strategize and get better results.
One major downside of a massive platform is the possibility of creating great content only to find that it falls into the void while some silly cat video goes viral instead. Because these platforms are based on algorithms, targeting and engagement are critical keys. If you’re going to use these platforms, spend some time learning to use the marketing tools. The other biggest problem with these giants is the absolute lack of solid customer support. If you have a technical problem during your livestream, it might be a few days before anyone gets back to you. The chances of interacting with a human instead of a bot are extremely slim.
Getting down to business
Many schools and companies block the use of social media to limit disruptive or inappropriate use. To maintain that, these businesses may need to invest in alternatives for online events or classes. The main purpose of platforms such as Livestream, Boxcast, UStream and Vimeo is to create a professional experience for the viewers. This is ideal if your organization will be streaming regular online classes or events but need a user-friendly platform. You’ll be able to stream from various types of cameras or devices and integrate with switchers for multi-cam presentations. Plus, your streams can be easily converted to recorded videos at the end so that you can make them available for replay.
If your company is at an enterprise or corporate level, you might find platforms like DaCast or Brightcove meet your needs more effectively. They focus on the best security, editing tools, stock libraries, analytics and scalability. These are great options when you already have an experienced video crew backed by marketing experts to help keep all live productions in line with your branding. While events and classes hosted on these types of platforms can be easily connected to social media pages or independent websites, they’re not really designed for amateur or independent creators. It’s more for business-to-consumer or organization-to-members projects and presentations.
Overall, most of these platforms will have accessible technical support available to help ensure you put your best foot forward. They’ll usually have tiered pricing plans that vary to fit your needs. It’s often based on factors like frequency, event duration, number of viewers or bandwidth usage. This may be an area where you get what you pay for. Be sure to know what happens if your events go over the limits. Sometimes it’s worth the higher price to step up a tier from whatever you think you need.
Gamers have needs, too
There’s no big secret around the fact that online gaming has become a massive industry. All jokes about guys living in mom’s basement aside, Online Professional Gamer has become a lucrative job for many. Twitch—which is owned by Amazon—is the livestreaming giant in this arena. It allows users to stream their own computer screen so that fans can watch them in action. From there, it runs much like social media platforms. Viewership and fanbase are central. Side chats and engagement feed into the algorithms. Monetization and revenue are achieved by popularity, ad dollars and sponsors. Massive archives of recorded content from previous sessions can be marketed to improve the fanbase. Users can choose the free level or upgrade for nominal monthly fees.
One of the biggest drawbacks here is that there is so little competition in the market. Twitch gets to do pretty much whatever they want. For example, upholding the copyrights of the music industry is important and we applaud the ethics. Doing so by way of mass-purge of thousands of hours of saved content without citing specifics about which rules were broken and no options for appeal or correction was really harsh. It left a lot of users wishing they could game successfully on a different platform. There are some good alternatives to Twitch available. YouTube and Facebook all have their own esports and gamer zones. Some independent platforms like Smashcast exist, too. However, most haven’t gained the mass viewership needed to be truly competitive with Twitch’s gamer livestreaming yet.
Beyond the obvious livestreaming platform options for social media, professional businesses and gamer worlds, there are always outliers. You can find niche platforms that are geared especially for streaming from actual classrooms. Others are designed specifically for churches to share their Sunday Services. At the highest levels, there are platforms being used to present live concerts to online audiences around the globe. Some undertakings are small while others are reaching millions of viewers.
When choosing the platform for your own events, it’s important to have a vision of where your livestream journey is headed. It can be considered a pay-to-play industry. Free and low-cost streaming services will have poor customer support services. You’ll need to figure out how to solve your own technical problems. They’ll have huge audiences, but you’ll be on your own with the marketing and analytics tools. To get all of the bells and whistles, the prices can get steep very quickly. How important is low-latency and secure servers in the scheme of your projects? Consider all of the angles. Then choose the platform that best meets your needs, skill set, budget and goals.