Just over a year ago, Facebook introduced its video streaming service Facebook Live and invited one and all to give it a try. Many broadcasters have accepted the invitation and are using it effectively for breaking news and interactive shows. It brings new dimensions to local TV news, but so far no meaningful additional revenue.
By Harry A. Jessell
On Feb. 24, my wife and I came home from dinner and noticed two helicopters droning above our home in Chatham, N.J., outside New York. Since there were no searchlights, I guessed they were news choppers and something must have happened nearby, a big accident on Rt. 24 perhaps. We went to our smartphones to see what was up.
Rosemary found it first, on WCBS’s Facebook page. From its chopper, the CBS flagship was streaming live pictures of a four-seat helicopter that had crash-landed in an apartment building complex a quarter of a mile from us. It wasn’t bad. The downed chopper was mostly intact and the pilot and the sole passenger had walked away, but WCBS stuck with the story for a good while as the few details dibbled in.
As news, it was no big deal. But it impressed on me just how important Facebook has suddenly become in local TV news. I was aware of the phenomenon from stories we have been aggregating and from our own reporting, particularly in promoting news and news talent.
But nothing makes a trend more real than when you are being personally touched by it — in this case, what accident investigators would call an “off-airport landing” blocks from my home.
This week, our Michael Depp reinforced for me just how important Facebook Live has become in broadcasting with an article on how the Scripps stations have made Facebook its go-to digital platform for breaking news.
At Scripps at least, websites have become an afterthought and Twitter a runner-up. “The audience for Facebook is much larger and more representative of the local news demographic, broadly speaking, where Twitter is more niche,” says Scripps’ News VP Sean McLaughlin. “If you have some sort of video-intensive breaking news situation, Facebook Live is simply a better platform than Twitter.”
Just over a year ago, Facebook introduced its video streaming service dubbed Facebook Live and invited one and all to give it a try. After some initial resistance, many broadcasters have accepted the invitation and quickly incorporated it into their news mix in one fashion or another.
For the biggest stories, the stations will preempt regularly scheduled broadcasts as they did here in the New York area last week when we were hit with a fluke snow storm. But for everything less than “the biggest,” they will turn to Facebook.
Facebook Live brings new dimensions to local TV news. It gives viewers (users?) a behind-the-scene look at the news as it is happening, which lends authenticity to it, a quality that many believe is lacking in the over-produced newscasts. With Facebook, newsgathering becomes reality TV that’s actually real.
And Facebook allows reporters and producers to interact with viewers in a way that they have never done before. Facebook users are accustomed to commenting and are not shy about it.
I should point out that stations are using it for more than breaking news. Weathercasters have created regularly scheduled shows and built communities of weather watchers around themselves. Some newsrooms have hosted panels to comment on — and solicit comments on — the news of the day.
The website may have turned stations into round-the-clock news operations, but Facebook is turning them into round-the-clock live TV news operations. That’s good for journalism and good for the public.
But I suspect that it doesn’t come without cost.
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