First person, Part II: False starts, restarts and new viewers

Above: I grabbed these moments from my Periscope coverage of the Broad Street Run last weekend.

Timing is everything when streaming live news. As I explained after covering the #PhillyisBaltimore demonstration last week, deciding when to start your stream can be tricky enough.

But while reporting from the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia last weekend, I learned more about when it might be best to stop and restart the process.

Sooner or later, you will find your viewer numbers dwindling during each stream, as more exit at a rate faster than newcomers arrive. At least that has been my experience each time to date.

However, you can pick up new eyeballs by simply concluding one stream and starting another, although I am not sure why.

Maybe the timing was better for some viewers who just picked up their devices or perhaps they feel more likely to check in when they see a second alert — either via Periscope notifications or Twitter.

Obviously, changing the search terms in your title could have an impact as well.

But there are also hazards: After streaming while the wheelchair leaders passed me, I decided to restart my stream with at least a minute to go before the lead pack of runners seemed likely to arrive.

I’ll never know why, but my Periscope app kept stalling at “Initializing Video Stream” and wouldn’t let me “Start Broadcast” until after I missed the big moment.

I have only been experimenting, but that’s the sort of failure which might become a very big deal for someone assigned to cover an event.

Maybe the crowd was sucking up all of the broadband capacity as the leaders approached. But the obvious lesson learned is that you should keep rolling when big moments are impending.

However, the restating process worked well throughout the rest of the time I spent on location.

After each restart, I would see some new viewer names mixed with others who followed me from the previous stream.

So, I would take my narration from the top, explaining each time where I was and what I was showing — but I would also voice a very brief apology for those who had heard it all before.

And whenever I stopped a stream with a plan to restart, I would explain why I was signing off and how viewers could find me again via Periscope and Twitter.

I would promise specific search terms and also remind viewers of my Twitter and Periscope username — in case they had found me randomly the first time.

During some of the streams I would ask viewers to retweet me if they were using desktops or laptops, and explain how to re-share my stream if they were using the Periscope mobile app.

And I would remind everyone to follow me on both platforms — again explaining how to do so for new Persicope users.

Looking back later, I spotted a few retweets and some Persicope sharing but I did not find significant follower bumps on either platform. I may have picked up a follower or two, but that’s not much in return the effort involved.

Meanwhile, I came across some of the same challenges I had previously discussed with sun and wind. But I also had to shield my phone from a few showers as runners sometimes threw their cups in the air after taking a quick gulp at the water station where I was standing.

Next, I tried capturing part of the race from a high vantage point and pinched the stream to zoom in on the runners. While iPhone zooming can diminish the quality of photos and videos in many other situations, it had little impact on the Periscope stream which is already highly pixel-ized.

However, I suspect that the zoomed shot might have looked ridiculously shaky if not for using the tiny tripod and phone clamp that I had been carrying in my back pocket — to test out on just such an occasion.

Finally, I got caught on an island in the middle of the street for a while as thousands of runners took over extra lanes to beat the traffic backup caused by those stopping for a drink.

In the end, I had shared a series of five streaming videos, ranging in duration from about five to 15 minutes each. And I just patched them together and posted them on YouTube in case you would like to check out the experience:

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Jim MacMillan

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I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Jim MacMillan

I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.

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