In concert: Periscope takes you to the show

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Jim MacMillan

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Above: I dropped in on live performances by The Who in Philadelphia, The Pixies in Cleveland and Hanson in Oklahoma, all within a few minutes Sunday night — thanks to Periscope users.

Not so long ago, you might have been escorted from the arena, or at least had your wrist slapped, had you raised a camera during a concert. But the popularity of smartphones changed everything.

And thanks now to the popularity of live-streaming mobile video applications, many of those smartphone users are streaming those concerts live.

A recent article from asks “Is mobile streaming theft?” But one expert they cited concedes that trying to shut it down is “like playing Whack-a-Mole.”

And Periscope founder Kayvon Beykpour told that attention to the pirated streams was overblown, adding that: “Generally, there’s way more media attention than there is a problem”

Singer-songwriter Neil Diamond even welcomed everyone watching on Periscope during a recent show, according to

And as I reported in an earlier post, Katy Perry says that when she sees phones: “that is the new applause.”

Want to learn more? The Wall Street Journal just published “Snapchat and Periscope: A Grown-Up’s Guide,” and Fortune has post on “How early adopters are using Meerkat and Periscope.”

How are you using them?


Tornados kill. Are streaming video viewers responsible for risks taken by live storm chasers?

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Above: One Periscope user streamed from a shelter, many were streaming while watching TV reports and one faker was rebroadcasting disaster movie footage as tornados swept across Oklahoma Wednesday afternoon.

It’s a new facet on an old question. Some have always wondered how audience response might shape the behavior of those reporting the news.

But now anyone delivering live news video can see the exact number of viewers, read their comments and see other feedback in real time.

So, isn’t it a solid presumption to make that some tornados chasers might get a little closer to the storm — or stay out a little longer before taking cover — when they know there are more viewers online?

And how much risk would they take if there were no viewers?

These questions came to mind as I watched live streaming Pericope reports from a series of tornadoes reported Wednesday afternoon in Oklahoma. At least a dozen homes were destroyed and a dozen people were injured, according to reports from the New York Times and Reuters.

I watched about a dozen storm chasers Wednesday and I captured frame grabs of their reports, but I didn’t learn anything. So, I haven’t included them here.

Taking personal risks also creates the possibility of draining emergency response resources during a crisis. And the expense of rescue and medical care can also become a burden on the public.

The traditional counter-arguments still apply. Americans enjoy freedom of the press and some reporters are defending the public’s right to know what’s happening. Perhaps learning more about tornados could help us learn how to better protect people.

So, I am not suggesting what anybody should do, except that viewers should consider the impact of their participation.

Many of the commenters I saw in the live streams clearly had the best intentions, telling those out in the elements: “Hey be careful!” “Hide!” or “You should take cover.”

Watching people putting themselves at risk left me feeling dirty and I tried to trick one user into a shelter by commenting that it would be more interesting to see the inside, but he didn’t take the bait.

Other commenters reacted more reflexively, with “OMG!,” “Wow!,” “SCREWED” or “That’s crazy!”

And some resorted to gallows humor, asking “Who are the next of kin we should contact?” or promising “$20 if you run around naked in the tornado.”

I have to agree strongly with media write Staci D. Kramer, who tweeted:

But I think I may have watching the same stream that prompted journalism student Nate Geary to tweet that he was “pretty sure I just witnessed two kids get sucked into a tornado live on periscope.”

I know I saw the signal drop from a car in which two young men seemed much too close to some severe weather.

And I am almost certain that I was watching the same video that led Breaking News founder Cory Bergman to tweet:

I thought at first that the video might be legitimate, and seeing someone so close to a twister made me feel physically ill. But then I discovered a ridiculous user name on the related Twitter account, with very few followers and nothing but a few spam tweets previously in the stream.

So, I continued searching:

I found many users streaming related news and weather reports from TVs in their living rooms. And I found behind-the-scenes studio streams from TV stations, with reporters standing in front of green screens.

I found one stream reportedly coming from inside a shelter at Oklahoma University. It looked legit but I didn’t stop to verify.

More than a few other streams came from what I might call “outposts;” with people pointing their phones out of windows of their homes, offices or hotel rooms.

And it was a tornado aftermath report that prompted me to create this site a few weeks ago.

Finally, I also noticed that a couple of storm chasing streams were featured at the top of the “Global” directory within the Periscope app — but I don’t know if that list is human-curated or driven by viewer counts.

In either case, people were putting those streams in the spotlight — including this viewer, but I don’t think I would do it again.

What do you think?


Journalists consider Periscope at Barcamp News Innovation

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Above: Screen grabs from my demonstration.

Journalists gathered at Temple University all day Saturday for Barcamp News Innovation, our region’s national one-day un-conference on the future of news.

As one of the organizers, I waited until all of the early attendees planned their sessions and then scheduled mine on “Periscope for Journalism” during the last remaining hour — which doesn’t always pull the biggest crowd at a voluntary conference on a Saturday afternoon in the spring.

Yet, I found myself leading a session with about a dozen in attendance, including journalists from The Associated Press, WHYY, and The Scranton Times-Tribune, as well as journalism professors, students and more.

A quick survey revealed that some participants had already been producing Periscope videos, others had been just watching, and a few more had just seen articles which left them thinking they needed to know more.

I scrolled though to share my experiences and talked about discovery, curation, sharing, saving, ethics, rights and the shortcomings of the nascent live mobile video movement. And I talked about developing a new workflow for live redistribution but I have some work to do before sharing much more.

I learned from others in the room about the challenges of multitasking and adding yet one more social media responsibility while on the job. And we talked about leaderboards inside the new apps, which obviously drive eyeballs, although I hadn’t been giving them much consideration.

Finally, I led a live Periscope demonstration, using my phone, laptop, Quicktime and a projector — to share the process on a big screen.

Shortly after I left, one of the attendees looped me in on a Twitter conversation about Facebook integration for Meerkat, another possible game-changer.

Below, @PhillyCodeHound Seth Goldstein caught preaching about Periscope:

@jimmacmillan at #bcni15 talking about live streaming.

A photo posted by Seth Goldstein (@phillycodehound) on


Do video streamers belong in the penalty box? Or are raised phones “the new applause?”

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Above: Nick Jonas performs in Dallas Wednesday night, as seen via Periscope.

Earlier this week, the National Hockey League cracked down on media members using new video apps like Periscope and Meerkat, and is now prohibiting unauthorized live streams from inside arenas beginning 30 minutes prior to each game.

But as brands, celebrities and institutions begin to grapple with the impact of widespread live video streams, the stakes may not always be the same.

Movie theatre owners seem less concerned. Hilton created a Periscope event around a Nick Jonas concert Wednesday night. And Katy Perry says that when she sees phones: “that is the new applause.”

As Mashable points out: “The branding opportunities for organizations like the NHL seem pretty limitless: rink-side live streams of team warm-ups, exclusive interviews with players and coaches, the list goes on. So it figures: Why cede those opportunities (and future dollars) to fans?”

And GeekWire took note recently when a National Women’s Soccer League team streamed an entire match via Periscope,” but then asked: “Given the insane amount of money networks spend for TV broadcast rights, are sports teams even allowed live stream their own games?”

But Yahoo Sports looked a little more closely between the lines, explaining that “one understands protecting the media rights for companies paying millions for exclusivity,” but asking: “Is that exclusivity violated by live streaming warm-ups? Or intermission? Or the coach’s press conference?

Meanwhile, HiltonHHonors embraced the new medium by inviting fans “to have a virtual front row seat” as they streamed a Nick Jonas performance last night from Dallas, reporting that the event marked “the first time an entire live concert (would) be broadcasted via Twitter and Periscope.”

At the same time, Variety reports that live streaming apps are “invading” theaters but that the movie biz is “not too worried,” adding that “media and entertainment companies stand to have more to gain from Periscope and Meerkat by using the services for promotions and special events than they might be hurt by unauthorized broadcasts of their content.”

Finally, when asked about streaming apps, Katy Perry told Mashable: “Embrace the future or you’re left behind.” Watch:


Are you a streamalist? Here’s how to get started:

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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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Above: I grabbed these frames Tuesday night when I spotted Argentine “periodista mochilero” (backpack journalist) Marcos Alvarez — or @PiodeMarcos — promising a 360-degree Periscope view of Times Square.

This site was designed to recognize and analyze the potential impact and opportunities created for journalism as more smartphone users embrace popular new live streaming mobile video platforms.

But when does streaming become journalism? Does it matter if the person holding the phone is a traditional or credentialed journalist, or is it sufficient if a citizen journalist is simply meeting the standard practices of the profession at the moment?

And what if video created without journalism in mind earns news value simply by virtue of its content? Will there be pressure for faster verification because it’s live?

We’re going to have to discuss intellectual property too. And a future post will explain my techniques for recording video for redistribution.

But for now, let’s just look at the steps you need to follow in order to start producing live streaming video news:

• You will probably want to use a mobile phone with a broadband connection, but working with a tablet with a camera and using wifi might be sufficient at times. Early apps favored iOS over Android but that appears to be evening out quickly. I haven’t yet seen any reports on possible broadband data costs, but an unlimited plan like I have is probably not a bad idea.

• Then, you’re going to need a Twitter account to work with Periscope of Meerkat — the hot new apps. Existing Twitter accounts will do, or you can set up a new one.

• Periscope and Meerkat can use all of the accounts on your Twitter app, but toggling among them can cost you precious seconds when you are reporting live.

• Next, you will need to download the free Persicope or Meerkat apps if you are an iPhone user, or Tarsii if you are on Android. Then, you need to sync the new streaming app with your Twitter accounts. It’s really simple.

• In the latest version of Periscope, first-time users will be met with a quick, explanatory tour. This may be true of other apps as well.

• Before you start streaming on Persicope, you can toggle a button on the screen to determine if you will tweet the link — or not. (Why not?)

• There’s also a button which allows all users to post live text comments — or just people you follow. I can imagine wanting to limit trolls, but until you have an audience of your own, you might learn more about the process by letting everyone in on the chat.

• Note that the chat button seems to cause some confusion. The default (grey’d out) position lets everybody in, and highlighting the button permits only your followers. A lot of users seem to mistakenly presume the opposite.

The most important step for drawing participants to your stream is probably your response to the pale text area near the top left corner of the broadcast screen, which asks: What are you seeing now?

• The title text you enter will determine what your followers will see — which is especially important if they have set up push alerts. But this text will also populate the tweet created on your account by the video app, if you have selected that option.

• While Periscope affords space for more than 100 characters to title your stream, the app will also add “Live on Periscope” to your tweet — and a link to the live video — so, it will append the rest of your text. In other words; keep it short.

• When you are ready, click: Start Broadcast!

• Just remember that you are live — across the globe — and while the Periscope archives your video for just 24 hours, others will find ways to record if they want.

I haven’t figured out the maximum duration, but I streamed a video for nearly 45 minutes recently on Periscope without interruption. It seems as if only the first 100 viewers can get in on the chat, even when you set it up without limits.

There’s a lot more to learn and discuss, including when users seem to log in and out, how they engage with text messages, the meaning and value of those hearts on your stream and much more. But you should have what you need to get started now.

Looking ahead: if we are going to call our work journalism, we should adhere to the principles, and keep law and ethics in mind. Here are some guidelines to think about for now:

• Principles of Journalism – Project for Excellence in Journalism

Code of Ethics – National Press Photographers Association

Best Practices – Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma


How I got the bug for live streaming news

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Jim MacMillan

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If you have ever been any sort of live news addict, you have to check out what’s been happening lately on Periscope and other live streaming video platforms.

I got the bug last week. While on a bus from Philadelphia to New York, I started surfing and found Chicago TV reporter Stacey Bacca covering the aftermath of the tornados in Rochelle, Illinois.

I felt like I was there.

(I grabbed the screenshots above by simultaneously clicking the home button and power button on my iPhone. They land in your “Camera Roll” folder.)

So far, I haven’t figured out a simple system to save and share links, but I’m working on it.

During the same trip, I watched a Mashable reporter trace the last steps of Walter Scott, the South Carolina man killed in a recent police shooting.

In fact, I surfed through so many news reports that I can’t remember them all. And Unfortunately, there’s no system to easily track your history.

Then, yesterday, the experience got even crazier. Reporter Brad Phenow was reporting on a house fire for his newspaper in Fairbault, Minnesota.

I was asking questions and he was answering — which is how it all works — but then I asked him to pinch his screen and zoom in on the scene.

And it happened! Wow.

You can watch the report here, but only on your phone. The link leaves you at a dead end on the desktop, simply telling you where to get the app.

In another post soon, I will address more problems with bookmarking, saving and sharing videos via Periscope and other apps.

And I am working on some partial solutions which I will also share soon.

Future reports will address additional complications, including authority, ethics, rights and more.

I’m also wondering if I should just deliver these reports on live video, if only to save the time I spend typing and proofing.

What do you think so far?


Welcome to Streamalism

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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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I’d have to be crazy to tell you that anything is the next big thing, but one signal has tickled me enough to launch this site.

When I share my enthusiasm for the recent outbreak of live crowdsourced mobile video streaming, I get a lot of sideways looks and disparaging comments.

And it reminds me of how I felt when I started working with Twitter for journalism, a little while ahead of some others.

As with all other social media content, journalists are going to have to figure out discovery, curation, authority, ownership, rights, legitimacy, terms of service, sharing, ethical dilemmas and much, much more.

But unlike much of anything we’ve seen before, the audience will be watching a great volume of crowdsourced news as it happens.

To begin, I am going to start working with Periscope, Meerkat,, Ustream and Livestream, while catching up with live streaming developments on Youtube Live and perhaps everywhere else. Time will tell.

To get started, let’s think about this: With the new DJI Phantom 3, you can now stream live video footage from your drone to the internet:

If you use this link to buy yours from Amazon, you will also be supporting at no additional cost.

Meanwhile, let’s get the conversation started.