Periscope surfaces at #IRE15

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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: We put on a “Periscope for Journalism” pop-up panel during #IRE15 last week in Philadelphia.

With the popularity of new live-streaming mobile video applications emerging over just the past few months, I began leading small presentations at journalism conferences and newsrooms here in Philadelphia.

But last week, one of the largest and most esteemed gatherings of our profession came to town for the Investigate Reporters and Editors (IRE) 2015 national conference.

While IRE had no plans to address streaming journalism, they did offer the opportunity during the conference to apply for time to present pop-up panels on emerging topics.

And my effort to lead “Periscope for Journalism” won a place in the program, based on votes from journalists in attendance.

My pitch for the panel began:

The sudden popularity of live-streaming mobile video applications has been creating new possibilities for journalists. But once again, the emerging platforms present a new set of ethical and legal complications.

I promised a quick presentation and demonstration before moving to a “lively conversation about the challenges and responsibilities of real-time mobile broadcasts.”

And I had the great fortune of finding two remarkable colleagues to join me:

Josh Cornfield is the New Jersey News Editor for The Associated Press. He works with a team devoted to finding and telling both breaking news stories and high-level enterprise.

Susan Phillips covers energy and the environment for the multi-media public radio project StateImpact Pennsylvania. She holds duPont and Murrow awards and spent a year at MIT as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow.

Next, I went on a bit of a social media campaign for votes and then attendees, promising more than just fun and games.

During the panel, we discussed several topics which have been emerging here at and I pointed out a pair of how-to posts — on broadcasting and discovering streams.

A couple of notable examples included reporting from the recent Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia by local photojournalist Joe Kaczmarek, and streams from the Baltimore riots by Paul Lewis, the Washington correspondent for The Guardian.

Josh Cornfield said that he followed Kaczmarek’s live report and called it the “first real reporting anywhere that there were fatalities.”

Cornfield said that — as with all social media reporting — he took that information “as a tip, not as something we’re going to put on the wire,” but that it also prompted him to send an immediate “heads-up” to the AP’s Philadelphia newsroom.

Cornfield said that whenever news is happening there’s a “pretty good chance” you will found something you can use on Periscope. For instance, Cornfield said that he found reporter from a newspaper in York, Pa., streaming live from a press conference after a recent double shooting.

Susan Phillips had not yet produced her own broadcasts but said that as the subject of streaming she found the medium “much more visceral” than tweeting and could imagine additional advantages, such as streaming directly to social media audiences while simultaneously conducting a stand-up report for an anchor back in the newsroom.

Live streaming apps also “brought up a lot of legal questions” for Phillips, who discussed the reasonable expectation of privacy as well as copyright concerns, for example when streaming from concerts.

Meanwhile, Associated Press Philadelphia reporter Mike Sisak streamed our panel on Periscope and then stepped up to the microphone to read questions from his live viewers.

Cornfield took another question on the need to make corrections when a subject on Periscope misinforms your audience, explaining that the correct response would be “a matter of scale” but that you should “let the same audience” know what happened.

More audience members added tips for using Periscope to send your newsroom quick notes from the field, brought up more copyright questions and raised the concern that live-streaming apps could have a chilling effect on public officials — who may become reluctant to share background information at news scenes.

I am predicting only that this won’t be the last journalism conference where these questions emerge.


Periscope update adds functionality; illuminates shortcoming

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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: The new global map of live streams inside the Periscope app shows more activity in Italy and Turkey than in the US.

The recent update of the Pericope app includes a map view which “lets users browse streams from specific locations around the world, selecting live broadcasts from different areas by zooming in on countries, cities, and towns,” according to the, explaining that: “Streamers will see their broadcasts appear automatically on the map view if they enable location data sharing in the app.”

But “beware streaming from home,” warns CNET, reporting that the app pinpoints your exact location.

The update “also makes replays available instantly, instead of requiring you to upload them after broadcasting, and will allow you to share the link to broadcast replays to Twitter, according to, remembering that previously “it was incredibly difficult to find a stream you’d missed if you didn’t have the initial broadcast tweet.”

Other elements of the update “include an option for sharing a link to someone else’s broadcast, and localization in more languages, now up to a total of 29, reports appleinsider. That list includes English, Polish, Spanish, Swedish, French, Dutch, Italian, and Portuguese, according to

This update is only available for iOS users, but should be available to Android users later this year, techcrunch reported.

Perhaps more importantly, Slate suggests that “the update offers a critical insight into Periscope’s bigger problem: There just aren’t that many people using it.”

Seen at the top of this post, a random sampling of screen grabs I saved late this morning (EDT) showed very little activity along the heavily populated northeast corridor of the US, but more action in places like Italy and Turkey, which is consistent with regional search interest recently indicated by Google Trends, illustrated below.


Twitter search results show dozens of links attached to streams which came from Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference in San Francisco Monday morning, while only a handful were ever visible on the map.

Alternatively, it is also possible broadcast without tweeting; so, we can’t really be sure of stream count through any means. But we also have no reason to expect that behavior would very across the map.

Upcoming posts will focus on recent upgrades to the Meerkat and apps, and will also catch up with another alternative.

What have you been streaming?

Note: Your editor has been posting less while leading recent streaming video workshops for journalists in Philadelphia; last week with the reporting staff at WHYY and then during the Investigative Reporters and Editors Conference, which brought 1,800 journalists to the city over the weekend. Check in for more activity over the coming days and weeks.