People are increasingly visual these days. While text posts and tweets have been sufficient for getting out information about school closings and simple sports scores, nothing beats a short video report on the topic or event. And no video can beat a live-from-location video report.
In the past few months, I have transitioned from simple live tweeting of events to covering them live with the UStream app on my iPhone, then embedding that link on the publication website and Facebook page. When I would receive news about cancellations or closings due to weather, I would make my way outside, give a real-time update about what was going on, and try to give the viewer an idea about why. I reported from my house during the storm, and then on-location afterwards showing conditions at area schools and on area roadways. The reports helped some people decide if they were going to venture out and travel, or stay home.
For instance, in the past three weeks, our district has had two winter storms of high ferocity in the area. This ultimately lead to numerous snow days. While I did send out tweets and Facebook status updates about this, I also took the opportunity to go outside into the storm and give a brief report about what was going on. And the most important part- I did it live. To do this, I use the iPhone app- Ustream Broadcaster. It allows me to push a promotion to Twitter and Facebook, and it also has consistantly good video and audio quality. I would talk about the situation, the repercussions, and give a forecast based on local weather predictions. While there were a few sacrifices for quality, nothing attracts high schoolers more than getting the info in real time-as it happens- and also having the possibility of something going wrong.
When I first started doing these on location shoots, I had issues with knowing what to say. It was spur of the moment stuff. With a few minutes of basic information prep before I went out, I was able to deliver much more effective reports on a higher quality level. However, having compiled all of the information, it became important for my credibility that I to attribute it to my source. For instance, if I was reporting that there was going to be 8 inches of snow, I wouldn’t just say, “We’ll be receiving 8 inches”, I would attribute it, “According to _____we’ll be receiving…”
In addition to these initial hiccups, I experienced a few technical glitches along the way. When I am out on location, if I have the option of using Wi-Fi, I definitely use it. While 3G does have the ability to do broadcast both audio and video, it can be spotty with keeping them both aligned. Wi-Fi can handle the added broadcasting pressure and improves the quality of the video. However, it is obviously difficult to find a hot spot everywhere, so it’s best not to become reliant on Wi-Fi. Also, the iPhone app has difficulties keeping the broadcast stream running if I receive any notification (like a text or Facebook message alter). So, before broadcasts, it is important to turn off notifications to prevent glitches in the stream.
This has proven to be quite effective in getting people to come to our website and continuously check in for updates. If you want to increase your daily views on your website and social media pages, doing live feeds is a good way. In the past 48 hours alone, we have had more than 470 viewers on our videos. The daily traffic on our Facebook page has increased 200% since we have started these videos, and they often see a 1% feedback rate with more than 800 impressions. The alternative (taped) limits ability to get the news out fast, and respond to changing information and conditions, which can cause a slow loss of dedicated viewers over time.
To see an archive of our live reports and the schedule of upcoming events, feel free to follow this link http://www.FHNtoday.com/live
This post was written by Kevin Beerman of Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Mo. Kevin is a junior and an editor on the North Star newsmagazine staff.