Last week my dear friend Timlah spoke of the amazing community we found and keep building with blogging and how the act itself helps us come closer to our goals, to build something greater. Recently I’ve found another outlet for my projects, another community to build, one that is sometimes pickier and even hostile compared to the blogosphere.
Of course, I’m talking about broadcasting and livestreams. As you may know, because I’ve mentioned it a few times, I’m now broadcasting Monday to Friday under my LawfulGeek tag, though still very much a part of The Mental Attic.
I had streamed in the past, on and off for about a year or so, but much like the site, I decided to make a bigger push this year, especially with Extra Life on the horizon. I’ve been slowly building up the viewership and follower-base hoping that’ll lead to more donations. But on the way, I’ve discovered how much I enjoy broadcasting and meeting new people in the audience. I’ve had nights where I couldn’t stop laughing when Timlah decided to act as a DJ for my channel and just put on the weirdest songs out there.
But if you’re going to stream, if you’re going to open yourself up to broadcasting, there are things to be aware of, things to consider before you make the leap—or after, if you follow my lead.
The Big Twitch
Twitch is still the biggest livestream platform out there. As of writing this article, it boasts over 100 million users worldwide. Every major event has twitch livestreams and those get bigger heavier promotions than those on other platforms.
While Twitch may seem the main platform to choose it does have its caveats. The first s that it uses Flash for its videos, meaning they tend to be heavier on your computers and will buffer very often depending on video quality. Not to mention the security flaws that have been reported for Flash in the past year, which made Google and Mozilla block it on their browsers by default.
On that front, just this month, Google, Mozilla, Amazon, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft and Netflix joined to form the Alliance for Open Media, with the purpose of developing the new media streaming codec for the future and effectively kill off Flash.
With Twitch still using Flash for its media, it’s going to get increasingly difficult for people to watch videos on the platform. Twitch has been moving towards HTML5 players but those still use flash as the video source, so in the end you just have a nice player on top of a bad video source.
The other problem with Twitch is how it treats its non-partners. One of the best features that partners get is quality options for their videos, so if the source is of a higher quality than what you can stream with your connection, you can set it to a lower one. This somewhat addresses the sluggishness of Twitch videos, but only partners and high-viewership channels get them. The rest of the crowd have to downgrade their videos to ensure everyone can watch them, which might cause viewers to go away, hoping to see crisp, high quality video.
Still, beyond the technical, Twitch has the biggest livestream community and you can often meet interesting people. From the person who created a channel only to watch others, to the big names that invest in smaller channels, getting to know them and helping them get bigger. And on the viewers side, Twitch chatters are overall well behaved, and they tend to follow rules and be eager to connect and interact.
YouTube made its big push into this arena this past month, and after using it a few times I’ve found that in terms of technology it blows everything else clean out of the water. Videos are crisp, there are native quality options and you get real-time information on your broadcast’s health, viewership and stats. And because it doesn’t use Flash, the video and the overall performance of the site will not drain your computer’s resources nor will it eat your bandwidth.
But while it does seem like a better place to go, it’s far from perfect. YouTube’s copyright policies for Livestreams go well past reasonable levels. Their copyright guidelines state:
Content ID scans all live streams and Hangouts on Air for third party content. When Content ID identifies third party content, a placeholder image may replace your live broadcast until Content ID no longer detects third party content. In some cases, it may terminate your live broadcast. Live streams and Hangouts on Air can also be terminated if they receive a copyright strike or a Community Guidelines strike.
If at any point they detect something that may be infringing copyright, they can kill your broadcast. That’s the short version. It’s already caused some controversy. It wouldn’t be such a concern were YouTube copyright takedown not so vicious and prolific, even when those claims are shaky at best. Big companies will put their weight behind them and make them stick, and smaller ones will do it just to cause issues.
It’s not related to livestreaming but Jim Sterling’s conflict with Digital Homicide and John “Totalbiscuit” Bain’s clash with Wild Games Studios are perfect examples of how YouTube takedowns, even those fueled by pettiness and censorship, can hurt broadcasters.
I love the company but Nintendo has been at the front of some of the most controversial YouTube copyright takedowns. First is their Creator’s Programme which gives YouTuber’s a license to play Nintendo games online and receive a percentage of the ad revenue. If you’re not a “Creator”, your video may get their monetisation taken by Nintendo in the best of cases, with full takedowns a possibility. An example of this is the recent and on-going tirade of takedowns of Tool-Assisted Speedruns by the Nintendo Anti-Piracy team. While I understand the need to protect an IP, the company seems to be going to extreme lengths and perhaps hurting their fans, but that is a topic for another completely different discussion.
Just know that if you plan to use YouTube, you need to be aware that you may be stepping into a legal minefield, where every company that doesn’t like what you say or do can and most likely will succeed at taking down your content, even temporarily so and they can do it while your livestream is ongoing.
And that’s without mentioning the YouTube audience. It’s common knowledge that YouTube commenters can be some of the most vicious and vile users on the internet. I have stated in the past that reading YouTube comments has sometimes made me lose faith in humanity. Now imagine that on a livestream.
I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t faced such a situation, but I have seen it quite a lot.
Hit the Box!
Hitbox.tv seems to be growing and they have a lot going for them. They have built-in chat options for which you would need to get bots or plugins on Twitch. Their videos are lightweight and past broadcasts remain on the channel for as long as you want.
With the copyright enforcement by softare/bots on the other two platforms, Hitbox promises its users that every copyright claim will be considered on a case-by-case basis and by humans instead of machines. This has become one the platform’s main selling points.
Another one and which may be attractive to you is that Hitbox has a very short video delay compared to the other services. While Twitch may have up to 20 seconds delay, Hitbox uses consistently report an average of 5 seconds only.
Finally, the requirements for partnership—or you own custom channel name on YouTube—are much less stringent. If you can bring in 100 concurrent viewers three times a week, they’ll open the doors for you.
There are of course downsides. It’s still a growing community so you might not have the same level of exposure as you would on other platforms. Secondly, the creators have a bit of a shady past, as they were directly behind a bankrupt platform called Own3d.tv, which failed to pay broadcasters they poached to come over to their site.
But even with this rather shady past, the more I read about Hitbox the more I like it. I just may not be ready yet to broadcast to a third channel at the same time.
But whatever you choose for your platform (or more than one if you’re like me), it’s not the only important thing.
Work it off!
What most people don’t seem to realise with Livestreaming—and in fact blogging—is that while you may be just sitting down playing a game, it takes a lot of work to get a channel going. Countless female casters get accusations in the vein of “you have breasts so it’s easy for you.” What these ignorant buffoons don’t see is how many sacrifices casters, independent of gender, make to get their channel going. From hours spent in front of a computer that they could use for other reasons to happily and politely interacting with rude people, casters put that work in. And that’s not even considering the money spent on their channels: microphones, new rigs to play newer games, consoles, capture cards, studio-level lighting, and so much more.
And that is the most important thing: be ready to do the work and make the sacrifices.
The most important things are Consistency, Interaction and Perseverance.
Consistency in this context means to have a predictable schedule, a set time in the week where you’ll be on and a consistent way to let your viewers know about it. That way they know when you’re on and what you’re doing. Social media can help you with communication and the schedule you’ll need to have it somewhere visible so your users can see it. On Twitch, for example, the panels are the best place to put that.
Interaction is the most important of all, hands down. No one cares about the game you’re playing in the end, they care about the person they’re watching, their personality and thoughts. If you don’t interact with your audience, via voice or through the chat, they won’t come back, simple as that. And if you mistreat them in any way, they’ll go away as well. Make sure you treat everyone right. If they cross the line, calmly make that known. Don’t be afraid to set rules for your channel and enforce them.
To be honest, you’ll know you’re doing something right when you get trolls to show up. Don’t stress over the first one, see them as a rite of passage.
Perseverance is simply not giving up. You won’t get the thousands of viewers you see on other channels on your first stream. Hell, you won’t get them in the first few months, but if you keep at it, you’ll start building that audience. I started to really go into it about two months ago with a channel with about 10 followers made up of friends. Two months later I’m at 33 an climbing, with my YouTube channel’s subscription rising every week as well. I’m very far from the goal and some nights I simple don’t get any viewers or the ones I get won’t interact, or follow/subscribe or leave a microsecond after writing, not aware there is a delay between what they’re seeing and my actions. I’ve seen people comment on my stream, jump on it, reply to them and they still go away because they feel I took too long. When I’m alone I also don’t do as much commentary as when I have viewers, and that can put new viewers off. I’ve had some call me out on it. Then they’ve either left or stayed for a chat.
You get a bit of every type of person in a stream, and I value each of them, because they all teach me something.
It’s not easy to keep going but if that’s truly what you want to do, then much like every other dream you need to keep doing it.
Another final point I would add is a combination of two of the previous points, Consistency of Interaction. If you’ve been talking and interacting with them, don’t stop doing it from one day to another unless there are technical or other reasons for it. Say your throat hurts and you can’t speak, keep interacting through the chat then. Keep the audience engaged.
The Fun Factor
You might need consistency and interaction to make it big, but the most important advice I can give you on a personal level, and this is for all broadcasters, for everyone putting stuff online: have fun.
Games are meant to be fun, and sharing them has to be equally fun. Just have a blast with your game, make that obvious. Smile, grin or act like an idiot, as long as people can see you having fun, and commenting on what you’re playing, then it’s all going to work out.
And even if it doesn’t, at least you had fun!
I’ve been consistently streaming for the past couple of months, and while the growth is slow and I’ve had weeks without a single viewer or follower, they’ve been really fun. Yes, some frustration creeps in, but overall it’s been a very interesting experience. The nights spent with Timlah DJing still rank among the top gaming experiences of my life, as do the many times when we’ve spoken to other viewers and made them run away.
Hope to see you all on my next LawfulGeek stream and I hope to see yours as well!
(Featured Image Credit: Engadget)