Do you know what the kids are watching? If you’re over 30, I bet you don’t. You Tube Red? go90? Nope. What do you know about
YouNow or Live.me?
A few years ago at Streaming Media West,
an engineer with Twitch gave the opening day
keynote, and the audience was stunned to learn
that online video game streaming was huge.
Twitch had recently streamed an event to over 8
million concurrent viewers. This was a plugged-in, industry crowd, and they didn’t know how
big game streaming had become.
The current big thing—and this is no surprise
to younger people—is live streaming apps. I’m
not talking about Facebook Live or You Tube
Live; I mean apps like YouNow, Live.me, and
Busker. With these apps, anyone with an attractive smile and a phone can create live video
streams and attract fans. It’s one-to-many interactive live TV, where viewers communicate
with text messages, animated icons, and on-screen gifts that can be redeemed for cash.
If you want to feel old, open up YouNow and
try to figure out what you’re seeing. Remember
the first time you opened Snapchat and had no
idea what to do? Well, the Snapchat interface is
a relaxing paradise compared with the YouNow
When you open YouNow or Live.me, you’re
confronted with live conversations, rapidly scrolling comments, animations, and options for other menus. It’s guaranteed to turn off older adults,
and that’s just the way users like it.
To wrap my head around these apps, I spoke
Yonatan Sela, vice president of business development and product strategy for YouNow.
“It’s first a lot about interaction and partic-
ipation,” Sela says. “Beyond what you see in
live sports video or people broadcasting from
conferences, I think that’s a core difference.
The core of what’s happening is the broadcast-
er broadcasting themselves. The camera they
use is usually the front camera that looks at
the person, the selfie camera. Rather than de-
scribing an experience happening out there in
the world, the experience is what’s happening
here in the broadcast—in the interaction be-
tween the live viewers.”
For YouNow, about 75% of users are between
the ages of 13 and 25, Sela says. Live.me attracts a
similar audience, while Busker skews a bit older.
We’ve heard how You Tube and Vine stars
have amassed a following, then gotten book,
TV, or movie deals. Can that happen on a live-streaming platform, where the star simply talks
to viewers in real time (and the conversation
is mostly thanking viewers for sending likes
or hearts or whatever the on-screen currency
happens to be)? Young telegenic talent is investing time here for a reason: Top live stream-ers make six figures per year, Sela says, all without leaving their bedrooms.
One challenge in creating a platform for
younger viewers is making sure it’s a safe space.
It might be live and immediate, but it can’t be
anything-goes. YouNow has a robust safety operation, Sela says, mixing technology, community,
and 24/7 human moderation. There’s no nudity
or drug use here, and no harassment.
“It is a major challenge, and we have spent
a lot of time and a lot of money and built technology to be able to do that in a scalable way,”
Sela says. Some community members, who are
designated as ambassadors, can take action
when they see something improper. Paid moderators look into potential problems. Also, all
users have the ability to block any other user
from their broadcasts.
The result of all this is numbers that a lot of
video sites would kill for. Viewers spend more
than 30 minutes per day on YouNow, and more
than 70% of users engage with the content.
If you’re still confused about why these platforms are popular, you’re not alone. It’s about
our instant gratification culture, Sela says, as
well as young people’s comfort in sharing their
lives and expressing themselves.
It’s fun to watch for a little while, but it’s
definitely for the young. Now pardon me while
I shuffle back to the familiar worlds of Netflix
and You Tube.
Inside the Baffling World
of Tween Live Streaming
Troy Dreier ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior associate
editor of Streaming Media and Onlinevideo.net.
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