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Prime Time for Lifecasting

  |  March 11, 2008   |  Comments

It's live! It's unedited! How marketers can look beyond the wow factor to incorporate personal broadband broadcasting into a brand's larger digital strategy.

Obama's doing it. McCain's slowly starting to do it. Hannah Montana is all over it. It's live. It's unedited. It's real-time interactive communication. Personal Broadband Broadcasting marks the next big thing to hit the Internet since...well, the last big thing that hit the Internet.

The idea of Personal Broadband Broadcasting really has been around since 1994, when Steve Mann from MIT decided to put on a wearable camera and transmit his life over the Web 24 hours a day, seven days a week to an eventual community of 20,000 fans. Lifecasting was born.

But it wasn't until March 2007 that two West Point graduates brought the possibility of personal broadcasting and live video event streaming to the masses with the launch of Ustream. Today, you no longer need a degree from MIT to make your own online broadcast show -- anyone with a Webcam and a computer (and a lot of time on their hands!) can stream 24/7 from a basement, chat live, and even create a community around live events.

Since Ustream's launch last year, additional platforms have popped-up -- all offering varying degrees of personalization, management, and social tools. No doubt, competition from JustinTV, Mogulus, Stickam, Operator 11, and Veodia has accelerated technological advancement in the space, making it easier than ever to create and launch a quality personal broadcast. And now software like Qik is bringing mobile into the mix.

Why Should Advertisers Care?

This niche pastime is about to go mainstream. Just last month it was rumored Microsoft offered $50 million to buy Ustream for its new Silverlight platform.

Even more recently, rising videoblogging star and lifecaster Sarah Meyers revealed YouTube's 2008 live streaming. Five days later the Guardian picked up on the story, though YouTube wouldn't make an official announcement.

So how can advertisers join in on the fun?

While lifecasting as a novelty is quite thrilling, without a mega-celebrity or entertaining talent in front of the camera, there aren't many lives exciting enough to follow 24/7! To get beyond the technology's wow factor, advertisers should look at the new tools these platforms offer, and incorporate them into a brand's larger digital strategy.

Let's take a look at how the platform has evolved over the last year, and where a brand might be able to play.

Live Interactive Infomercials

Chris Pirillo is the most popular show on Ustream. Why? Because he's chock-full of useful information, he responds regularly to audiences, and he's even occasionally funny.

People love to talk and interact with real people when getting information. Most brands have a lot of information they need to give -- especially during new product launches.

Partnering with portals like Ustream or Mogulus makes it easier than ever to bring instructional information and product reviews to life. Doing the heavy lifting for customers (or potential customers) is a great way to earn their attention. And hopefully, if you find the right talent, they'll also be entertained in the process.

Live Interactive Game Shows

I recently came upon a new Ustream-powered site called Play Café -- a live interactive and highly addictive online quiz show. Audience participants can chat live with other players, call-in questions to the host, and join a team for group play. People can win a combination of electronics and cash prizes, with buildup to larger sweepstakes.

These new live broadband tools now turn any casual game into an international live social event. There's a huge untapped potential here for brands to own a game in this space. Prize-driven games such as these allow brands to easily play without interrupting.

Live Extensions of Existing Entertainment

Veoh recently partnered with Ustream to launch a new Web series called "Viral Live" -- "a live monthly program that gives Veoh and Ustream viewers an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at some of the most popular Internet shows, producers, casts, and characters."

One way to remain relevant and valuable to an on-demand audience is to build live extensions off an existing television or digital show. While Veoh is taking a step in the right direction, there also needs to be a sense of urgency added to a live program.

How? Give people a reason to watch the show during its original air-time by directing them to a live experience right before, during, or after the show.

If it's a reality show, have the actual people from the show available for a live chat during commercial breaks. Imagine if during "American Idol" you could listen in on contestant conversations during performances or hear what Simon really had to say once the TV cameras went off!

By driving people to a live digital extension, a brand not only could make the show and experience richer for their audience, but they'll also be in a better place to start a conversation and drive that audience to brand specific information.


Christine Beardsell

As vice president, group creative director of Digitas's brand content group, The Third Act, Christine works across all brand teams to lead the creative innovation of motion media content. She has a unique and varied set of skills that weaves media, tech, and channel smarts to inform deep interactive experiences for clients such as American Express, Samsung, and IHG. At the advent of the digital revolution, she established Digitas' Final Cut Pro media lab and has since scaled it across offices.

Christine has a BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art in New York City, where she focused her studies on motion media, interactive design, and photography. Her work in the industry has contributed to top honors including silver and bronze Cyber Lions, a Caples Award, an OMMA Award, New York Festivals Awards, ECHO Awards, and The One Show Awards.

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