Two weeks ago, 9.5 million people tuned into a 45-minute live stream post to see a watermelon explode. Buzzfeed’s Facebook Live video not only had more viewers than many television shows, it was the primary focus of several talk shows and news articles. It seems the phenomenon created quite a stir. Social media specialists everywhere are modifying strategies to include live-streaming videos in hope of riding the wave created by Facebook. Although live-streaming has been around for a while, now that it has been embraced by Facebook, it’s universally acknowledged as the vehicle for future online social marketing. Facebook has apparently appropriated the audience that Periscope, Meerkat, and Snapchat had only begun to access. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is convinced that the personal connection that is made through live-video is the next big shift in how we communicate, and the company is offering monetary incentives to media agencies to create video content for Facebook Live.
Although watermelon was the focus of the extraordinary post and has gotten some favorable press, there are quite a few voices in the media that are not thrilled to follow the Facebook frenzy. News agencies are concerned that Facebook is overshadowing major news coverage and influencing popular opinion in ways that threaten their future. In her article on Wired.com, entitled, ‘Facebook has Seized the Media, and That’s Bad News for Everyone but Facebook,’ Julia Greenberg warns that Facebook looks at news as a commodity to be sold and an experience to share and discuss. As more people go to social networks like Facebook for news, those platforms determine the value of the stories and influence the perspective of the audience. “Facebook now tells the industry what matters most, which dictates how resources are spent and what stories are told.” Julia cautions, “Facebook has immense power. It has become a crucial distribution platform for publishers. Facebook has the audience news organizations are trying to reach, so they have little choice but to chase it there.”
You may wonder if Greenberg’s perspective is extreme. Recent evidence seems to support her claims. On February 26th, 2015, major news publications covered the threat of a federal government shutdown, Senate debates regarding Homeland Security funding, three men arrested for providing material support to ISIS, etc., while a controversy over the color of a dress posted on Facebook received 28 million ‘views’, 105,000 ‘shares’, 16,000 comments, and 21,000 ‘likes.’ On April 19th, while Facebook captivated 9.5 million viewers waiting to see a watermelon explode, Assad’s ceasefire violations stalled peace talks with Syria, 300 people were arrested in Washington, DC while protesting the influence of big money in politics, New York held its primary elections, and Texas sought emergency aid due to severe flooding. My news feed on Facebook that day did not include much discussion about any of these issues.
Live-streaming video may indeed be the preferred medium for news, marketing, and communications in the near future, and social platforms may provide the best forum for discussion, but be aware that the news you receive may not adequately provide the best coverage of what is happening in the nation and the world.
Greenberg, Julia. “Facebook Has Seized the Media, and That’s Bad News for Everyone But Facebook.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 16 Apr. 2016. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.