It’s 4:00 PM on a rainy Thursday and there are flash flood warnings for Manhattan. As I step into the dentist office I fire off a few tweets that I’ll be interviewing Jon Erlichman—a livestreaming personality who has worked with ABC News, The Wrap and Maker Studios—that evening.
When I step out an hour later, my phone is already lit up with comments and questions to ask him. Not yet halfway home, but fully soaked, I wipe off my phone and glasses to see a tweet from TVREV founder Jesse Redniss: “are you livecasting the convo? Seems logical to me.”
Sure, seems logical. But I’m not a live streamer. And I’m soaked. I hadn’t quite planned for this.
I quickly send a note to Jon asking if he is open to change our call into a stream. Like me, he is also somewhat unprepared, but we hop on the phone for five minutes, both of us scrambling to liven up our Q+A which is now scheduled to go live in 10 minutes.
After a towel-dry and quick change, I scramble to clear an open space in my apartment for a good Periscope broadcast. My mind is racing, “How do I present him? Do I show his face? Do I show mine?”
I look at my phone, it’s 5:25 and I’m at 45% battery left. In order to get a clear stream I’m going to have to use wi-fi, a battery suck, in addition to the horsepower needed to simultaneously record live video and be open for comments on Twitter.
As my laundry list of seemingly important problems mount, I fire up Periscope for my chat with Jon.
Erlichman is a bright-eyed early adopter of “modern-day” livestreaming who looks like he couldn’t possibly ever get angry (or camera-shy). Driven by the explosion of Meerkat and Periscope, he co-founded a talent company called Lifestream along with his wife Caroline Lesley (@skorstar) dedicated to building livestream initiatives around branded content and original programming. They recently launched their first project, ParachuteTV, a collaborative Periscope channel with scheduled shows from different creators they’ve hand picked.
While the venture-backed Meerkat launched first and was built in ten days, Periscope, Jon’s platform of choice, was built and tested for over a year before they announced their acquisition and launch with Twitter in March 2015 (days after Meerkat’s big coming out party at SXSW)
Neither platform has yet to announce a true monetization structure yet, but that doesn’t stop a community of influential streamers who have created entirely new cottage industry, driven by Jon and other influential streamers.
TVREV: What’s the future of monetization of Periscope and Meerkat? Is it solely built off the backs of independent creators, supporting themselves with branded content? The discussions are already starting about how to price these streams if you’re an advertiser or a media agency. Do you think we’ll see something like YouTube with opportunities for pre-roll/mid-roll, or interstitial ads?
Erlichman: You know I think that we all got frustrated with ads that got stuck in front of us a long time ago, and yet it’s baked into our own psychology. We do still have that certain amount of patience with them, so I think there’s always a door that’s going to be open for that.
Some forward-thinking brands do have an opportunity to create their own content and if they want, and over the last couple years we’ve seen companies who probably define themselves better as media companies even though they sell widgets, they sell gadgets, they sell stuff that you drink, and they built these amazing media businesses because they invest in livestreaming.
The road of possibility is incredible, but that involves brands. As you guys know, most brands are hands off, which is smart because they have goals as a company and maybe making the content itself maybe isn’t what they want to do. But my answer, and I know I’m being evasive, I think there are a few doors of possibility, all will be explored, and whichever one makes the most sense will be the dominant one.
TVREV: Do you think we’ll start to see more brands build out content destinations through livestreaming platforms, for example hosting and programming more types of shows like your “Tech Trivia” where even though it’s live, you’re setting people up to watch at a certain time?
Erlichman: Yes I do, and it’s always been such a weird grey line between actually being the content creator and not. When I think about the traditional world of television, think of all those destination shows, especially a lot of sports shows that for years the first thing everyone gets together before the big game… it’s the “Blah Blah Brand Show.”
Those brands have a large involvement and investment in how that show is executed, they just don’t walk over the line and become the executive producer of the show.
In this case, as you have teams you have built up, where there is the ability to create the content on the branding side, the line blurs less I suppose. I think we’ve already seen (certainly on Periscope) where a brand does a trivia show or they do something and there’s some call to action tied to that and they’re able to execute that on their own.
And I think they can do that because it’s a different world than the budget that goes into a television show, the process of actually getting it up and running. We’re doing this [livestream] right now and we did it very quickly. Don’t overthink it, and I think there’s an opportunity to execute on stuff a lot faster.
So when I think when we talk about brands I think the question becomes, what’s in their DNA, what are they comfortable with, do they want to do it themselves or do they want someone else to be part of it? And we’re only going to know what’s right when we experiment.
TVREV: What are some things you’d love Periscope to improve on or features on your wish list?
Erlichman: Well this isn’t fair…as we all know, when you start a broadcast, you’re crossing your fingers that they’re are no issues with your stream. I’m just personally blown away at how these products can look, feel, and have so much usability with, quite frankly some really small engineering teams.
It’s been a pretty smooth ride, and I don’t think that I’d be here talking today if it hadn’t. Maybe if you had the ability to change the direction of your starting shot?
(Currently Periscope faces outward to start and users have to turn back to them to stream)
TVREV: Talk a little more about your company and your views on the future of livestreaming
Erlichman: I think I knew immediately that there’d be such wonderful opportunities with livestreaming on all fronts, especially given some of the things I’ve learned in both the live TV world and the YouTube ecosystem. I always feel the engagement factor is such an important thing, so I realize the content being created here would have to respect the audience, and I knew there was going to be a sea change in what was the psychology around what a broadcast is. This truly is, in the case of Periscope, where I am most of the time, a really positive experience.
Outside of how many people are following you, success is based on your support and being supported by that community. So we’re working on new projects to bring the community into through Lifestream.
For example we did a really cool cross-country scavenger hunt on Periscope with some great giveaways and it was a very connecting moment for the Periscope community.
The one thing you shouldn’t do is make any assumptions about what works and what doesn’t work, then you keep your eyes closed to all the possibilities that are available in this world.
While things have moved really quickly for people, for others it’s exhausting. It’s different than posting pictures or text based communication, it requires a lot of physical energy.
I think we’re very early in this game, it’s going to be a mind-blowing few years and what unfolds and the way people are using this stuff. So get your Gatorade bottle, take a quick timeout, then get ready for an exciting continued ride, I think it’s going to be epic.
We stream on FaceTime for 25 minutes, it feels like 25 hours. We maxed out at about 50 viewers (much more than I anticipated).
By the time we finish I’m invigorated but exhausted (though dry), which Jon tells me (frequently throughout the interview and again now) is pretty common for your dedicated livestreamer.
I hang up and attempt to figure out how to download my stream to my camera roll.
It’s failing, the app crashes. I lose faith in all technology.
Reopening the app I download the video again…success.
Jon’s right, we’re still just early in the livestreaming game, only this time I reach for a beer instead of a Gatorade.