Dale Blasingame, a lecturer in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, thinks TV stations are being short-sighted in their approach to social media. Instead of posting interesting news stories to social media sites and building their brand, local newsrooms are simply posting those 15-second teasers you see during afternoon programming, he said. But in an age where more and more millennials get their news directly from Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), they're not going to wait around and tune in at 6:00. They'll just Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) it.
At some point someone is going to come along and flip the local television newsroom on its head, and Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) may have one of the most important pieces of technology to do so: live video streaming app Periscope. The Periscope team describes it as letting broadcasters "share an experience with others. Press a button, and instantly notify your followers that you’re live. Whether you’re witnessing your daughter’s first steps or a newsworthy event, Periscope offers an audience and the power of a shared experience."
For viewers, Periscope provides "a new set of eyes and ears. Travel the world and step into someone else’s shoes. See what they see, hear what they hear, and hopefully feel what they feel. Watching a broadcast isn’t a passive experience like television. On Periscope, viewers influence the broadcaster by sending messages, and expressing their love by tapping the screen to send hearts."
While prepackaged news stories are nice and ensure a tidy presentation, live streaming can provide some additional value to breaking news stories. Anything from on-the-ground footage to real-time reactions from pundits could provide something interesting for viewers to tune into directly from social media. And Periscope allows users to keep broadcasts around for replay later, so it's not like they need a 24-hour news cycle.
More interesting is that users receive a push notification whenever someone they know is broadcasting live. News outlets wouldn't need to tease people to tune in to their broadcast, Periscope would let them know something interesting is happening right now. They could then engage in the conversation with viewers on Twitter or Facebook to cultivate more followers and draw a larger audience to their content.
These efforts will reach millennials where they get the news: 88% of millennials say they get news from Facebook regularly; 83% say they get news from YouTube; and news now often breaks on Twitter before CNN or Fox News.
But the reason newsrooms are hesitant to give up on the teaser-video model and nightly newscast could be because they know how to monetize it already. Monetizing Periscope and YouTube videos is a lot harder. What good is a large millennial audience if they still won't watch the nightly news at 6:00?
Blasingame suggests that newsrooms could adopt the Buzzfeed model for monetization. Buzzfeed generates a huge audience by getting its content in front of as many people on as many different platforms as possible -- Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. It monetizes that audience through sponsored stories, which offer valuable content with a tiny advertisement bookending it. So, a post about the best new cars in 2015 could be sponsored by a local dealership, which subsidizes coverage of other stories with less of a consumer tie-in.
Additionally, Facebook is rolling out several features that could enable it to monetize its user videos better. For example, it's testing an autoplay feature that plays another video shortly after the current one ends. This opens the door for interstitial advertisements, especially on compelling content that keeps the user engaged, such as news stories.
What this all means for Twitter and Facebook
When newsrooms adopt social media as a distribution platform instead of using it as a promotional platform, both Twitter and Facebook stand to gain. It could bring some professional content to Twitter's newest app, giving people a compelling reason to download the app and sign up. That gives Twitter another source to gather user data to improve ad targeting across its own platform and in other people's apps through MoPub. Additionally, it could find opportunities to monetize Periscope (think promoted channels) if the user base gets big enough.
For Facebook, getting newsrooms to upload more video directly and engage with their audience would help move it closer to its goal of hosting the news on its site. Earlier this year, Facebook asked print media companies like The New York Times to host their content directly on Facebook. The idea behind it is to keep users on the website or in the app longer, providing more advertising opportunities.