In live-streaming, one thing is constant: change.
Fans of Google’s Hangouts on Air will have to move to YouTube Live or find a new live video platform.
On Monday, Google quietly made an announcement:
Hangouts On Air will move from Google+ to YouTube Live on September 12. If you want to schedule new Hangouts On Air you will need to use YouTube Live. Events cannot be scheduled on Google+ after September 12 and you will need to move existing events scheduled to happen after September 12 to YouTube Live.
Google first debuted the livestreaming feature for its Hangouts group video chat on Google+ back in September 2011, though it was only available to select performers and celebrities. Google started making Hangouts On Air available to all its users in May 2012, and completed the rollout a month later. But then in May 2013, Google debuted YouTube Live, which also gradually became available to more and more users.
Though the off-air Hangouts—which enables users to privately video chat with up to 10 people—isn’t going away, Google will gear the tool to business professionals.
For individuals, the new communication services come through Allo—a text-based chat app that rivals WhatsApp— and Duo, a video-chat app comparable to Apple’s Facetime.
Google’s VP of communication products, Nick Fox, was willing to talk about that when he gave me an early demo of Duo last week. As Google said earlier this year, Hangouts isn’t going away — but the company will now focus Hangouts on its business users. Going forward, Allo and Duo will be the company’s main consumer chat plays.
“Because Hangouts is built on a Google account, because it’s deeply integrated with Google apps, the Apps suite [things like Drive, Docs, etc.], Gmail, Calendar and so on, it’s seen much more success in the enterprise,” Fox told me. “It will increasingly focus on that kind of group collaboration enterprise productivity space.”
Blab’s demise highlights live-streaming’s struggle
Google wasn’t the only company to get rid of a live-streaming service. Recently, Blab—a startup that offered live streams in a rotating round of up to four virtual “seats” at a time—announced it was shutting down.
In a Medium post titled, “Blab is dead…long live Blab,” Shaan Puri bluntly announced the news:
OK let’s rip the bandaid off:
Today is the last day of Blab. We’re shutting down the website and app, and focusing 100% on our new project.
OK, now that the hard part is out of the way, let’s have some fun.
The upside of ending Blab is that I can be fully candid about what worked, what didn’t, and what’s next.
Though Blab amassed 3.9 million users within a year, Puri said it was shutting down due to churn, revealing that only 10 percent of its users regularly returned.
The problem is an important one, both to the companies fighting for users and consumer eyeballs, as well as the PR and marketing pros looking to embrace popular platforms and the growing trend of live video.
Puri said the issue affects all live-streaming platforms:
[M]ost streams aren’t interesting enough to justify stopping what they are doing to watch your broadcast.
The struggle with Livestreamingâ—âis that we need to show you something awesome, that’s being made right now.
Turns out, that’s really tough. It killed Meerkat, and Periscope & FB Live are feeling the pain right now. Really, only Twitch has gotten it right with live streaming video games.
In live streaming, the churn is real.
PR and the future of live-streaming
So, how should brand managers react to these changes—and future changes and debuts with live-video platforms?
Chris Barrows, a higher education social media strategist and host of the “Why I Social” podcast, says brand managers must adjust to the changing nature of live-streaming platforms:
Your strategies must be flexible. This isn’t just the case with live-streaming – but with all social media. New features aren’t something new to the space and we are PR or marketing professionals must be ready to embrace change. This doesn’t mean diving all in and living only in these live-streaming apps. It does mean, however, that we must be willing to explore them and hear what our audience is saying about those platforms.
“Use the existing live streaming and social media platforms where and when it makes sense and to your advantage,” says Vincent Orleck, chief marketing officer of Brandish. However, Orleck says brand managers should ultimately not put everything they have into one (or more) platforms.
“Invest the time and money in your own solutions, meaning your own digital and social properties,” he says.
Orleck says researching platforms is also important:
Definitely do as much vetting and evaluation as possible before jumping in head first, and then be sure to stay on top of what’s happening in the space so you don’t get totally blindsided.
Barrows agrees, adding that understanding your audience is crucial:
Brands and PR professionals must continue to analyze and understand our audiences so we can deliver the content they want and need.
Orleck says other live-streaming services have debuted—and failed—with more “being developed as we speak.”
That not only shows brand managers they’ll have a choice for live video—but highlights its importance, too. Orleck says established apps such as Snapchat will probably debut analytics features, so brand managers can measure engagement and prove ROI.
“The future isn’t live-streaming,” he says. “It’s the present.”
Barrows adds: “The bottom line is that live-streaming is part of a digital strategy now—but how much of your strategy [it is] depends on your audience.”