Publishers on Facebook Live: The good, the bad and the bitchy

Publishers have been going all-in on Facebook Live. It is becoming impossible to scroll through your Facebook feed without coming across a media outlet’s live video stream involving some wacky science experiment or a celebrity Q&A.

Facebook’s emphasis on live video — and putting it in front of so many people — has compelled many publishers to experiment liberally with the format, deploying a spaghetti-at-the-wall tactic in an effort to see what sticks. Basically, everyone wants to create BuzzFeed’s exploding-watermelon viral hit. But while the algorithm may bump up live videos to the top of people’s feeds, it doesn’t mean they are going to watch for long.

“Publishers seem to be all over the place with Facebook Live videos,” said Fernanda Suarez, senior social media marketing manager at Huge. “But none of them make me stop scrolling. Most of them are jumping on it with no objective.”

Here’s a look at the good, the not-so-good and the tonally ugly Facebook Live attempts by big publishers:

The Good


Viewers saw CNN’s senior international correspondent Ivan Watson emerge from inside the crater of a live volcano in Java, Indonesia. CNN has taken its Facebook Live viewers inside a navy submarine, inside a Greek refugee camp and also given them a glimpse of Paisley Park in the immediate aftermath of Prince’s death.

“Our Facebook Live strategy is an extension of what we do on other social platforms,” said Samantha Barry, senior director of social news at CNN, “which is to take our viewers where they haven’t been before.”

Tastemade has no qualms with going all in on Facebook Live. The digital food and travel publisher has a goal of 100 live shows a month on the platform, including recipe tutorials, cooking programs with on-camera talent and other new formats designed specifically to be watched in a live setting. Take this 36-minute pancake-art live video:

The New Yorker
The New Yorker’s live video from last week had cartoonist Jason Adam Katzenstein responding to live requests and drawing dog caricatures of its readers in real time. Users were encouraged to post a photo of their canines in the comments for a chance to have them drawn by him.

“Live streaming really lends itself to behind-the-scenes content,” said Huge’s Suarez. “And behind-the-scenes content mixed with real time is a good combination.”

The Not-So-Terrible

Daily Mail
Daily Mail goes heavy on celebrity, lifestyle, fashion and beauty content. During its NewFronts presentation, the publisher live streamed its presentation with Bethenny Frankel, who took questions via comments about her business and “Real Housewives of New York.”

A better attempt was when The Fat Jew stopped by its New York offices last week to talk about “White Girl Rosé” ahead of Memorial Day. The meme-thieving web joker gave out his cell number on Facebook Live and was subsequently inundated with calls and text messages.

The Bad

Mashable UK
A mystery guest reads mean celebrity tweets in a Chewbacca mask? By alluding to both late show host Jimmy Kimmel and the viral laughing Chewbacca lady, the publisher managed to create something that was less than the sum of its parts. Flat and not especially engaging.

The Bitchy

Yes, we’ve reached a stage where there are now parody Facebook Live videos making fun of other Facebook Live videos. This is a true gem by Gawker, and it shows how unnecessarily and painfully long some live videos tend to be.

“Social is about getting to the meat of the content quickly,” said Suarez. “Don’t be scared to be brief and get to the point quickly — there’s too much buildup and white noise where there’s nothing going on.”

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