Social Media Live Streaming: case study and design of an analysis matrix

Referred article (click to download)

Abstract This paper aims to characterize the Social Media Live Streaming (SMLS) and its use in the Chilean media through a case study that analyzes the publications in Periscope and Facebook Live of TVN 24 Horas, Teletrece and CNN Chile during the runoff of the 2017 presidential election, using a set of variables with various indicators. The SMLS allows both live streaming and to receive feedback from users. The results mainly reveal a high performance in interactions, the majority use of newscasts broadcastings and journalistic narratives to guide the content.


This paper aims to study SMLS, the acronym for Social Media Live Streaming. Specifically, it presents a case study on the SMLS channels of certain Chilean media. SMLS is a new kind of live video broadcast that preferably uses social platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, and offers interactive features of great interest to the media.

At a time when the media are intensely looking for new communication formats that allow them to increase their relationship with their users and, ideally, engagement –commitment and involvement of the audience that interacts with the sender of the message– it seems especially relevant to get to know SMLS’ characteristics as best as possible.

This work is of a double nature: on the one hand, it consists of a case study focused on Chilean media and, more specifically, on their coverage of the runoff of the 2017 presidential election. On the other hand, it develops an analysis system that can be extrapolated to other studies, with the pertinent changes according to the context; therefore, it could be used by other work teams.

Given that the object of study is relatively recent, we consider that the public interested in this work can also benefit from a descriptive analysis of the context within the theoretical framework. The other sections are dedicated to present the results, discuss them and to detail the systematized review procedure conducted on the main related researches.

Source: referred article. Partial view. (Apablaza, Codina, 2018)


The object of study of this work are the SMLS channels of Chilean media during the coverage of the runoff of the 2017 presidential election.

Consequently, the main objective is to determine the features of the Social Media Live Streaming channels in the Chilean digital media.

The derived objectives are:

  • Identify the characteristics of the integration of SMLS in Chilean digital media as a tool for information distribution and its use in journalistic coverage.
  • Describe the impacts and results of digital media using Facebook Live and/or Periscope as their main channel of distribution and broadcast of live videos.

To address the aforementioned objectives, we posed the following research questions:

  • Is it possible to determine the content strategy of live videos from various digital media through a case study?
  • Which content strategies have Chilean digital media used in Facebook Live and/or Periscope that have given greater visibility to their information coverage?

Theoretical framework

The research presented in this paper uses a theoretical framework composed of four main lines:

Published works

First, the Theory of Journalism, understood as the study of the different characteristics and processes that determine the production of current content. This defines the current consumption of communication media as “a circle of surrounding reality that becomes the daily reference of our life” (Gomis, 1991, p. 13).

In this line, the so-called Newsonomics (contraction of news and economics) analyzes the set of laws that govern the selection of informative content and the financial results of news companies (Doctor, 2010). It makes less and less sense to analyze channels or media out of their global context and interactions with other media and channels. Therefore, we must include the ecology of the media as one of the components of this research.

Influenced by Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman developed this theory that mainly states that “no media acquires meaning or existence in isolation, but it does so in constant interrelation with other media” (Scolari, 2015, p. 18). This interrelation is consistent with the presence of the media in social networks. Several experts and researchers (Boyd & Ellison, 2007), along with Internet regulatory bodies (ONTSI, 2011), agree that these platforms are websites that allow users to interact, communicate, share content and create communities through the construction of public or semi-public profiles. This results in a list of users with whom a connection is shared, which can be viewed by the same user or others who are part of this limited system.

These profiles are intended to connect with cybermedia, a concept on which there is a broad theoretical corpus, and which is understood as digital media. This corpus has contributed with models, analysis procedures, and a rich conceptual background.

With multimedia, hypertextuality and interactivity as main features, cybermedia are defined as “those websites whose essential purpose is the development and transmission of information content, i.e., those websites that fulfill the role of social media on the Internet” (Palacios & Díaz Noci, 2009, p. 21).

In addition, various investigations on the analysis of impact and performance of cybermedia are governed by a system of articulated analysis (Codina et al., 2014) that we will use in the proposed matrix of variables.

Finally, the broadcasting of live audiovisual content in digital environments reached its peak with the development of social networks applications (Rugg & Burroughs, 2016, p. 64). Their development and impact are analyzed by several articles that coincide in their conclusions: it is an evolution of broadcasting, a traditional format offered by television (Stewart & Littau, 2016; Apablaza Campos, 2017a).

The papers that study Periscope and Facebook Live operating features (Hill & Bradshaw, 2018, pp. 122-123), the broadcasting criteria and the content creators’ motivations (Tang, Venolia, & Inkpen, 2016), the application of the SPECTRE model –safety, privacy, ethics, copyright, trolling, reputational risk and emotional trauma– in their broadcasts (Albeanu, 2016; Fairweather, 2017), and content analysis through impact parameters (Argila, 2017; Gómez-Domínguez, 2017) give a multidisciplinary vision on live video social networks.

Source: referred article. Partial view. (Apablaza, Codina, 2018)

Social Media Live Streaming (SMLS)

On several occasions, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, has insisted on the importance of video on social networks, projecting that its greatest growth will happen “over the next five years” (Castillo, 2017), a prediction widely shared by other analyzes (Kalogeropoulos, Cherubini, & Newman, 2016).

The argument for such predictions is based on three major premises that can be currently seen in digital environments:

  1. Continuous increase in connection speeds in both fixed (Wifi) and mobile (4G and 5G) (Villas-Boas, 2018).
  2. Increased capacity both to receive and to broadcast audiovisual content given the increase in processing power of mobile devices (El Economista, 2016).
  3. Increased consumption of audiovisual content (McCue, 2017).

In addition, in this broad panorama, at least two other factors also intervene (Cid, 2017). First, the remarkable impact of YouTube, which changed the way of watching TV, since the audience knows that, in most cases, they can use the Google platform if they miss their favorite show or series (Perezbolde, 2013).

Secondly, Netflix, also an influential actor, left its incipient business of distributing DVD films by postal mail to become the main legal digital video library, followed by companies such as Amazon, the main online store in the world, and HBO, one of the most important pay television channels in the United States (Álvarez, 2016). “In the era of Netflix and YouTube, who cares to arrive in time to see the main newscast?”, says Christian Leal, director of the digital area of BíoBío Radio, the online media with the highest web traffic in Chile[1] (Leal, 2017).

However, this positive scenario did not spread equally to all areas. The applications and software of live video grew almost in parallel to YouTube and Netflix with mixed success: while, main website of live broadcasts, existed from 2007 to 2014, Meerkat, the first mobile application for such purpose, only survived 20 months, between 2015 and 2016 (Mlot, 2016).

In this context, it is possible to ask why Twitter bought Periscope for US$100 million, when it was only an application in development and launched it in just two months? The possible reason is that Social Media Live Streaming (SMLS) is better for possible media business models than live videos (Ossorio Vega, 2015).

To contextualize the following contributions of our paper, it is considered, thanks to previous studies (Apablaza Campos, 2017b), that a technology can be cataloged as SMLS if it fulfills a double functionality:

  1. Make and distribute live videos, in different formats, through social networks, through their own applications, associated with them.
  2. Provide the broadcaster with an instantaneous feedback: number of connected users, messages and reactions of the audiences.

While the first point implies video production facilities even greater than the preexisting ones, the second is linked to the condition that could be considered the most relevant: interaction.

Indeed, during the communicative process of an SMLS transmission, the roles of broadcaster and receiver are exchanged. While the users can perceive their participation in the content, communicators can make instant decisions to meet the expectations of their audiences and the objectives of their media.

Thus, live video found its niche in social networks and journalism was not oblivious to this phenomenon. One proof of this was when, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal, Facebook invested US$50 million so that editors around the world would use its SMLS platform (Perlberg & Sheetharaman, 2016); another, the observations of the Digital News Project reports from the Reuters Institute: while the 2017 edition referred to the “social and live video year” for information coverage (Newman, 2017, p. 5), in 2018, 61% of editors from 194 media in the world acknowledge that they will use live streaming during the year (Newman, 2018, p. 36).

Source: referred article. Partial view. (Apablaza, Codina, 2018)

SMLS channels and digital media

Currently, there is a wide range of resources dedicated to the broadcast of live videos through social networks. Social Media Live Streaming consolidated as an interesting alternative for various digital media after the successes of Periscope –SMLS as social network– and Facebook Live – (SMLS as functionality for users and brands profiles): both allow professional transmissions (Lahiri & Tiutan, 2017) of immersive nature (360º video) or under the formats of mixed reality (augmented reality and virtual reality) (Gupta & Ramrakha, 2017).

Along with them, there are several additional resources for live broadcasting through social networks, of which the following should be highlighted:

  • YouTube Live: available to all users with a Gmail account that enables this functionality. The service for mobile devices is still in beta and is only available for some accounts.
  • Instagram Stories live: mobile content that the users can store in their social profile or allow its distribution up to 24 hours after being broadcasted. The content can be replicated as a story in Facebook profiles.
  • Snapchat Live Stories[2]: allows users and brands present at featured events to share live content. The functionality is only available when the mobile geolocation detects that the broadcaster is at the event.
  • Live Video on Tumblr: generator of live videos through external applications such as Kanvas, YouNow, Upclose and YouTube.

A case worthy of mention is that of China, where Facebook Live, Periscope and YouTube Live are not present, but there are more than 80 SMLS applications (Nazario, 2017) competing for a market share that has 280 million broadband users, 950 million with 4G mobile connections and a monthly average data consumption of 2GB per inhabitant (Xinhua, 2017).



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