Al Jazeera was one of the first publishers to use Facebook Live when it launched earlier this year, and with 80 bureaus around the world, the publisher has been keen to experiment with how the tool can help it engage with new and existing audiences on social media (Al Jazeera Media Network is also part of a group of media companies paid by Facebook to produce live video).

One popular method has been using Facebook Live to broadcast stories as they broke on its 24-hour news channel, where viewers can comment in real-time on what they are seeing, and start conversations on the topic amongst themselves.

Ziad Ramley, a digital producer who is part of the social team at Al Jazeera English, explained that this way of streaming content proved to be particularly successful during the Turkey coup attempt in July, when all of the organisation's digital platforms were getting more traffic than they did during the Arab Spring.

"No one was in the office as [the attempted coup] happened quite late at night, but our team rallied together and got it onto Facebook Live – it had a huge impact on keeping people informed about what was going on on the ground as it happened," he said.

With the post reaching over a million views, staff working in the television department started to see the platform as a serious distribution channel for live content, understanding the importance of reaching new audiences by putting their broadcasts directly onto Facebook as they happen.

However, when the social team experimented with streaming an entire 24-hours of live coverage from television to Facebook, audience engagement dropped dramatically – a result that Ramley attributes to the fact that Facebook distributes continuous live streams very differently to how it distributes regular Facebook Lives.

"We have very successful live streams on our website and on YouTube, so when Facebook Live released continuous live video, it seemed like a no-brainer to try it out and see if people would respond in the same way on Facebook as they do on YouTube and our website."

But continuous live streams do not send notifications to Facebook users, and streams are deleted from timelines once they end – which not only makes it difficult for users to find the post, but takes away the possibility of watching it at a later point.

We are thinking about what stories fit the different approaches – there is a time for interactivity and a time for just watchingYasir Khan, Al Jazeera

The online team published three live videos of varying lengths and types over a weekend, and the continuous live video on a Friday had 23 peak concurrent viewers as opposed to Saturday's normal Facebook Live with 1,985 peak concurrent viewers.

"Because fewer people actually saw the 24-hour live stream, we only got a few dozen comments, whereas when we put the exact same product out as a normal Facebook Live, we got hundreds if not thousands of comments – many of them saying how pleased they were to see the Al Jazeera livestream on Facebook."

Ramley explained the team won't be doing another continuous live stream until it is easier to notify viewers of when these videos start, and when it will become easier to collect watch-time data, so they are able to build a community of people who would watch together for 10, 20, or 30 minutes at a time.

Of course, streaming a TV feed lacks the exciting element that so many publishers have already started reaping the benefits from on Facebook Live – a chance for journalists to personally interact with viewers in real-time, answering any questions they may have and posing them to interviewees.

The Stream, a daily television programme on Al Jazeera English, has been streaming Facebook Lives in a more interactive way on its page, interviewing expert guests, attending events and holding Q&As with the public.

However, Yasir Khan, senior online producer at Al Jazeera, explained to that although the publisher was thrilled by the audience engagement surrounding some of the initial presenter-led live streams it originally conducted on the Al Jazeera Facebook page, they are now looking to "raise the bar on what people expect from Facebook Lives" and they won't be publishing any interactive streams there until they are fully equipped to do so.

"We've seen a lot of shaky mobile phones, very low resolution, connection problems, bad audio, bad lighting, so we really want to evolve Facebook Live reporting from there," said Khan.

Al Jazeera is training correspondents every week on how to use the tool behind and in front of the camera, and it is also improving its equipment to produce high-quality footage.

"It is a bit of an undertaking because we have 80 bureaus around the world, and our viewers will get to interact with a correspondent live in the field – we don't want to short-change our audience so it is going to take a little bit of time to perfect, but we are glad our bosses finally see the value in it and they are on board," Khan added.

"We are thinking about what stories fit the different approaches – there is a time for interactivity and a time for just watching."

This piece is part of our ongoing series on how publishers are using Facebook Live. Check out the previous instalments on IBTimes, ABC News, NPR, CBC News, NowThis and The Washington Post.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).