Credit: By Kevin Dooley 

Users of Periscope will have noticed two updates to the live broadcasting app last week – a revamped 'global map' and a 'skip ahead' feature on replayed material. 

As well as live broadcasts, Periscope will also load replays from the last 24 hours on its global map, footage represented by either a blue dot for replays or a red dot for live video. 

Additionally, users can now choose which part of replayed material they want to watch by swiping right or left on the screen, effectively skipping to the segment they are trying to find.

But what effect do these new updates have on newsgathering for journalists?

Mobile journalism expert Robb Montgomery explained the ability to watch replayed material will make a difference for reporters when researching big stories.

"It makes the app incredibly useful for journalists who may have missed some eyewitness news and want to see if there were pictures from that location," he said in a recent podcast.

"For journalists it is really important to be able to skip to the moment of the incident or be able to replay and ask further questions of that event with other witnesses or experts." 

Nick Garnett, reporter at BBC Radio 5 Live, also agreed that access to replays through the app's global map will help journalists fill gaps in their knowledge of a story, subsequently enabling them to put events in chronological order. 

"When the shootings happened in Tunisia, there was an awful lot of video uploaded to YouTube, but that took some time to get up there," he said.

"Two or three days later, suddenly up would pop another video which shone a different light on what we perceived to be the events at that stage. 

"With Periscope, broadcasting it live and then having 24 hours of recording, you are much more likely to be able to piece together an accurate timeline – and that is really crucial on big events," said Garnett.

He believes the tool will continue to be useful to journalists looking to see immediate coverage of a breaking news story.

"An awful lot of people will have their phones sat on their desk, and as soon as they see something on wires or see something popping up on one of the news sites, they will start to use the Periscope app as a way of getting further into the story," Garnett said. 

"Even if what they are seeing does not finally make it into their edited pieces, it gives people more of an accurate picture."
Periscope was used by journalists to not only follow the Paris attacks by watching live and replayed streams, it showed there was activity in the area due to a cluster of streams

However, Garnett noted that although the updates are useful, they are not enough to justify the app as a reliable newsgathering tool yet.

At present, it is difficult for journalists to verify the material, and even genuine footage cannot be lifted from the platform under copyright reasons. 

Additionally, if Periscope is going to be used as a reliable newsgathering tool, it has to ensure the map is accurate.

"Even with the update, it is questionable whether or not people are actually where the map seems to suggests that they are. 

"There is also the massive issue of whether what you are seeing is actually accurate or you being hoaxed in some way," he said.

Wytse Vellinga, mobile journalist at Omrop Fryslân, highlighted how although the new updates will help journalists with additional research, Periscope just does not have enough traction or users to be able to stand out within the newsgathering field.

"The app is still very limited due to the way it is used," Vellinga said. 

Like YouTube, the videos on Periscope range from light-hearted to serious footage, but Vallinga has found there are not enough people using the app to provide content of interest to journalists, unless a big story breaks.

"So far I have just used it for broadcasting myself because the number of people using it is limited. It is an interesting update, but the app [as a whole] is not there yet," he said. 

As a content consumer as opposed to a producer, Corinne Podger, media development practitioner at BBC Media Action, believes that the 'skip ahead' update will benefit journalists, helping them find other angles to stories and ask more questions.

"The ability to fast forward and move around content is exciting. I was watching some of the Periscope broadcasts that were taken in Croatia, as [refugees] were trying to get on trains, and I wanted to know what the outcome of the situation was, where it is clear that some of these people aren't actually going to be able to board this train," Podger said. 

"I can see as a former journalist, that that's something you want to be able to move to, and send out to your audience – it's very valuable." 

But what does the future hold for Periscope and newsgathering?

Video journalist Michael Rosenblum said that although the updates have the potential to be useful, the technology hasn't been exploited yet for its ultimate use. 

"In a macro sense, there are 3.5 billion smartphones in operation around the world... so you have to think about it as 3.5 billion live cameras all over the world capturing every event that happens," he said.

"Every smartphone also has GPS capability, which means you can triangulate exactly where each live stream is originating from, which is interesting.

"If you marry that to the notion that every smartphone also has a clock, which means you have time code capability, suddenly you have kind of a longitude and latitude for live streaming which doesn't exist yet... to not only know where it came from, but also when it happened.

"It is the beginning of something interesting, but someone has to come along, whether it is Periscope or Google or someone we haven't heard of yet, and take this tool and shape it into something that really brings much more value to the table," he said.

Listen below for more on the subject in last week's podcast.

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