Our series on the use of Facebook Live has shown some interesting ways in which publishers have been approaching live video on the platform and experimenting with new formats.
Some production strategies are common – most, if not all, news organisations have staff members dedicated to monitoring and replying to comments in real-time and after the stream has ended. But there are also differences, with some outlets choosing to go live on the spot and others leaning more towards scheduled broadcasts to avoid potential technical difficulties and give viewers a sense of constancy.
The Washington Post is part of the latter category – last month, the outlet announced the appointment of T.J. Ortenzi as the organisation's first Facebook Live editor, who will be tasked with creating content for the platform but also with "developing interesting story formats that can last not just on Facebook, but lead us to new and interesting things", said Micah Gelman, director of editorial video at The Washington Post.
We see opportunities in what has been called 'slow TV', where things evolve over a longer period of time, and Facebook Live is good for thatMicah Gelman, The Washington Post
"We've seen what others are doing, a lot of talking heads and people in front of computer screens and white walls, but we want to be much more visual and visceral, go places and show people things," he told Journalism.co.uk.
The Post's Facebook Live team is made up of six people, including the editor, producers and hosts. The producers are in charge of coordinating Facebook Lives to tie in with the rest of the regional and events coverage the publisher is already doing, while the job of the hosts is to "drive some personality" and guide reporters on camera.
The outlet has been using both smartphones and professional filming equipment to produce video for Facebook Live and its livestreams have been a mix of footage from its broadcast studios in Washington and on-the-ground coverage. The videos are distributed across multiple Facebook pages, such as Washington Post Food and Washington Post Sports, to avoid "inundating people with everything".
During the recent Democratic and Republican National Conventions in the US, The Washington Post aimed to livestream all speeches and rallies from the presidential candidates, complementing them with reporter analysis from the scene.
"I think we were the only digital/newspaper organisation with a television stand positioned inside the two arenas, and it was great to put our reporters on camera in a beautiful spot we had unique to us, rather than being forced to do it in a hallway or in a less visual spot.
"Inherently, what makes [Facebook] Live interesting is when you have terrific visuals."
Other Facebook Lives have included a Q&A on the Zika virus, between The Post's health reporter and a senior representative from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and a four-hour long livestream showing the corpse flower blooming at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington – which gathered 221,475 views in total.
The publisher has also experimented with quirkier broadcasts, such as a segment where two Post staff members baked Melania Trump and Bill Clinton's favourite cookies on camera or a recent broadcast from the rooftop of The Post building showing viewers how to pick crabs.
"I think we have a history here of doing TV shows, so there's a bit of resistance to going back to that [with Facebook Live], because we don't see a show in the TV sense as something worth the effort.
"But we see opportunities in what has been called 'slow TV', where things evolve over a longer period of time, and Facebook Live is good for that."
Gelman said The Post tries to plan the broadcasts "as much as possible" beforehand, especially when they involve using the larger broadcast infrastructure available, but lets the news agenda drive the number of livestreams it produces per week, which can vary between 20 and 40.
"Like with any new technology, there are some bugs, but we think we've developed a few good workflows and built some 3-4 kits people can use to go live on Facebook, that we try to match to the right occasion.
"We're not going to do the 'watermelon rubber band' thing, but we will try to find as many interesting, visual news stories we can pursue on Facebook Live," he added.
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