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Out of all the different formats publishers have been trialling on Facebook Live, something as mundane as streaming their website on the platform is not something many have attempted so far.

The idea occurred to staff at The Boston Globe last month, when they realised the development team had put a lot of effort into "creating an interesting and compelling experience" on the website to showcase coverage on US election night, and they were looking for a better way to promote it on social media.

"The site updated every 15 seconds, you could drill down into a bunch of different areas and we also had these beautiful graphics that updated really frequently," Matt Karolian, director of audience engagement at The Boston Globe, explained.

"But once they were updated, the older versions became outdated, so we thought, why don't we figure out a way to take what we've already built and put it somewhere else too, so that it could have a substantial audience?"

Using an open-source software called OBS, The Globe was able to assign one person to stream different web pages on Facebook Live using only their computer. The sections that were livestreamed mostly contained visuals such as maps and graphs, and it was easy to switch between them to display new information as it became relevant.

"For example, we had a proposition [in Massachusetts] to legalise marijuana, which everyone was looking at, so we were able to cycle through that as well.

"It gave us the opportunity to always have fresh content up on the stream."

The experiment, which began shortly after the polls started to close on the East coast on 8 November, lasted for just under four hours in total, gathering over 580,000 unique live viewers. It also generated some 65,000 clicks to bostonglobe.com and the bulk of its most active audience came from Massachusetts, Karolian highlighted in a Medium post.

He told Journalism.co.uk the livestream acted as "almost a source of advertising" for the website, as people watching could get a sense of the content available on bostonglobe.com and click through to "consume a lot more, on their own terms".

But contrary to Karolian's initial beliefs about the experiment, that people would leave in favour of the site after watching for a few seconds, the stream had "consistent viewership" throughout.

"It seems people would have it up on their phone or in another tab in their browser, and they kept it up for extended periods of time while they also consumed other media, whether that was other parts of the website, watching TV or talking to their friends."

The livestream also gathered more than 8,800 comments and Karolian said the conversations people were having in the comments while watching, as well as during previous Facebook Lives the Globe had done around the debates, "felt a lot like those you see on Twitter during live events".

Compared to Facebook's almost 2 billion monthly active users, Twitter is still a niche platform, he added, and the Facebook Live comments gave people without a Twitter account the chance to express their views in a similar way.

"Someone like my mother, or my father, or some of my friends who aren't in the media industry, they were reacting in the same way that my friends were on Twitter.

"So it seems as though there is certainly something to sharing in a group conversation around live events that the comment section on Facebook Live provides, which we haven't seen before on the platform, and that's interesting."

Karolian thinks there could be opportunities for The Boston Globe to livestream the website for other events in the future, including live sports such as the Super Bowl, where "we know a good chunk of the population is geared towards watching and experiencing one thing together".

"We can give them a place to have those conversations about [that event] along with commentary from Globe journalists.

"There's certainly an appetite to try new things so that's what we're trying to do. And one of these ideas that seemed maybe foolish on paper actually ended up being really important for our coverage that evening."

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