Periscope is live streaming citizen journalism

Compiled by the Retriever Weekly Senior Staff

Twitter’s new app has infinite possibilities, but many problems it needs to address.

On March 26th, an explosion occurred in lower Manhattan, destroying two buildings and causing a fire to spread through neighboring ones. People engaged not only on Twitter, but also on a new medium known as Periscope, a live video streaming app that turns anyone’s iPhone into a live camera feed.

Periscope is transforming citizen journalism by making it accessible to anyone with a smartphone, ushering in the potential future of real-time journalism. However, it has also raised questions on how the service will be used by the masses.

Periscope was acquired by Twitter earlier this year for $100 million and was launched in response to Meerkat, another live streaming service that used Twitter’s services. Twitter decided to stop Meerkat from piggybacking on it’s network and launched Periscope the same day as the Manhattan explosion. Meerkat, cut off from Twitter’s, raised $14 million to continue running its service as an independent network.

Making journalism real-time is the instantaneous information people crave. Rather than waiting for local networks to pick up breaking stories or reading about it on Twitter, creating a live stream that’s easily accessible unlocks the big potential for Periscope. Anyone with an iPhone and a Twitter account meets the minimum requirements to be a citizen journalist on Periscope. The only thing left is to start broadcasting to the world, and that’s where the issues of Periscope start to emerge.

The app, which is Apple exclusive, allows users to send “hearts” to broadcasters simply by tapping the screen. The more taps, the more hearts are sent creating a flurry of animated hearts on the broadcasters screen. Think of the heart system as a “like” or “favorite” system. What’s stopping broadcasters from “reporting” anything just to get hearts, especially when there’s already a “most loved” leaderboard?

Another issue that arises is the constant feed of comments on videos. Twitter has the distinct advantage at being able to filter out the noise from breaking events, but on Periscope comments constantly pour in making it harder to sort through essential details.

These problems pair with the broadcaster’s dilemma of keeping the feed up which is limited by their phone and broadcaster themselves. Periscope uses up a lot of battery life, and not everyone has unlimited data to live stream or watch streams.

Periscope breaks down information by making it instantaneous, but it doesn’t make it constantly necessarily. If a feed goes down during a breaking event a user could jump to another feed, but the same issue arises when that feed goes down. Citizen journalists are not dedicated; they have obligations professional reporters and news agencies do not, allowing traditional media to have more consistent news coverage.

Periscope has a lot of uses, whether it’s showing how people live in other countries or live broadcasting what’s in someone’s fridge. The potential for the UMBC community is endless, whether it is reporting events on campus or warning fellow students of situations developing. If not, there’s always the Kesha performance at Quadmania or students livestreaming their search for parking on campus.