Friday, October 05, 2007

Confessions from a Justin.TV broadcaster... (my Jerry Maguire Memo)

Tuesday marked the release of Justin.TV to the public. I myself, an existing lifecaster who was in the first round of initial ‘Beta Channels’, find it amazing to think that Justin.TV now has 700+ channels. This expansion point for Justin.TV seems to be a perfect time for me to reflect and share my thoughts on how life casting has personally changed my life online, and also provide a perspective regarding a couple aspects of J.TV and how this whole experience has been for me. A lot of what I have to say I believe everyone already knows – just no one is really talking about it. Yet, I'd like to disclaim first by saying that my thoughts are merely opinion please take them as just that. I've loved my experience with the Justin.TV community thus far, and continue to enjoy it.

Over the past month, I've watched as more and more channels have been introduced to J.TV. It's been interesting to watch as some channels grow and succeed to an embraced fan base while others have suffered the opposite reception. Users have found ways to drive traffic into their channels utilizing the platform in many different ways. Some have chosen to utilize games and contests to interact with viewers. Unfortunately, as of lately – the ‘sex sells’ tactic has been ultimately driving people into the most popular rooms. While, I don’t have a problem with ‘pretty people’ – it is a little frustrating to see the initial, fundamental idea of Justin.TV remolded into a website with different underlying intentions. While I definitely understand that with any evolution of a website, its progression is ultimately dictated by the community – it’s amazing to think the original point of J.TV seemed more genuine: seeing the perspective of someone’s life unedited 24/7. You can’t deny and it’s clearly evident by looking at the current most popular channels that this objective has clearly shifted.

Initially the big sell of J.TV comes across as a place that broadcasts REAL reality TV. I mean after all, with all the established success of reality TV already -- what’s more real than unedited live video of someone’s life? Sure seems like a formula for success, right? However, it’s arguable that so far no one on the J.TV network (myself included) has a lifestyle that is compelling enough to generate substantial long term viewer interest. This very concept is the hardest to swallow for most first time life casters, because initially everyone thinks their life is going to be interesting and compelling enough that everyone is going to want to watch their channel. The cold hard reality is that unedited footage of peoples’ lives is raw and is simply not compelling enough to hold a large amount of viewers’ attention. Users just don’t have the context to understand why it should be compelling. However, what’s been interesting to observe is that lifecasters who embrace the Justin.TV community by interacting with their users (through chat or talking to the camera), see the most success. You must set expectations for the type of content you broadcast. In retrospect, life casters who have focused to just broadcast themselves without high levels of interaction, haven't seen nearly as much success. Bottom line, interaction with your audience is essential. Unless you are already a celebrity, filming your day-to-day activities just doesn’t cut it.

Life casting vs. Event Casting? What’s the difference?
One thing I’d like to mention is a problem with the terminology already being used with this type of social media. In my opinion, Justin.TV is a platform for essentially two types of broadcasting: Life casting and Event casting. Life casting is essentially the user broadcasting nearly all areas and aspects of their life (usually mobile), and very close to 24/7.

Event casting is exactly how it sounds, meaning, broadcasting only during a scheduled, defined time interval in which the event caster has substantive content. The majority of users on J.TV are event casters, only a handful actually life casters. The majority of event casters are at their computer at home… just like their viewers.

What’s so great about life casting? Why do you lifecast?
So… what about all the great things about life casting? Well there are a lot! Other than being the next natural evolution of vblogging and vlogs, life casting and event casting rocks. As I open my J.TV email folder, just the sheer volume of messages reminds me of all the great dialogues and interactions I’ve been apart of since my introduction to J.TV. The wealth of knowledge I’ve learned and contacts I’ll continue to establish have helped me in my day-to-day life both personally and professionally. The greatest aspect however, of doing a true life cast, is being able to share with everyone else your perspective in the world. Showing them what you go through - whether it be working or just relaxing.

So you know, naturally when I started on J.TV, I asked myself the question, what am I looking to get out of this experience. Professionally my career is web consulting, so life casting provides a lot of on-the-ground insight of understanding this type of social media. But personally, I've always been fascinated and thrived at understanding, communicating and interacting with the masses, which is reflected in much of what I do in life already.

How long can one life cast on Justin.TV? Aren't you tired of it?
Sarah Meyers shared a great perspective and insight in regards to who could possible life cast forever. Personally I’ve had burn-out during my tenure on the site, and don’t think anyone life casting could possibly last an extended period of time. Frankly, a person can only go so long carrying a laptop and camera around at all times before it just gets plain annoying (I know it did for me). Also, having a ‘window’ to the world can be emotionally draining. While it definitely is great to have friends with you all the time, having the camera always there does create anxiety that you should be doing something worth watching all the time.

In hindsight, it’s a great opportunity and it puts you in a perspective you can’t even begin understand until you’ve tried it. I’m confident that this experience has made me not only a better person in understanding myself, but I’ve also enjoyed the community and culture that I share around the entire J.TV site. Ask any long-term user on J.TV, it’s a tightly knit community that willingly abides to unspoken conducts and practices.

For me personally, my metric to when I will stop life casting or event casting on J.TV is when the value of the experience is completely lost. Meaning, the moment I stop enjoying my time on J.TV, is the moment I’ll stop broadcasting on J.TV.

Final Thoughts
I don’t think life casting and event casting is for everyone. I do think live video and social media websites like J.TV will only continue to become a bigger part of the internet. It’s still amazing to think that with only a computer and a camera you can project a window to the rest of the world of your perspective on life. While the intentions of J.TV started out with clearer objectives and more consistent content than what it has become – I do think this type of media will continue to be embraced and will evolve to bigger and better things.


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