Video Streaming Apps — To Stream or Not to Stream

This post originally appeared on the blog. We thought the library audience would be interested in these apps for a few reasons: storytelling, copyright issues, and potential privacy violations. Read on to learn TechSoup's Ale Bezdikian's musings on the Periscope and Meerkat apps.   


someone's hand holding a phone up at a concert to film it

The nonprofit sector thrives on a community of rich storytelling. Whatever form that storytelling takes, from photo essay to member video, story-driven content is dynamic, shows impact, and can attract new potential donors. Many of these stories, however, are only as good as their delivery strategy or the platforms used to connect them to wider audiences. And that's where live streaming can be useful.

Live Streaming for the People

Live streaming events is not new. Live streaming via mobile to many, however, is. And there's an opportunity for nonprofits to benefit from this new phenomenon. The act of bridging demographics and bringing audiences into your "virtual living room," wherever that may be, is a powerful tool in shaping and delivering your story.

While virtual inclusion can never fully capture the physicality of live experience, new mobile apps like Meerkatand Periscope are coming close. Meanwhile, they also raise good questions about what live streaming means for civil society, content appropriation, and security.

Live Streaming for Civil Society

When the Baltimore events happened in late April following the death of Freddie Gray, the public was intrigued by a few early adopting journalists seemingly putting themselves at risk to give their followers a direct and different story other than the one presented by mainstream media. Guardian US correspondent Paul LewisThe Telegraph's Raf Sanchez, and D.C. Fox News 5's Alexandra Limon were among the few who transformed the "riot narrative" into snapshots of personal stories by Baltimore residents.

Imagine the evolution of civil and political society in a world where moments can be documented by anyone, and accountability is monitored by the masses. We saw how Twitter changed information-sharing in 2011 Egypt, after all.

Live Streaming and Appropriation

By the time the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight happened in early May, millions of people had run to download apps that allowed them to watch the live feeds of generous HBO-paying members all over the world. HBO executives didn't know what had hit them. As many fans cashed in on what was coined "the fight of the century," HBO seemed to cash out. Thousands of boxing fans enjoyed the fight, for free, directly from their mobile devices. It was a knockout blow for HBO.

Live Streaming and Security

The potential to live stream from anywhere leads to certain security questions. What about privacy? What about anonymity? Where do your rights end and mine begin? All of these questions will inevitably spark debate amongst Meerkat and Periscope users, abusers, advocates, and adversaries. In the meantime, you can be sure that although the revolution will not be televised at this point, it will be live streamed.

Live Streaming and You!

The future of such apps remains to be seen. Meanwhile, there are a few innovative ways your nonprofit can capitalize on the power of live.


  • Broadcasting your events — live coverage brings a certain level of excitement and intrigue to special moments like galas, parties, or organization off-sites.
  • Behind the scenes moments — if you engage in content creation like webinars or video production, broadcast what happens on the cutting room floor so your members get to know you and your organization personally.
  • Broadcasting news or community happenings — if you or your mission engage in community or cultural work on the ground or in the streets, show your members what grassroots activism or engagement looks like!

Image: luckyraccoon / Shutterstock