Facebook Exec: Live Video Shouldn't Be "Only Component" of a Publisher's Strategy

Ricky Van Veen Getty H 2016
Jemal Countess/WireImage for IAC

Last spring, Facebook began funding a select group of media and entertainment companies to create videos for its Live broadcasting platform.

In the seven months since Facebook began paying media companies and celebrities to experiment with its nascent Live platform, newsfeeds around the world have been inundated with real-time broadcasts of everything from presidential debate coverage to movie premieres.

Facebook has encouraged this steady stream of Live broadcasts, which have helped the company quickly grow the library of videos available to its 1.7 billion users. But now that Live is a little more than a year old, Facebook is reminding its media partners that Live should be just one part of a more comprehensive video push.     

“I would like publishers to think of Live as an arrow in their quiver,” says Rick Van Veen, Facebook’s newly appointed head of global creative strategy. “You can have a video strategy on Facebook where Live is a key component, but live isn’t the only component.”    

Facebook in May began funding a small group of publishers and public figures to produce videos specifically for Live, including The New York Times, CNN and BuzzFeed. (The Hollywood Reporter is also a part of this program.)

But Van Veen says publishers should be asking themselves whether a video needs to be live. “If you think about it, all video content that’s produced, most of it is better edited,” he adds, noting that breaking news or videos that require interactivity with the audience watching both work well in the live format.  

Van Veen, who left CollegeHumor in June to join Facebook, explains that the most successful live broadcasts typically connect with a passionate community or create suspense through spectacle. Community-building live videos include country star Garth Brooks’ weekly Sunday night broadcasts, which can often get more than 1 million views, and Mark Wahlberg’s recent video answering fan questions about the film Deepwater Horizon, which had 1.4 million views. Spectacle videos, meanwhile, are those like BuzzFeed’s exploding watermelon viral sensation or the live broadcasts of the Trump Tower climber.

In both cases, Van Veen notes, videos that aren’t as highly produced often result in higher engagement among fans. “Authenticity is a big factor,” he explains. “People want to feel like they’re there, like they’re on the scene.”

The exec's comments come days after Facebook launched its first advertising effort around Live, wrapping buses and airing TV commercials that prompt people to broadcast live from their phones. Notably, this ad campaign is focused on encouraging more individuals — everyday people not being paid by Facebook to experiment with the platform — to broadcast live. The company recently revealed that the number of people broadcasting live has grown four times since May, with the vast majority of its live videos coming from everyday people.

"Chewbacca Mom" is perhaps the most famous example of this. But Van Veen is quick to note that the majority of the views on the video came after it was no longer live. “Is that live or is that on-demand? I’ve been talking about that with a lot of people about it, and the conclusion we reached was that that video probably would not have been created were it not for Live,” he says, explaining that the live component helps to strip away some of the barriers that would prevent someone from recording a video and then posting it. “It allows a person to be in the moment.”

While broadcasters are currently flooding Facebook with live videos, it’s clear that the social network is thinking much more broadly about the creation and consumption of video. Speaking recently at the WSJ.D Conference, Facebook product chief Chris Cox said he believes video will account for more than 70 percent of mobile data traffic in five years, up from about 50 percent today. 

As such, Van Veen is advising media partners to develop more rounded video strategies. “Live is part of what Facebook can offer in terms of a programming strategy and a promotional strategy, but it’s not a silver bullet that’s going to be 100 percent of a partner’s video efforts on Facebook,” he concludes. “But it's a very useful key tool.”