ScaleEngine Blog

Is Free Streaming Free?

October 1, 2018

There is a lot of "free" streaming available if you take a casual look in any search engine. In this post we'd like to evaluate how you can combine using "free" platforms for marketing, with your own web/app infrastructure to minimize the actual cost of giving away your content and viewers to the parasitic "free" platforms.

Why are we using quote marks when we say a "free" platform? Isn't it actually free? You, as the content owner, are indeed paying no money for the ability to give a stream to Youtube or Facebook. However, there's a definite cost to the content owner. You are sending viewers, who were initially interested in your content, into a hostile ecosystem of competing content, which have algorithms designed to lure these viewers away, toward targeted content that will maximize advertising revenue for the platform. This is totally by design. Youtube's related content, that it will offer to anyone who started watching your content, is mercilessly oriented toward popularity, and what it specifically knows about the history and other "Google" knowledge about your viewer. Your clip or live stream will be up against all of the popular history and interest segments designed to attract each individual viewer. The Youtube from ten years ago which simply showed users a history of what they watched, with genuinely related content suggestions, is long gone. Remember now, that every Youtube user is shown a different view of the service, much like Netflix, except that unlike Netflix, Youtube largely relies on showing advertising to its viewers, and so has abandoned any pretense of letting users control what they are shown.

The situation is similarly bad with Facebook. Again, you ostensibly are able to "stream for free" to the mighty social platform. Again, your view of things is very much not what your viewers will see. Your video post will be buried in a giant scrolling feed of memes, related posts, games, advertising and chat. Worse, once a viewer is on Facebook, and not on your website or app, they're gone, probably for good. You've just sent an interested viewer into Facebook's revenue maximizing algorithm. They're probably not coming back today...

Why do Youtube and Facebook do everything they possibly can to get you to stream for them, and then turn around and pull everyone you bring into their own vortex of content, which is specifically targetted to each individual's known viewing and browsing habits? The answer is simple. They must do it. Their robotic algorithms are useless without incoming data, meaning user interactions, and are all ultimately about getting the most money from their true business (selling advertising) by delivering ads over the longest possible duration of time spent on their platforms. Once they get a user on their platform, they will do everything they can to pull them in for as long as possible. That is all these platforms are doing. They exist to exist.

So, we can see why this isn't this "free", because it's costing you, as a content owner. How can you counter this blatant disservice? At a minimum, you could be getting more of your message to your viewers by keeping that message on your website and app, which won't betray you like Youtube and Facebook by stealing a visitor's attention as relentlessly as possible. If you're able to pull in some audience attention on Facebook or Youtube because you have a decent subscriber count, you can do the reverse to them, and show a free segment on those platforms with ScaleEngine's push service, and use a call to action to pull the viewers over to your app/site for the important segments, just before you take down the free stream push.

What about Periscope and Twitch? Periscope does not have an advertising model yet, but it's similarly designed to drag viewers into its world of music and monologues. Twitch has Amazon behind it, and so has somewhat limited advertising (except for Amazon things), but it's still cheerleading for the online retailer, and again, viewers sent there, generally stay there. In an internet that is designed to steal all your viewers' attention as quickly as possible, you need to protect and grow your audience by owning your streaming system, and by doing everything you can to make it less easy for your audience to leave, or get distracted.