What Periscope is and how to use it for journalism

Periscope is Twitter’s live video product, as distinct from its Vine platform, which is for video with a longer shelf-life

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Among Periscope’s features are that viewers can interact with you by sending messages that appear instantly on the screen, as you broadcast, and which are visible to you and everyone watching.

They can also show their appreciation by clicking to send a like, which appears as a heart that floats up across the broadcast screen.

So you get instant feedback on what you are broadcasting and, if you choose, you can alter what you do, or incorporate suggestions made in comments, in what you broadcast.

So if you are on a red carpet at a premier, for example, you will get suggestions for which stars to try to talk to, and what to ask them.

These facilities bring great immediacy to your broadcasting. Your broadcast will stay live for 24 hours only, but you can save the footage and audio you have created to re-use later.

A comprehensive overview of how Periscope works.

This video, by Terry White, is almost 50 minutes long, but if you want a really detailed introduction and explanation, it’s worth watching right through.

For a quick-start guide, see the text below the video.

Quick-start guide to broadcasting with Periscope

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The cursor arrow at bottom left is for adding your headline or title. You must headline a broadcast so potential viewers know what it’s about.

As you type a headline it appears in the ‘What are you seeing?’ field at the top of the screen.

The padlock icon is for a private broadcast, which will only go to those names you tap in.

If you select the head and shoulders icon, only people who follow you can type comments, which can be an aid to reducing trolling.

You can block trolls. If a comment comes up that is unacceptable, you tap on it and that person is blocked permanently. You can face abuse, particulalry if you are broadcasting from a story that evokes strong reactions.

The Twitter bird icon tweets the title of your broadcast and the fact you are live-streaming. So when you go live your Twitter followers see a tweet that tells them you are broadcasting.

Many broadcasters keep their phone in upright, portrait position while they live stream, but you don’t have to. Using landscape mode is usually better, as ever.

While you can only broadcast from a phone, your broadcast can be viewed in a web browser – but those viewers can’t comment on it.


Make sure you have ‘Autosave the broadcast’ on, so that your video is saved to your camera roll. Comments and hearts won’t be saved, but your images and audio will be. So you can, later on, use the footage first broadcast live in a package or structured video report if you want to.

As we’ll see later, broadcasters including the BBC have turned Periscope footage into edited documentaries.

You are broadcasting live from your phone so you don’t want incoming notifications interrupting. Switch on ‘Do not disturb’. A new-moon icon at the top right of your screen shows Do not disturb is on.

When you click to start your broadcast, the rear camera will be used, so make sure you are focused on the scene you want to show.

You can switch to the front-facing camera at any point, by double-tapping the screen, either for a piece to camera or to switch from a scene to an interview between you and a person involved in the story.

Once you start, you’ll see people joining and hearts rising. Viewers can also share your broadcast on Facebook and other social platforms.

Further tips, from Poynter

1. Try to stay steady

Moving your phone around too much makes you broadcast look unprofessional, and hard to watch.

2. Keep the commentary going

Being close to the action and showing what is happening is great, but you also need to explain what viewers are watching to ensure their full understanding.

People will be joining throughout your broadcast, so repeat the who what when where why and how at regular intervals so they know what’s going on.

3. Movement is good

If you can explore a scene through your camera and commentary, do it. Take viewers into the scene – and hence the story. They’ll be experiencing things as you do, and discovering stuff along with you.

4. Be nimble

You’re trying to get a good shot, keep people up to date, interview people and think about questions coming in from viewers. That’s a lot to handle. If you’re working with someone else, consider having them scribble questions and usernames as they come up to help you keep up with people.

And try to keep up with users and answer them directly.

5. Remember to save your stream.

If you want to use what you captured again, either as B-roll or as video with a story, you have to save it. Once you stop recording, Periscope will ask if you want to save your stream.

Want to know more?

These links build on what is summarised above

Periscope and the journalism of now: http://mediashift.org/2015/04/periscope-meerkat-and-the-journalism-of-now

How to broadcast street journalism from your phone: http://mediablog.prnewswire.com/2015/08/12/periscope-101-how-to-broadcast-street-journalism-from-your-phone/

What it’s like as a journalist using Periscope: https://youtu.be/mahijcC-wHA

A livestreaming assignment: http://jeremylittau.com/resources/livestreaming-video-assignment/

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