Live on Your Phone, New Ways to Watch the Votes Come In

  • BuzzFeed allies with Twitter to make video one click away
  • Platforms trying to lure ‘multitasking’ viewers with streaming

What to Watch as Polls Start to Close

Political junkies who turn to Twitter for election results will have an option they didn’t four years ago: they’ll be able to click to see a live show from BuzzFeed News headquarters in New York.

Reporters Adrian Carrasquillo and Tracy Clayton will be covering the endgame of the Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump race in a partnership with Twitter Inc. Colleagues from London and Los Angeles will weigh in with commentary in a looser format than what people might see on CBS or CNN. “We’ve never done anything quite like this,” said Ben Smith, BuzzFeed News’s editor-in-chief.

There will be a lot of that going on as polls close. “No one did live streams on the internet until recently,” said Steve Oh, chief business officer of the Young Turks, owner of one of YouTube’s most popular news channels, which aims to start posting its live-election video stream at 10 a.m. Los Angeles time.

YouTube Inc. on election night will offer feeds from NBC News, PBS, MTV News, Bloomberg, Telemundo and the Young Turks, which also live streamed reports on the previous presidential election. Complex News will host a live-results show from YouTube’s production facility in New York. The digital magazine Ozy will air one with guests including Danai Gurira of “The Walking Dead,” Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and Chance the Rapper.

Longer Live

As for BuzzFeed, which has orchestrated plenty of shows on Facebook and Twitter, its 2016 election night coverage is planned at more than five hours, and will be the longest live-stream in its history. BuzzFeed partnered with Twitter because, for all that company’s struggles, it remains the best place for high-level conversation during a major event, Smith said. “Cable is often people reading tweets. We want to be native to that conversation.”

News publishers hungry for revenue invested millions in video production after witnessing the rising valuation of companies like Vice Media Inc. Facebook and Twitter have also prioritized video to boost their advertising sales. In 2012, YouTube was the social network invested in live video, and major publications like the New York Times were just beginning to dabble in video news. This election year has seen a sea-change.

Twitter will sell ads against BuzzFeed’s coverage, Smith said. Advertising sales generated from online video are a fraction of what networks make in TV -- especially for sites newer to video -- but continue to grow.

TV networks like CBS and ABC will offer their coverage online as well. CBS has an online network, CBSN, dedicated to news coverage. The New York Times and the Financial Times are both dropping their online paywalls temporarily to allow non-subscribers access to their U.S. election content, in an effort to showcase their journalism and attract new customers.

TV Multitaskers

The likes of Twitter and Facebook won’t supplant television any time soon, Smith said. TV viewership of the presidential debates this year set records, and network coverage of the election could do the same. But more people than ever will likely be multitasking while watching TV, turning to social-media sites to supplement what they see on the big screen.

“You and I will follow this election on our phone,” said Carlos Watson, a former MSNBC journalist who founded Ozy Media Inc. in 2013. “We’re going to want to know what’s going on now. It will be a tipping point where more people get the information on their phones, and are involved on Reddit and Facebook, than TV.”

Watson will anchor Ozy’s election-night coverage from Busboys and Poets, a restaurant in Washington. He described it as six hours of conversation with politicians, entertainers, musicians and journalists. The show will be available on Facebook, as well as the websites of Ozy and Wired magazine.

The election will be an experiment for news organizations with little experience doing what TV networks have done for decades. BuzzFeed Inc. knows this, so it teamed with Bruce Perlmutter, a former producer for MSNBC and CNN. 

“Most recently, he filmed a guy diving from an airplane into a net without a parachute,” Smith said. “That’s a good experience for this.”

— With assistance by Rebecca Penty

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE