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Everybody’s Streaming

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While you were busy streaming, what you think of as “streaming” evolved in­to many different things. Today, what you do when “streaming” is but one small piece of the streaming world.

Back in the day, networks put their content online, streaming the same broadcast that went over the air or on cable. Companies used broadcast gear and bespoke services to put their meetings on the corporate website. Then the internet grew, high-speed connections became available on phones, and reaching viewers around the world became commonplace. Anyone could have a video “podcast” and do it live while incorporating and addressing comments from the audience.

Churches went online around the world, and now there are whole groups of people who attend services even though they are hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Gaming grew, and gamers began to show off their gaming prowess (or lack thereof) by streaming live on new platforms dedicated to gaming content. They incorporated Discord audio of other players along with comments from fans, and they found they could even make money with donations, merchandise, and more while playing.

Instagram and TikTok opened up a new world of “vertical video” streaming, forcing hardware and software makers to adapt despite a whole body of aspect-ratio traditionalists who railed against it. The popularity of these platforms has not inspired a wave of vertical filmmaking, because there are no vertical movie screens—not yet, anyway. But for the majority of audiences that view this content on their vertical-screen phones, it fits.

Those vertical audiences and the ability to pay on the viewing platform begat streaming sales videos, where the whole point is to talk about product, makeup, dress, accessories, lifestyle, and everything else—all of it able to be purchased with a click on the viewing platform. Streaming is not just part of the sales chain. It has become the sales tool itself.

But then, wasn’t that the case with QVC (Quality Value Convenience)? It’s just a lot more convenient now than it was in 1986, more than 35 years ago. There were no mobile phones then, no “clickable” anything. But a person showing a product that you could buy, on air in a format that was nothing more than a very long ad for that product? It’s more or less the same thing.

But now the preferred medium is internet streaming as opposed to a dedicated cable network. Each individual can promote specifically what they want to promote. They have their own channel. The marketers are their own brand. And the tools available to streaming media producers have evolved as well.

And what of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Web­ex, and online business meetings in general? That’s streaming too—video and audio going to the cloud and back. Whether they’re replacing in-person meetings or augmenting them, these multiperson “calls” were widely deployed in business communication before the global pandemic made them inescapable in 2020. Skype had free 10-person group video calls back in 2014 and counted 214 billion minutes of use, worldwide, in 2013. So, connecting with remote groups of people is not new; it has just evolved to become easier and a lot better. It’s also become more convenient since we started carrying devices that can do it in our pockets, connected to a near ubiqui­tous high-speed wireless network, which makes streaming-based video calls always just a few taps away.

But whatever you use streaming for, you need to understand that today, it has evolved to the point at which the majority of people don’t use it exactly the way you do. There are people who have applied it for such specific uses that they are confused when they see a product that doesn’t fit their workflow. Recently, a commenter asked me why product X doesn’t support LUTs—unimaginable to them, because “everyone” (their words) does it that way.

No, everyone does not do it the way you do it, or the way I do it, or for the reasons we do. Each application is a very small minority, and streaming usage today is more diverse than ever.

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