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An Unedited Future

Just as online video has lost its luster livestreaming pealed back another layer of patina.

Livestreaming takes less pre-planning and editing but results in similar or greater revenue – why wouldn’t creators be moving to the format in droves?

According to SuperData, Twitch.tv (Amazon’s livestreaming platform) out performed YouTube gaming by $80 million - $1.54 billion to $1.46 billion. This statistic shows the difference between the current livestreaming trend and the standard edited content on YouTube.

Perhaps it isn’t a fair comparison to put Twitch side-by-side only with YouTube’s gaming division. However, livestreaming and gaming and two sides of the same coin. It only makes sense – traditional sports have the networks locked down with contracts, so gaming was left to take control of the brave new media world: livestreaming.

Alex Weaver, who goes by the username “evalde”, is a relatively new streamer on Twitch. He credited the ongoing pandemic as a reason for his persistence on the platform and said, “I never would have taken it [streaming] as seriously.”

Even though streaming does not follow the standard recording, editing and posting schedule – that does not mean it is not time intensive. In fact, Weaver did a 24-hour charity stream this summer.

Streaming leaves the time commitment in the hands of the creator. There is no set amount of time for a piece of content to be considered good or bad. The pressure is on for streamers to not waste a moment on that time once the camera is on. Whereas traditional content creation is a jog, livestreaming is a set of sprints.

Interacting with the chat that’s displayed alongside the stream is a must for any serious streamers. Chat breaks down a barrier between viewer and streamer and is part of the engagement for viewers. On chat Weaver said, “Interacting with chat is not only crucial to growth as a creator, but it's also a whole lot of fun. I've met some great people through Twitch chat. It often feels like they're entertaining me rather than the other way around. There are occasionally people who need to be banned from chat, but common decency is clear-cut and easy to enforce.”

Weaver’s longtime viewer turned chat moderator “sekibeth” (who requested to go by her screenname) mirrored the feeling on bans or other disciplines for chat, “ No one really comes in except the people who have already followed, so I don’t really feel like a mod. Since he’s [Weaver] so chill, I don’t really need to ban or timeout anyone.”

The connection between chat and streamer forms a small community that keeps viewers viewing and streamers streaming. Weaver said, “Streaming has given me a huge group of friends through the internet whom I never would have met had I not started streaming on Twitch.” And also noted, “I started streaming because my friends wanted to watch me play through Skyrim for the first time this summer.”

Streaming, on all but the highest levels, has the ability to form a sense of belonging that curated content cannot. Authenticity is valued on Twitch. Longtime friends of Weaver, Justin Li and Joshua Gere, noted that Weaver did not seem much different on stream. Gere said, “Maybe just a bit more interactive just cause he had to give some extra content for his viewership.”

As great as Twitch is for some creators, it is still notably difficult to grow organically on the platform. Weaver said, “Unlike other social media platforms like Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube, Twitch does not have a robust content discovery algorithm meaning that growth must often be done on another platform. Making successful content on other platforms is an entirely different skill than streaming and has been a hurdle for me since I have very limited free time between a full course load and a part-time job.”

Curated and edited content will never leave the landscape. But as more creators flock to the livestreaming platform and Twitch continues to hold more of the market share, small streamers such as Weaver are going to be a much more common occurrence.

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