The debut of live streaming app Meerkat at South by Southwest (SXSW) in March sparked the beginning of the interactive live streaming age. Now, Periscope, Blab and Facebook have followed with their formats. With mobile-friendly apps as the gateway, live streaming is clearly the new black. Think of it this way – if television and social media had a baby, this would be the result.
Periscope is currently the top streaming platform, with over 10 million users. Such is it’s notoriety that hundreds of “scopers” descended upon New York City in September for the first New York Scope Week and Periscope Community Summit. Among the scope devotees and influences were people of color who have managed to carve out a significant space in areas like religion, lifestyle and coaching.
New Jersey native Jannene Biggins works in the tech industry with mobile apps. She believes that Periscope has given voice to the traditionally voiceless in tech and entertainment spaces, particularly black women.
“This [conference] gives us a platform, I feel very welcome here,” says Biggins. “Streaming has the propensity to be an equalizer.”
Andre Henry, a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and Bible teacher traveled to the Summit to engage with his sizeable fan base. For him, Periscope serves as a way to leverage his musical talent and collaborate with others.
“I’ve met 4 or 5 people from Periscope, leading to collaborations and songwriting opportunities,” Henry says. “For musicians, one of the hardest things is exposure – when you’re scoping, anyone in the world can find you.”
Henry also likes that the platform bypasses gatekeepers, connecting him directly with fans. Summit speaker Scott Williams agrees with this, connecting with followers on his Pass the Mike talent scope. For Williams, it is also instrumental in branding.
“It’s the ultimate enhancer for your brand, your business. In terms of diversity, the door is wide open. There are opportunities for everyone.”
Attendee George Torres, founder of Sofrito Media Group, mentions examples of prominent scopers of color, such as Nicole Walters, a.k.a ScOprah, and Tiphani Montgomery, who can serve as models in the space. He also sees the timeliness of Periscope for people of color.
“We invented the remix. As Latinos and African Americans, we’ve struggled with mainstream media. It’s time for us to create our own channels. I think Periscope is going to be the new frontier for people of color in general.”
People of color are still regarded as information “have nots.” Mario Armstrong, founder of the Never Settle Club and technology personality on The Today Show and CNN, says that we need to shake this ideology. He contends that it’s based on an antiquated model of desktop computer access and consumption as opposed to looking at content creation.
“This is a game changing time. I’ve always been a champion of getting us away from the concept of the digital divide,” says Armstrong. “We are in the heart of a live streaming explosion, and what I don’t want to see happen is that we become more consumers than creators.”
Armstrong sees immense possibilities generating income, but says that people of color need to better leverage live streaming to benefit.
“We start winning when we change mentality. As people of color, we are talented, and always making something hot for other people,” Armstrong contends.
“All I’m saying is let’s not just make it hot for consumption, let’s make it hot for creation, let’s have people of color forming more companies off of these platforms – not just consuming.”
This post was written by Dr. Chetachi A. Egwu, Communication Faculty at University of Maryland University College. Her scholarship focuses on Black Internet Usage and the African Image in Film, with an emphasis in documentary. The Howard University alumna is the owner of Conscious Thought Media. Follow her on Twitter @Tachiada.