The Rise of the Live Stream
YouTube live is quickly becoming the most popular way people in the YTPC are getting together. It’s as if people have taken what they like most about different platforms and are shaping them together into a format that works for them.
I’m sure that even this medium will change drastically in the future, but for now it’s the way people are headed.
In the early days of YouTube people struggled to find out what worked and what didn’t. They wanted to provide content for their viewers that helped them in some way. How-to videos seemed to be the most popular. For people in the YTPC, pipe tobacco reviews was a perfect fit. That quickly expanded into “YABOs” – Yet Another Box Opening [we want to throttle whomever came up with that term, and it is forbidden in our office]. Naturally after you show off what you got, a “First Impression” is the next video to make. Which brings you back to the review. It went from one video to squeezing out three for the same blend review.
They are all in great fun and are wonderful to watch. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned pro and know your blends inside and out or if you’re someone trying something for the first time. In their own way, each video is a small piece of the larger picture.
Why It Works
It works on YouTube because it’s visual. It’s conversational and it’s personal. You can hear and see someone. You can see the expressions on their faces and you can also feel like you’re part of it. It’s very hard to feel this way when you are reading what someone wrote. All it takes is for you to hear the squeal of a guy’s garage freezer and all of a sudden you’re part of it. You get the inside jokes. It’s something only the best writers can do, but in a video they come with the territory. Anyone can get those feelings across.
But even in this format, some things work and some flop. Most people quickly figure out what works for them. Some people are natural story tellers, some like to gather and pass on information and still others like to share their opinions.
Long ramblings almost never work. The formula of getting your point out in a reasonable amount of time is what brings people back. Viewers know that if they give you ten minutes to watch your video they will come away with valuable information or entertained, and be glad they watched. They will even be looking forward to your next video.
Nothing could be worse than sitting there watching someone drone on and on while you are waiting for them to make some sort of point. Finally you just click them off and move on because you can’t take them anymore. Wasting people’s time is a mortal sin on the internet. It’s the kiss of death.
The reason I point that out about the different content is because I believe one of the main obstacles channels struggle with is coming up with new content. They know that to build any sort of subscriber base they need to make videos. It’s also in the back of people’s minds that if they had enough people watching and if those people watched enough hours of their videos they might be able to make some money, and if not, to at least be looked at with some amount of authority. Who wouldn’t want that? At least to some degree. It’s only human nature to want to be relevant.
The good thing about the videos where the content is focused and the run time is somewhat short, is that these videos can become timeless. What I mean by that is if in ten years someone wants to know what Squadron Leader tastes like, finding a ten minute video is exactly what they will want. What they won’t do is sit through an hour video of someone they don’t even know because he’s smoking Squadron Leader and they are hoping that at some point the presenter will talk about it in a substantial way.
And Now For Something Completely Different
Lets shift gears for a moment. I promise, this is important.
What was big ten years ago? Anyone? Anyone? The forums. It was the place where as long as you were part of a group, pipe smokers for example, there was a place for you. You could talk about your new pipe, show it off. Share what you think about a certain blend and everyone listened. You got to meet all kinds of people with the same interest and it was fun. Check in everyday and see what people are talking about and add your own two cents. There is no doubt that they were the places to keep up to date and people made it a habit to check in often.
What happened to the forums? Well, there are many reasons that I believe they no longer have the luster they once had.
First, the same subjects keep coming up over and over. You may have just tried something for the first time but the “old timers” hashed that out two years ago and instead of talking to you about it, they refer you to the thread where you can read through it yourself.
Second, the forums all eventually breed bad blood. It’s not like YouTube channels where there is four hundred people taking about pipes. There is only a handful of pipe forums. It’s hard once you settle down somewhere you like to leave, so when a guy comes along and says something stupid people tend to stand their ground and defend themselves. They don’t want that jerk in their sandbox – he’s ruining it. Now the other guy is most likely thinking the exact same thing. It leads to bad blood and fights. No fun.
In nine cases out of ten it started because of how people read things. It not how the person writing it intended, but that’s how the other guy interpreted it. It’s too bad, but that’s how it usually goes.
Some Forums Have Survived
The most successful forums that have survived have done so by keeping a tight hold of the reigns. Nipping problems in the bud. In-The-Bud!
If you don’t remain diligent what happens is you end up with sort of factions. The dominate group ends up driving people who don’t agree with them out. The platform is there for everyone and the potential to grow is there but it doesn’t because people there think of it as “their space”. It’s fun for them but not for anyone else.
One final note. The forms, for the most part, have devolved into sort of ‘old man’ talk, for lack of a better term. What did you have for dinner? Did you get those hemorrhoids checked? Those kind of things are OK conversationally, while you are talking with someone, but when they become a thread in the forum, that’s a bad sign. People aren’t going to stay around for that.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the forums. I like to go on them everyday, or almost everyday, and see what people are talking about. There still is a lot of relevant information you can get in a forum and some people get a lot of enjoyment there. I’m only commenting on what I see as their future, and it doesn’t look good.
Other Social Media
Other ways people get together and socialize on the web is through different platforms like Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. These come with a different set of problems. There is a lot of background noise on these sites. People do not hold back and let it all fly. You might want to see what people are up to but before long you will be bum rushed with how stupid someone you voted for is. How they are evil and tearing the country apart. You could be a religious person that just minds their own business but be prepared to see someone posting something that just disgusts you.
What ever you do don’t respond or they will come down on you like a pack of wolves. Who will? Nobody knows. It’s most likely adolescents that have discovered filthy language and believes it makes them sound smart. Personally I think it more resembles the first ring of Hell. You have to step lightly on these platforms if you want to keep your sanity.
Let’s Pull It All Together.
YouTube Live – Yeah, that’s how this all started off. Why do I think it’s the future, at least the near future? It’s because this medium combines a bunch of the good aspects of these other platforms and makes it easy to weed out the bad parts.
It gives YouTube channels instant content. You don’t have to have a predetermined topic or a script. Just host a live event and let it evolve organically. You still have to make it interesting for those watching. Keep things moving along and engage the viewers. Everyone has their own style and it’s easy to see what works and what doesn’t.
When someone has a live show it has the feel of the social gathering of a forum but in real time. You get the conversational component we talked about before with the forums, the personal questions about what’s new and what you are smoking, but it quickly goes by. Small talks might come up again as people join in but it’s such a small part of what’s going on. It’s usually not the main focus of the show. What happens is the discussion usually turns to one topic.
The host can quickly see if things are working or not, or if the interest is there. If not, it’s easy to change gears. All while people are invited to participate. This is great for the person who really does not want to make any videos of their own but does want to join the group.
One difference, along those lines, is that people follow along with the comments in real time. They get an instant response to their comments unlike a comment in a forum thread. It has a satisfying feeling to it. It’s not uncommon to read the comments under a video but it’s not the same as actually being engaged with the people who are currently watching and posting about it right now.
Trolls, you hate ‘em, I hate ‘em too.
One problem is that Trolls still exists but less so and are more easily handled. The old adage of “just ignore them” works best in this format. If someone puts up a rotten comment in a forum, it just sits there and people can’t resist trying their hand at putting the offensive clod in his place. It usually makes things worse until a moderator deletes the offensive post or the whole discussion is shut down, ruining it for everyone.
In a live event you only have to ignore a jerk for a minute or two. Even the most trigger happy among us can control themselves for one minute. As soon as the Troll’s comment goes up and out of view they are forgotten.
Nobody handles these Trolls, and keeps their show moving along better than Simon from London Calling with Simon. He doesn’t take the bait and the show rolls along. He might chuckle a little or say a quick hello to them, but he makes it clear, without even having to say it. If you get your fun by getting people worked up and mad, you’ve come to the wrong place and you’re wasting your time.
It’s A Win-Win
It’s a win-win for everyone. The host can have an engaging fun show without too much work. The viewers have the opportunity to participate as part of the group and often even have a one on one with the host.
Since no two channels are the same, if they are left to grow on their own, people will gravitate to what works best. Keep in mind what works best in one instance may not in another. People are looking for different things and the fact that there are so many channels means there is a good chance there will be something out there that’s exactly right for you.
There is already a backbone of channels who have started to perfect this format.
4 Eyed Piper has a great ‘Sit Down, let’s talk’ type of show. Might be 20 minutes, might be 2 hours. Very conversational.
- Briar Blues does a Q & A we’ll talk about later in this article.
- London Calling With Simon
- Matches 860
- 2am Pipe On The Patio
- Ghost Cob has been known to go live
- The Catholic Pipesteader and OTC Piper have their live Mantles
- The Artful Codger has one of the best live shows, especially when done around a holiday.
- Padre Piper
- Law N’ Smoke
- The Garbageman Piper
- The Piping Artist Steph has been doing live shows for quite some time and is one of the first to use this format.
- Derek Tant‘s overnight chats
- Even Pipes & Spirits is beginning to broadcast from his new little cramped studio
I have to stop listing channels or this will go on forever. Sorry if you’re not on the list, I just put a bunch off the top of my head.
They are settling into predictable times and/or days that they are on. Not exactly time slots, but if you know about where and when someone goes live you can watch out for them.
All different times and days people are live. Simon, mentioned earlier, is on into the wee hours London time, but it’s early evening on the East Coast of the United States. 2 a.m. Pipe on the Patio is another night owl who you can find, oddly, at 2 a.m.
some guys are more random. Padre Piper, The Artful Codger and Mantles hosted by The CatholicPipesteader & OTC Piper to name a few. To catch any of these guys you either have to be lucky enough to be online when they go live or know when they plan on going live. They will usually give you some kind of heads-up even if it’s only and hour or two.
It may get to the point when there is always someone live. Maybe not every hour of every day, but enough that if you have some free time in the evening or over a weekend, there will be a gathering on one channel or another.
A good way to see what’s on is to check the Briar Report Magazine’s Event Calendar. Right now (as this is written in Feb. of 2019) very few live shows are listed. This is an emerging format and we are still trying to figure out ways to classify it and make it easy for you to promote your channel or join in on another.
We hope that eventually all you would have to do is check the Events Calendar and you’ll know exactly who is on and when. We would be more than happy to add your event to the calendar. All one have to do is send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us who you are (your YouTube channel name) and the date and time of your event. Be sure to let us know what time zone you are in. That’s really all the information we need, but you can add all the additional details as you want. We will generate an events page for you that gives your viewers all they need to participate in your live event.
If you’re not exactly sure what time you will be going live, we can work around that. Just getting on there lets people know to watch out for your live show. It also puts down a marker so that other channels wanting to host a live event of their own can quickly see when a good time would be. You don’t want to schedule something when a huge channel will certainly be getting a lion’s share of the viewers. Most people are not like me who will have a couple browser windows open at the same time watching different live shows simultaneously.
If you decide to take advantage of this you could, and should, encourage your viewers to check that calendar periodically to look out for your live show. Hopefully with people using the Events Calendar it will expose them to new shows and entice them to watch.
What’s Out There?
There are not a lot of viewing options yet, as people are just seeing what they can do with the format. Sitting in front of the camera and talking makes up most of the content. The amount of viewer participation varies, but even if the host does not interact as much, the commenters are usually engaged in discussion between themselves.
The Country Squire Live Radio show (Mondays at 12:00 – 1:00 Central Time) is a highly structured show that does go through some post production work to eventually be made into their podcast. There is very little interaction between the hosts, J.D. & Beau, and the viewers during the live stream. In their case it has more of a live studio audience aspect to it. Stopping the show to speak with people on the live chat would disrupt the flow of the show and would not translate well into their podcast.
The Friday night live with Matches 860 has a much more of a Pipe Club feel to it. That show is a gathering of people to see who’s around and what’s going on. Matches will answer questions and also throw some out to the viewers. He has one or two things he usually wants to talk about but for the most part leaves it up to everyone in attendance as to what they are going to talk about.
Another example of a format style is the BBC, or Briar Blues Channel as it is sometimes called. This show is almost a complete Q & A. This is a difficult format as the person hosting must be very knowledgeable and able to quickly answer questions on a wide array of topics. Mike does a fantastic job in this role, being an insider in the Pipe retail business. The questions can become the basis for longer discussions and sometimes the show diverts to other areas of interest like watches or Spirits. The distilled kind not the spooky kind. The show has developed quite a following and is always fun to watch.
George Bruno’s Puffcast
On International Pipe Smoking Day (ISPD) 2019. George Bruno debuted a Live Show called Puffcast. It drew a huge crowd for it’s very first show. Over two hundred people stopped in. When I say that this format is the future all you have to do is watch the video of this show and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I don’t see how any social media format can compete with the feel and personalization of this show. Mr. Bruno knocked it right out of the park in his first at bat.
Martin at Over A Pipe is experimenting with using the live aspect of YouTube to help people find and get hard to obtain pipe tobacco blends. He keeps a close eye on retailers and outlets where some of these blends periodically pop up for sale. Martin immediately goes live and gets the word out. He recently did just this and within 15 minutes the retailer was sold out. If you’re a subscriber of his and you have the alerts set up to notify you when he goes live, you put yourself in a good position to know the very latest inside information when it comes to buying some of these hard to get items. Martin has come up with a unique way to use YouTube Live and I’m sure it’s only the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come.
You will often see people using the live feature when they hold a giveaway drawing. The thought being that if it’s done live it cuts down on the chances that the draw is rigged. I doubt there is a lot of dishonest people holding YTPC giveaways out there but I suppose anything is possible. The downside to that is when people decide to do that it is usually either the first time they have tried going live, or may have only done a practice run. for the most part they are feeling their way around.
You Know What Happens
Almost always something bad happens. They can’t read the screen or they are bumped offline. Once during a live draw the channel went off line right at the instant the number was being chosen. It must have been a nightmare for the host.
Personally I wouldn’t recommend taking an event that is important to you if you are not totally comfortable in the live format. Don’t worry about people who might accuse you of shenanigans, that’s only a small handful of the viewers. The rest of us trust you.
As a growing medium there are still things that have to be worked out. It seems that sometimes the host has trouble keeping up with the comments. They have to worry about two devices which enables them to record and participate in the chat themselves. Being in a position where you can use a large screen desktop or a laptop lends itself to a much smoother presentation. Squinting at your phone and not being able to read the comments because they go by too fast takes away from the flow of the show.
Other distractions that might usually be edited out like a ringing phone or a spouse who shouts out in the background may be distracting to the host at the time. In reality are of no big concern and often are quite funny. It ads to the live aspect of the show.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear
The one thing that I hope is absolutely clear is that my thoughts on YouTube Live and it’s role in the future do not transition over into recorded videos. The recorded videos are totally separate. I do not believe that live videos will replace recorded ones. What I am saying is that live YouTube style shows that promote the gathering of people to discuss a common interest is going to replace certain segments of dated Social Media and websites.
People are going to find it much easier to jump onto a live event to find out what’s going on and talk to their friends that they are not going to bother with some of their old habits. Young people certainly will not.
Take the time to see who is hosting live events or think about hosting one yourself. Be sure to subscribe to people and sign up for the notifications so you be alerted when that channel goes live.
If you follow the Briar Report on Twitter @briarreport we usually send out an alert of our own if we notice someone is currently live.
Participate in the live shows and let the host know what you like or don’t like so that they can improve and make it a good experience for everyone.
Let me know what you think or if you have any ideas of how we, as a group, can take advantage of YouTube Live better. You may have a good idea that nobody has thought of. If I get any interesting responses I will print them in our Letters to the Editor Column