An app from Brooklyn-based Livestream has become a real-time video tool for people on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri. Lily Jamali offers a behind-the-scenes look.
Scenes like this from Ferguson, Missouri have been kept millions of Americans glued to their computer screens in the days since an unarmed black teen named Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer on August 9. Many viewers are watching these scenes play out ...while they happen... through the application "Livestream". SOUNDBITE: MAX HAOT, CEO, LIVESTREAM (ENGLISH) SAYING: "In terms of the views, every night it gets bigger and bigger." That's Max Haot, Co-Founder and CEO of Livestream, which is based in Brooklyn and employs 140 people globally. They're working on everything from engineering & design...to support for customers need tech help in the field.. Using Livestream, people in Ferguson are documenting events as they unfold by holding up their phones and pressing a button. The links have gone viral on sites like Twitter and Facebook. SOUNDBITE: MAX HAOT, CEO, LIVESTREAM (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think we started at about 1 million views a night and we're now at nearly 2 million views a night for all of the streams from Ferguson." Some of the most watched feeds from Ferguson have come from members of local startup radio station KARG, which joined Livestream to broadcast concerts. But when the fury erupted: SOUNDBITE: MAX HAOT, CEO, LIVESTREAM (ENGLISH) SAYING: "They transformed themselves into the main local reporters on the ground." SOUNDBITE: LILY JAMALI, REPORTER, REUTERS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "This device is called The Broadcaster. It was developed by Livestream. It costs 499 dollars and allows you to plug into any HDMI camera and immediately start feeding to your Livestream account." The device uses wifi and 4G to transmit, and allows users to zoom and capture better quality images than a smartphone. Although Livestream accounts are free and don't carry ads, some subscribers do pay for Livestream equipment, or perks like the ability to stream to several platforms, not just Livestream.com. Haot says revenue stands at $30 million this year. With 40 million viewers each month, the company has become a go-to for major conferences, sporting events, and concerts. In Ferguson, well-known media outlets are using feeds like this to tell their stories - providing the context that Livestream - being a tech company, not a media outlet, leaves out. Professor Duy Linh Tu of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism says mainstream media producers see Livestream as an important tool: SOUNDBITE: DUY LINH TU, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY GRADUATE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM (ENGLISH) SAYING: "You can't have reporters everywhere in the world. There's no news organization that can have a reporter in every single moment all the time but what they can do is really start to think about training or hiring staff that could work in a less structured environment." And though just one storytelling tool, he says there's no doubt Livestream is contributing to the narrative.