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The Facebook Live offering is just what its name promises: Rather than posting prefilmed, edited, or professionally produced videos on newsfeeds, users upload live videos of themselves, doing whatever it is that their Facebook followers like best. The roll-out of the new channel has not been quite as fast as Facebook might have hoped, leading the social media company to solicit content from providers who have already proven their abilities through other sites.

Lo-res_E1GBR0-SThe Internet stars that Facebook has contracted with to provide content include some professional organizations, such as BuzzFeed. But they also include individual performers who have gained fame, or at least notoriety, from their offerings in other social media channels, such as Vine, YouTube, Snapchat, or Instagram. For example, if Ray William Johnson posts enough Facebook Live videos in the course of a month, he can transform the popularity he has earned as the host of his “Equals Three Show” YouTube series into a payment of $224,000 from Facebook.

In a sense, it appears that Facebook Live is trying to poach stars from other social media sites, though the company rejects this allegation. Rather than taking content from other sites, Facebook asserts that it simply wants to make another channel available for content creators to reach their fans.

The claim has some logical support, considering that Facebook remains the largest social media network. Especially compared with channels that are starting to dwindle in popularity, Facebook gives content creators access to vastly larger audiences. The functions in Facebook Live also mean that the content providers receive immediate feedback from their fans, including insights for comedians about what they find interesting or funny, suggestions for a baking channel about what to do if an experiment goes awry, and ideas for a beauty blogger who finds that she has run out of a particular cosmetic.

The plan for the expansion of Facebook Live includes a budget of $2.2 million that will go specifically to these Internet sensations. Whether that investment is a smart one depends on several factors. Will an Internet star today still be a star tomorrow? Can someone known for his Vine videos leverage his appeal in longer Facebook Live contributions? Will Facebook’s sponsorship change the content that these providers offer?

Discussion Question

  1. Is this type of investment to encourage new and added content to Facebook Live a smart one? Justify your answer.

Source: Deepa Seetharaman and Steven Perlberg, “Facebook to Pay Internet Stars for Live Video,” The Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2016.