Chris Pirillo is on the cutting edge of live stream media. The 35-year-old web whiz knows how to generate online community by hosting videos on UStream and other websites such as CNN.com. In this interview, he discusses how he drew an audience of five million people in 2007, what you need to create a successful brand, and why he’d stream his own natural death.
Question: What is your equipment setup?
Answer: I use a “broken” Canon GL2 that I purchased six years ago and hardly used until I started streaming. This is connected to a Mac Mini via FireWire, and that computer is dedicated to the live stream, including a separate DSL connection. For software, I use CamTwist for the video effects, Colloquy to chat, and Safari–with Ustream.tv as my live video provider.
Question: Do you think people are nuts to watch you working at your desk?
Answer: I used to think that. But, as it turns out, many people experience the Internet alone. So, isn’t it nice to know someone out there is alone with you? There’s something the live video experience brings to the soul when you know another person is sitting on the other side of the screen and you can interact with him or her—and others.
I’m a boring guy—for real. I’m not always on, but…
Question: Have you ever thought of faking your murder to increase traffic?
Answer: I hadn’t considered that. But if I had to plan it, I would consider streaming my own natural death on the Internet. Although I’m sure my closest friends and loved ones might find that a bit awkward, I’d find it the only way to go. It’s part of being human, and I would much rather feel like I was experiencing something while connected to others instead of being disconnected from them.
Question: How has doing this broadcast paid off for you?
Answer: It helped me find more sponsors, record over 1,000 videos live in the past year, crack the “Top 100″ most subscribed on YouTube, and more. My live stats are even more impressive: Over 5 million unique live video viewers watched me do my thing in 2007. That’s a total of more than 2 million live viewer hours with an average viewing time of twenty-five minutes per visitor. I’m also now recording original content for CNN.com Live every Thursday afternoon. I’ve met tons of people, too.
It’d be easier to explain how it hasn’t paid off.
Question: How do you pitch a company to sponsor your broadcast?
Answer: It’s been a while since I’ve approached anybody about it, only because I’m not a real salesperson. However, I do my best to explain why attention works.
This PDF from Nielsen Net Ratings seems to do a pretty good job at warming people up to the idea. Problem is: I’m not getting that document in front of the right people, which causes me to waste time and energy on prospects that will ultimately ask me for a damn banner ad.
This isn’t just about having an open mind; it’s about having an open strategy. Mind-share is equally as important as market-share. You can’t have a share of the market if your product isn’t on the minds of the people in that market. If your brand has been mentioned seven times inside your own social circle, it’s well on its way to being adopted by the market. Pay attention to your mind-share in the marketplace, but remember you can’t quantify everything. Brand recognition is much more valuable than any advertisement that could be tracked with verifiable metrics.
It’s not just about having a blog, a podcast or an account on MySpace or YouTube. It’s about engaging your existing customers directly on their own turf and attracting potential customers through similar means. The world doesn’t work for you or your company. Customers see it differently than you do. Your approach with advertising should reflect this reality.
People trust people, not companies. Make your names known and be as accessible as you can afford. When problems arise your biggest supporters will appreciate being able to connect with another person instead of getting lost in a voice mail maze. Your users will be comforted to know that another human being is going to help rectify their issue. Who hasn’t felt the frustration of talking to a machine when all you needed was to ask a simple question?
The Internet is unlike any other kind of media. It isn’t only a way for your company to communicate with consumers. It’s a way for them to communicate with you. If you remember nothing else from this collection of tips, remember this: The Internet isn’t just a bunch of cables and wires—it’s an interconnected network of people.
Why work with me? Users can’t block your logo or URL. Users can’t fast forward through your logo. Users can’t delete your logo. It’s less about the defined—that is, subscribed—audience and more about the audience that will continue to discover our videos through our keyword research and established content discovery optimization.
The audience is already trained to participate from the get-go. It’s Q&A for and by the people who need help and are seeking information. The audience asks for coupons and specials. The audience is coming to expect reviews, products, and recommendations.
[21:12] LiveGuest6717: I have to say I’m angry with Mr. Pirillo
[21:13] LiveGuest6717: He caused me to order two 22″ Samsung monitors today!
[21:13] LiveGuest6717: I was on the fence…
[17:09] Arranmc182: ChrisPirillo: i finally got myself a 19″ widescreen TFT – its HP.
[19:09] +porta_gimp: I bought a matching 19″ widescreen for my current one so I have dual widescreens…. I blame Chris for this
[16:17] liquidmark_e: well chris partly right he has a good thing going…. I came to his site and saw the monitors on his desk I told my client to buy me some
[16:18] liquidmark_e: and now I have them
The live stream is always on, always there, even without me present. We’re constantly adding new kind of live community functionality, attracting new people, growing our attention base, etc. People are always asking questions, talking and helping. And we’re doing our best to capture the best moments for posterity—as well as Web indexing.
Question: Can you do it without laughing?
Answer: Not often. I just sneezed while writing this response and someone in the chat room wrote: “Bless you.”
Question: What’s your brand? Video personality, conference mogul, funny guy, visionary?
Answer: Geek, Internet Entrepreneur, Hardware Addict, Software Junkie, Book Author, Once TV Show Host, Technology Enthusiast, Shameless Self-Promoter, Tech Conference Coordinator, Early Adopter, Idea Evangelist, Tech Support Blogger, Bootstrapper, Media Personality, Technology Consultant, Thicker Quicker Picker Upper.
Does that just about cover it?
Question: Can something like this hurt a person’s brand?
Answer: Absolutely. Getting too close to, talking about or associating with any one thing will hurt you—if only because it’ll be impossible to grow past it. Brand is becoming increasingly decentralized, so for me to proselytize any one platform over another would be doing so at my own assumed future risk. It’s why I’m not into the whole MySpace vs Facebook vs Twitter vs FriendFeed wars.
Question: What’s the fact that you’ve pulled this off mean in the larger context of content?
Answer: That it’s possible. You just need a reason to do it. For me, it’s about living the “human circuitry” ethos. Some people like doing live for single events—or a series of them. For me, it’s a combination between planned and unplanned experiences…. There’s no true reason I can’t or shouldn’t stream live, so why would I not do it?
Question: What’s the impact on ABC, NBC, CBS, etc., that anyone can broadcast like this?
Answer: Not that large. Of course, no traditional television network has reached out to me as of yet. I’m guessing that with the right partnerships, I could find a way to be a helluva lot more interesting than I am right now.
Traditional networks have a lot going for them—including infrastructure and production mechanisms. That doesn’t speak to the quality of the content they continue to produce, nor does it speak to their ability to connect with their intended audiences.
The Internet is the future of television, and the sooner traditional media understands that, the better off we’re going to be. They’d be wise to listen to and work with these new media leaders rather than hiring clueless marketing consultants who only regurgitate buzzwords and attempt to justify their increasingly irrelevant positions.
You can ignore me as much as you want, I’m still here—live streaming. Like, RIGHT NOW as you’re reading this sentence. I’m probably not doing much. Or maybe I’m looking at a new product or service. Or maybe I’m recording videos for YouTube. Or maybe I’m doing something else?
Life has no schedule.
Question: Will you put an Alltop sticker on the Mac on your desk?
Answer: As soon as I start putting other stickers on it.
Everytime I go to Ustream there are approximately 600 people watching Chris sneeze at his desk. Often, he’s not even at his desk, and there are that many people. All I can say is, “We’re not worthy.” This is so impressive that we created a topic just for Chris at Alltop: Geeks.alltop where you can get more of Chris than even his biggest fans might want.