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.