Will Periscope's New Updates Help Newsgathering?

Periscope has announced two updates; Global Map, and Skip Ahead on replays.

The new map allows users to zoom in on an area to view live broadcasts which are now replayable for 24 hours, before they disappear. Live broadcasts appear as red dots on the map, and blue dots are replays. The global map is now able to accommodate more streams than the previous limit of 250.

Periscope hope that this will give users a wider window on even the most remote parts of the planet, and a way of linking to breaking news events as they stream live or almost live. The new skip facility will let users skip replays forwards or backwards to sections of clips and will also allow for skim viewing of clips.

In their announcement, Periscope say;

‘When we’ve heard about breaking news events, as in the case of Hurricane Patricia, we’ve found ourselves checking Periscope first. We think that the new Map functionality is much closer to fulfilling our original vision of seeing the world in real time. We hope you agree!’

Periscopes stated ambitions are journalistic in their nature. If the app could be used as the ‘teleportation’ device it strives to be, it could be invaluable to journalists.

Caroline Scott has been investigating whether the latest updates are useful for newsgathering for her Journalism.co.uk podcast. She asked four journalists if the new updates will improve the usability of the app for their work.

BBC journalist Nick Garnett says one advantage Periscope content has over other forms of user generated content is the way it can provide a clear representation of a timeline of events. As the app broadcasts live, there is none of the delay of footage which is shot on a phone from a scene and then separately uploaded to YouTube a day or two later. The order of periscope uploads can provide evidence of a sequence of unfolding events which can enable journalists to make sense of emerging news stories.

However, he says the accuracy of Periscopes mapping device can hamper the verification process and leads to doubt over eyewitnesses stated locations. Copyright issues also make using Periscope broadcast footage a less than instant process as permissions have to be sort from the original source. Garnett also points out that the vertical format that Periscope favours and the low quality of image and sound etc make it ultimately unsuitable for broadcast.

Mobile journalist Wytse Vellinga agrees that whilst the updates are interesting, the app is still limited in the way it can be used. He agrees that the hand held vertical format is not helpful for broadcasting, and therefore has limited interest for journalists.

Media development practitioner Corinne Podger says the new freedom to control the footage makes it more useful for content consumers, but agrees that it currently has limited use for content producers. Producer and video journalist Michael Rosenblum is excited about the idea of tapping into the 3.5 billion smartphones around the world which could become live cameras. He says that marrying that kind of global documenting to a map which could offer accurate location and time code signals could start to build a kind of global time machine, but only if the footage could be held forever and Periscope, he says, is only a first step in this direction.