Video Stream Yourself To The World Non-Stop: Justin.TV
The video blog has evolved significantly in the last year, propelling a new wave of web celebrities into the limelight - with such names as Amanda Congdon, Ze Frank and Loren Feldman carving out their own niches in the world of web 2.0 video.
But a new startup takes the whole concept to the next level, by making use of the latest technology to create a fully mobile 24 / 7 streaming video of one man's life.
While live blogging isn't a totally new concept, earlier offerings such as JenniCam were bound to a single location, and the use of constantly updated still images rather than live video. The wireless web has changed all of that, and it is now possible, with the latest kit, to stream video wherever you might be.
Enter Justin.TV, which does just that. Justin.TV is a live, fully mobile 24 / 7 streaming video blog, following the life of the company's CEO Justin Kan, wherever he goes, and whatever he does. With a small camera strapped to the side of his head, the viewer sees what Justin sees, and the experience makes for compelling viewing.
Taking reality TV to the next level, Justin.TV features live user chat, the ability to call or send an SMS directly to the star of the show and an RSS feed of Justin's latest schedule - in other words it has all the makings of highly addictive, refreshingly interactive online viewing. After just eight days of broadcasting live, the San Francisco based show has quite a following, with hundreds of people watching and commenting live at any one time.
So how does all of this work, what are the goals of the project, and how does Justin.TV have the possibility to bring an exciting new dimension to the online video experience?
Justin.TV - overview
Justin.TV makes for an interesting fusion of genres. On the one hand it takes the reality TV concept to the next level, mirroring in real life the fictional universes of Hollywood movies Ed TV and The Truman Show. Here is a man willing to put his life on camera, 24 hours a day, while we look on as if through his eyes.
On the other hand, with the focus of the show firmly on the web 2.0 world, Justin.TV plays out like a gonzo journalism remix of the Scoble show. While Robert Scoble goes to visit the latest software innovators and covers their products and services, in Justin.TV we have a free-wheeling, nothing-edited-out look into the world of the web 2.0startup. Freed up from the editing room and the slick marketing machine, we see - as if for the first time - the world of PodTech, Wired and all things web 2.0 with new eyes, as we take them in through Justin Kan's hat-mounted camera.
The overall look of Justin.TV is very much grounded in the post-TV world of online video. From the grainy 320 x 240 live video feed to the chat room placed directly beneath it, this is a web phenomenon and not something that you would ever see on television. And that's a good thing, as the small team behind Justin.TV are keenly promoting the interactivity of the show, taking it beyond what might be possible on your TV, and making the most of this evolving medium.
Justin Kan on Justin.TV
In this brief, irreverent video from the Justin.TV website, the CEO of this four-man startup answers some key questions about what he's doing, and the thinking behind the project.
Justin Kan, and one of three partners on the project Emmet Shear, are no strangers to the world of the startup, and before they had managed to secure funding and sponsorship for Justin.TV worked together on the now defunct online calendar Kiko. Working with two other friends from a San Fransisco apartment, Justin.TV is a small operation, but has some big plans for the future.
The business model
For the time being Justin.TV is a single show recording the life of Justin Kan as he goes about his daily business. The team managed to raise venture funding for the project from Y Combinator, but are already managing to secure a revenue stream through featured show sponsors.
The sponsors of the show have ad-units on the main page of the Justin.TV website, and also manage to create natural-feeling product placement throughout the show. Speaking recently about this product placement, Justin Kan was keen to stress that Justin.TV is only interested in products that the team would choose to use themselves, and it is unlikely that we will be seeing Prada handbags or Gucci business suits making an appearance any time soon.
As live Internet TV takes off, this could be an increasingly important mode of advertising - placing sponsored products in the hands of niche-broadcasters certainly feels like an effective way to go. Among Justin.TV's sponsors is the manufacturer of an energy drink, popular with the kind of geeks and programmers that might be tuning into the show, as they crunch code into the small hours. It is easy to see how this model could be scaled and adapted to any number of niche audiences and products, and Justin.TV may well turn out to be pioneering a very effective solution for future live online video broadcasters.
In terms of the future Kan and his colleagues have bigger plans - their ultimate goal being to create a cost-effective live mobile video platform that other live bloggers, musicians and broadcasters could make use of, within what may well become a broader network. Just as pro-bloggers in the traditional blog format often go on to create their own blog network, the Justin.TV 'lifecasting' concept may well evolve beyond the broadcasting of a single individual's day-to-day existence.
Interactivity and drama
If you're looking for a James Bond movie or something to rival an episode of 24, you may find yourself disappointed with Justin.TV. The life of your average web 2.0 geek is not one of car chases and explosions, but in a way this is exactly the appeal of the show. There is something entirely fresh about being witness to someone else's life, in all of its mundane detail, as if looking on through the star's own eyes.
Several times while watching I found myself thinking thoughts on behalf of Justin, or else second guessing what he was thinking about. There is something about being in the intensely subjective standpoint of the first-person, head mounted camera that creates an immediacy and sense of 'being there'. This goes well beyond the well managed, over-edited experience of watching a TV drama, in which you are a distant, invisible spectator.
Judging by the ever-busy chat room directly beneath the video, I am not alone in these thoughts. Even when viewers are not interacting directly with Justin, they are interacting with one another. Should they wish to interact directly with the star of the show, however, it is possible to do so via both forums, email, SMS messages and even his cell phone. This creates a fresh dynamic between the audience and broadcaster that pushes towards a greater interactivity in the way we 'do' Internet video, rather than merely trying to emulate the experience of watching TV.
The team are making great efforts to make the show as interactive as possible, strongly playing up the live interaction between unfolding events and the audience watching from home. The active Justin.TV forums ask questions like 'what should Justin do?', while live events, such as a countdown to create a hundred digg votes for a Justin.TV related blog post tempt viewers to participate by rewarding them with pranks.
Sometimes that isn't enough though, and the perils of both handing out your cell phone number and running a live, 24 / 7 feed of your life have already become evident to the Justin.TV team. In the following video clip, taken from the Justin.TV archive, one very real example of these perils plays itself out.
Somebody watching the show decided to spoof Justin Kan's cell phone number, call the San Francisco police and report a stabbing at the Justin.TV apartment. As you will see for yourself the Justin.TV team were not impressed with the consequences of this prank, although in retrospect they admit that it hasn't harmed their publicity.
The Justin.TV website
Justin.TV has a very simple interface that highlights, in real-time, how long the show has been broadcasting in days, hours and minutes, introduces the four stars of the show, presents Justin's daily schedule, and automatically defaults to playing the live streaming video. Directly beneath the video is a live chat, where viewers can interact with one another as they watch the show.
While the design is less than beautiful, it is functional, although at present the video does have a tendency to disappear completely at certain intervals, and users have been complaining about the poor choice of chat client. Given that the show has only been broadcasting for a week, these are all teething problems that will be ironed out over time, and have little impact on the addictive pleasures of watching the show.
This is a text book example of how great content and fresh ideas will win out over glossy presentation, but I have no doubts that we will be seeing a site makeover if Justin.TV continues to grow in popularity, as it shows every sign of doing.
In addition to the front page of the site, Justin.TV has its own blog, which is essentially an archive of the video from previous days. Highlighted 'key moments' from the previous day sit alongside notes summarizing the most interesting things that happened. This makes for an easy way to cut out the dead wood for those not interested in the live streaming experience, or for devoted fans that missed out on the events of the day.
Another page gives a brief biography and video interview with each of the four key 'cast' members - the four people running the show. This serves as a good introduction to what each member of the team does, and gives you a quick idea about the different characters living in the Justin.TV apartment.
Finally, there is also a forum, and this is one of the key points of interaction between the producers of the Justin.TV show and their viewers. Here you find viewers giving all kinds of advice to the receptive Justin.TV cast, not just on what they should do on camera, but ways that they could improve the show and better work with their audience. It's refreshing to see some of the constructive ideas that people are coming up with, and this serves as good evidence for the fact that the show has managed to engage its viewers in a very short space of time.
Watch Justin.TV now
If you want to check outJustin.TV for yourself, you can click on the video below to open the live stream:
Justin.TV is a very interesting concept, taking the world of online video in a new direction that might just turn out to be the shape of things to come. By mixing and matching the edginess and immediacy of live TV with the grassroots appeal of grainy, streamed Internet video Justin.TV turns out to be a unique viewing experience.
There is something fascinating about following someone around from a first-person perspective, seeing the world as they do. Justin Kan, the star of Justin.TV wears a hat-mounted camera 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making use of the latest wireless technology to create a fully mobile view into his everyday life. The fact that he is the CEO of a web 2.0 startup isn't secondary, and provides a lot of interest to the unfolding 'drama', but I have the feeling that Justin.TV would be equally compelling if it were about the life of a teacher, banker or bus driver.
As the social web evolves, our ideas of what constitutes privacy are changing, and increasingly we find ourselves drawn to the small details of other people's lives. The success of the blog as a medium, and the recent Twitter phenomenon are taken to their logical conclusion with Justin.TV - the act of reporting everyday activities becomes a moot point, as every second of his life is broadcast live over the web.
While few will want to follow this extreme example, the possibilities for live streaming Internet video are fast becoming apparent. As we move from a period dominated by the video-on-demand model best exemplified by YouTube towards the interactive possibilities of live video, a lot of interesting possibilities open up for both content producers and advertisers looking to target niche audiences.
Already services like Stickam and UStream.TV are exploring ways that online video might be used in a number of scenarios to deliver live content - be it online cookery classes or live music concerts. Justin.TV pushes this exciting new facet of Internet TV to the extreme, and in doing so provides both an interesting case study in live Internet broadcasting and in creating compelling viewing alike.
Watch this space.
If you would like to learn more about Justin.TV you might want to check out the following links:
I have been on JTV for quite sometime now and as everyday goes by it seems as the streaming is getting worse & worse.. :( Other than that I love JTV, being able to meet new people around the world on here and just hang out. Hopefully the connections becomes better soon!!
Ryan - I can see your point, Justin.TV certainly does add a whole meta-level to the game, and I have myself been drawn into this dimension of the show.
It was funny to see Justin checking out this review for instance, and reading aloud one of my few criticisms: 'while the site design is less than beautiful?' Priceless.
jcohen - thanks for your feedback, and sorry if you were disappointed. You are totally right.
Thankfully the promise of the post title seems to be upon us, in the form of the stream-your-own-show services by Ustream.TV and Stickam.com. Ustream.TV is dedicated to becoming the YouTube of streaming, and Stickam.com is playing up the 'express yourself live' dimension of what they do in the wake of Justin.TV's success. Expect a review very soon to make up for that misleading title.
The title was deceptive: Video Stream Yourself To The World Non-Stop: Justin.TV---there was nothing in this article about how one can video stream themselves. All you talked about was justin.tv.
One of the more fascinating aspects of Justin.TV is the regressive meta stuff. Watching Justin and the Justin.TV crew talk about running Justin.TV. On one hand it's just a guy's work-a-day life. On the other, they're not doing this to create art. They want a business model, some VC funding, a whole network of HatCams.
About an hour ago, I tuned into Justin.TV as the team tried to discuss how much information about site stats to give out, given the strategic value of the information. The conversation was stilted as everyone was keenly aware people (like me) were listening. Meanwhile, a phone interview fished for numbers, and mused about whether TechCrunch would keep Justin.TV in the limelight in exchange for some inside scoops.
Not exactly JenniCam in that respect!
The Laughing Squid feedback loop a few days back was also mindbending. People blogging about Justin and turning up on camera, Twittering from the scene, then getting shout outs from Justin himself. It's enough to make you dizzy.
Interesting stuff. I imagine a sponsored road trip is in Justin's future (if the cellular network can sustain it). A pity he can't hop a plane to New York... or here to Hawaii. At least not without a guest hat host! Janet.TV?