The future of content production belongs to video game streamers

July 15, 2020

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

 

Jamin Warren: Hello, welcome to the Gaming and Marketing Podcast. I’m Jamin Warren, your host, and Founder of Twofivesix, a strategic consultancy that helps brands reach gamers as customers. Our clients’ organizations often struggle with reaching this crucial audience with an authentic and natural voice that does not compromise the value of their brand. They want to find familiar customers in the world of gaming but aren’t sure where to start. We started this podcast to give you insight into why marketing to gamers is more important than ever.

Our guest this episode is Doron Nir, CEO and Co-founder of StreamElements. With over a decade of experience in the game’s world, Doron brings together his expertise in digital game design, software development, and teaching in the development of his company, StreamElements. It’s pretty clear that a new generation of celebrities has risen from the world of game streaming and live content creation. Achieving this level of success doesn’t come without intensive work, and we often don’t see that. The title “content creator” combines the roles of performer, producer, editor, marketing, and community management all at once. Doron starts off by describing his StreamElements platform and how it enables content creators, big or small, to do the work more easily.

Doron Nir: The one-liner on what StreamElements is it’s a content creation engine for live video. How I usually explain it is that when you’re watching live video, whether it’s a sports broadcast or newscast, there’s a whole lot of production tools that come into play, inserting titles on-screen and switching between cameras and providing everything that is not essentially the person who’s broadcasting at the moment. These systems are very expensive, when you’re talking about professional-grade production tools, you’re talking about systems that start in the tens of thousands of dollars, and that’s what every TV studio and TV station has.

When you get to internet live broadcasting, most of these creators start from their basement or their private room with zero resources, basically, an internet connection, a computer, and maybe a camera. We bring them a set of software tools that add the production value and audience engagement features that they need to broadcast on platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and Mixer. These tools are really critical to engage with the audience in a meaningful way to appear as a more empathic content creator and actually, to know what you’re doing while you’re broadcasting.

Another analogy that I sometimes use is, you know these guys that have an entire set of musical instruments on them? You have the drums on the back, and you have the accordion on the front and the harmonica. Live video content creators are pretty much like that. They have to play a game, communicate with the audience, operate an entire broadcast, all at the same time. We really provide them tools that help them focus their attention and seem like a better creator when they’re doing those long live streams.

One of the most amazing things about live streamers and gaming content creators, these are really some of the most hard-working people in the entertainment business. They stream very long hours. The average successful streamer would broadcast anywhere from 40 to 60 hours a week. They’re doing that fully focused, engaging with their audience, not losing their cool at all times. It’s really hard, and I’m just in admiration of these guys.

Jamin: Tell me a little bit about the life cycle, how someone gets into the streaming space?

Doron: It’s interesting because I have an 11-year-old boy that’s actually making his first strides in this area, and I get to see firsthand what it looks like from a very young age. It basically starts with him wanting to stream and then getting a very basic setup of a gaming computer and internet connection, maybe a camera, and a good microphone so that he can connect with the audience. Then it’s basically go live, zero viewers, go live, zero viewers, go live, zero viewers. At the same time, you’re playing multiplayer games. You’re starting to make some connections in the gaming community.

You start getting to know people, you watch other creators, and so now, you have 30 followers, and when you go live, 30 people get a notification that you’re going live, and some of them are going to come and check you out. You continue going live, and now it’s not zero viewers, it’s two viewers, maybe three viewers, maybe four. Essentially, this is how you start, and you can go on for years with, I would say, under 50-100 concurrent viewers on these streams, and it’s really just about you connecting with some friends.

It’s more of a social hangout than it is real content creation and broadcast. Slowly, as you become better at the game and as you connect to people more, you become entertaining, and you actually start attracting an audience. For some people, it could be something viral that explodes on social media, it could be just a raid or a host that you’re getting from another top creator that basically gives you a bunch of viewers and they check you out. Through these connections, through these incidents, you slowly grow until at some point, you already have a sustainable audience.

Jamin: It sounds a lot like comedy clubs. You go out and do a circuit in front of tiny audiences or tell a joke to one person, and that’s how you practice, practice, practice.

Doron: I think it’s really a lot of entertainment, a lot of performing, is about that. It’s not like Seinfeld had a hit show and that was it. About 10 years before he had a hit show, he had his first Johnny Carson appearance. Before that, he spent about 15 years in shitty clubs and touring the country just getting his act together and becoming good.

Jamin: For your son, it’s interesting because it’s an interesting question about audience and who your audience is. On the one hand, you want to create content that’s going to be compelling for initially a small circuit of people. But then there’s also this element of wanting more popular people to notice you as well. What you have seen interesting with your son as he learns? How do you thread that needle between explicitly trying to get someone with a much bigger audience to give you a cosign versus doing something that’s going to be authentic and original for the audience that you already have?

Doron: When you’re an 11-year old, you really just want to play well. He’s a Fortnite player, and for him, it’s all about competitive gameplay, how does he get to a higher division? I see that over time in the last six months, he started to understand that human connection is important. I see that when people watch his stream, he starts talking to them more, responding to everything in chat. On the other hand, while he’s not broadcasting, consuming a lot of content from other creators on how to be better. It’s always about the same thing.

It’s about the entertainment value of your stream, meaning, the games you play and the quality that you play them, and the added layer of entertainment that you bring, and the human connection. When it comes to live streaming, I always say, instead of imagining that this is somebody performing on stage, imagine that this is somebody that is running a club, and the club is playing music, but it’s also facilitating a lot of human interactions, it’s not just passive viewership.

The better you are at making people have a good time while watching your stream, the more successful you’re going to be. The biggest channels are not the ones that are most entertaining, but the ones that have the best communities. The best is a huge difference.

Jamin: That’s a great point. Have there been any engagement, best practices or tips, and tricks that you’ve seen have worked really well?

Doron: Absolutely. I’ll start and say that when it comes to content creation, I think that the thing that is most important is persistence. Unfortunately, persistence is not enough, but it’s the most important. I don’t know any single content creator that would get to where they are without persistence. Then it’s about listening to your community and connecting with your community. That’s really, first and foremost, a human thing. Just to have a conversation, be interested in other people, share your life, share your thoughts, be open to criticism.

When it comes to StreamElements, the functionalities that we provide as part of our content creation engine is really divided into three categories. The first two are for everyone, and one of them is really for the more successful tier. The first one is what we call production value. It means motion graphics for your stream, starting scene, opening scene, if you go on a break in the middle of scene to something nice to put on the screen, be right back, and everything that has to do with alerts popping on the screen.

If you’re a small creator and somebody follows your channel, it would be nice to pop an alert on screen that says, “Jamin just followed the channel.” Then the creator has the opportunity to say, “Hey, Jamin. Thank you for watching the channel, and I hope to see you again next time.” Later on, as you become more successful and instead of followers you start to see subscribers or different types of support, that actually becomes a way to thank people for supporting the stream and actually make money whether it’s from merchandising, subscriptions, direct donations, or brand sponsorships.

The other category of tools that we provide are things which we call audience engagement mechanisms, and the most popular one is the loyalty point system, which essentially enables you to give frequent watcher points or dollars or any kind of funny money that you want to give out to your audience for watching the stream, and that usually starts with something like every 10 minutes, you get 10 points.

Then the audience, while playing, can use these points to activate various things on the stream, they can pop graphics on the stream, they can play mini-games with the other viewers on chat, they can redeem perks in a Perk Store that the creator is setting up, and those perks could range anything from– We have one music creator, whose Perk Store is all around dedicating songs, so if you want to get a happy birthday song on your birthday, then you redeem those points. It’s very versatile.

Jamin: Tell me a little bit about some of the opportunities like if you’re a sponsor or looking to get involved in this ecosystem with StreamElements, what are some places that you might recommend they go?

Doron: I think if you’re a brand and you’re looking at this entire beautiful community and cultural movement of gaming and gaming content creators, the best way to get connected to it is with the content creators themselves because, at the end of the day, when somebody watches a channel, they’re watching a content creator, they’re listening to a content creator, these individuals’ entertainers artists, have massive influence on their audience, and therefore, connecting with them directly is the best way to do it.

The place where we can help is really, number one, find the best creators for a specific brand, if you’re a brand that wants adult audiences in the East Coast or people that are interested in cars or collectibles or casino games, there’s always an audience that you need to find, and if you work with the wrong influencers, if you just work with the top ones, because they have the best numbers, you are bound to get really poor ROI on your marketing budgets.

However, if you carefully curate the most engaged communities that fit the audience you’re trying to reach or the customer base you’re trying to reach, you can get amazing ROI and you will get partnership from these creators like no other media outlet you can imagine. I think we see ourselves more like guides that can help brands steer through this jungle of massive amount of content creators.

This is a very innovative area for brands because think about it, originally, if you were a brand, in a specific city in America, 50 years ago, you probably had five or six media outlets that you can put money in, and then it grew into 200 because you had TV stations and radio stations and cable stations, but it never got to tens of thousands, and finding the right audience for your product in an ecosystem of tens of thousands of creators can be very intimidating and can lead to very bad results.

That will basically make a lot of brands say, “Yes, we’re not going to touch that. We did some tests, it was horrible. We didn’t get good results. We got screwed by an agency. I don’t know what, but we’re not doing that again, we’re just going with the safe route of TV ads where we know how to spend our money.” Don’t do it. This is a space that is growing every single day.

Just in the last month over COVID, we’ve seen viewership of live streaming and gaming content grow by almost 70%, which is unbelievable, and brands really have to invest the time and effort to learn this space, understand how to operate in it and how to deploy budgets in it because it can deliver tremendous ROI.

Jamin: I think sometimes there’s this perception with brands that you can just jump in and do your thing and you’ll get great results as opposed to making this longer-term commitment that requires research. I think for so many streamers, I hear this from streamers too, is like, they’ve had bad experiences with brands that don’t understand what they do or ask and to do things that are inauthentic for their audience or-

Doron: Adding on top of that, the way content creators engage with brands is also very important. I think if you got to the point where you already have an engaged audience that’s supporting you with subscribers, that’s supporting you with donations, there’s sometimes a notion that if you go and work with brands, you’re a sellout. We see a lot of that in chat, “You’re a sellout.”

At the end of the day, working with brands is a great way to make a living without actually taking money from the audience itself, but it requires a certain level of brand safety and responsibility.

From our perspective, because we care about this ecosystem so much, the role of mitigating and just conveying the right expectations to the brand and to the creator is really what we’re doing with regards to brands in this space. Everybody who was relying on billboards, and conferences, and various events that happened in a physical area, all sports sponsorships are frozen right now, all concert sponsorships are frozen right now. It’s all moving to a digital landscape. I think it’s really going to have an enormous impact on pushing brands and advertisers to the digital domain. Then, within the digital domain, it’s going to get divided based on the audience that you’re trying to look for.

Jamin: That’s a great observation. Last thing I would ask you about was just the audience. Can you tell me a little bit about what the audience for StreamElements looks like? I think from a consumption standpoint, maybe how they might be different from other types of content creators. Obviously, they’re literally across a wide variety of forms. I’m just curious about how you find the streamers’ personality or psychographics might be different from another type of content creator?

Doron: An interesting thing about western live streaming platforms is that we associate a lot of live streaming with gaming content. When you look at China, Japan, that is not the case, live streaming in those areas, it is primarily mobile. I would say that gaming is definitely a decent portion of it, but not a dominant portion of it, most of it is just about social connection. What we call IRL, or “Just Chatting,” or all these things, which essentially mean I’m connecting with my audience via live stream.

In the west on Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, and Mixer, live streaming, in a lot of sense, is associated with gaming, and therefore, the audience is predominantly male, people talking about gaming content being consumed by 85% male. The audience is anywhere between 15, maybe even younger, to 35, 40. I think I’m in the higher edge of the spectrum, being in the mid-40s right now. The thing is that it’s expanding. What I’ve seen in the past couple of months is that live streaming is now happening with a lot of musicians who don’t have places to perform and therefore, they’re doing live streams.

With a lot of journalists, that use live streams to do Q&A and just report directly to their audience with a lot of politicians and statesmen who use live streaming to connect with their communities. I’m sure we’re going to see this expand to additional walks of life, whether it’s fitness, or anywhere where people are going to be a little bit concerned to gather together and will use digital mediums instead.

As far as gaming content is concerned, this is what I said, it’s geeks, it’s gamers, it’s male mostly, it’s under 35 mostly, but then, it really differs on the game, the people that watch Destiny are different from the people that watch Fortnite and are very different from the people that watch Animal Crossing. You have within the vast cultural landscape of video games, you have the more adults and the more mature, and you have the younger. You have the toxic and you have the friendly. That’s why you need to understand a much higher level of resolution than just saying gaming or live streaming. It’s like saying what’s on TV? Well, there’s a whole lot of stuff on TV. What do you want to watch?

Jamin: [chuckles] That’s 100% true. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. This was an awesome conversation.

Doron: Thank you, Jamin.

Jamin: Thanks to our listeners for tuning in. This podcast is produced by me and with help from Anthony Martinez and Lyn Rafil. With music, by Lucy. If you like the show, please share it with your friends and colleagues and leave us a rating on iTunes or wherever you listen. I’d also love to hear from you. You can find me, Jamin Warren on Twitter, @JaminWarren. You can also find Twofivesix, that’s spelled out, on Twitter @twofivesix, and visit our website twofivesix.co where you can sign up for our newsletter. Thanks so much and take care.