Here are the new live-streaming technologies I now recommend to podcasters who want to broadcast live.
Also listen to my previous miniseries of episodes about live-streaming.
5 core requirements for live-streaming technologies
- Modern-friendly—Must not require Flash, must work on mobile devices
- Easy to use for visitors—Support easy logins, no confusion for playback (or auto-play option)
- Embeddable and responsive—A single piece of code to place on your own /live site and work with responsive web design
- Uninterrupted by ads—If there are ads, they must not interrupt the content (like Ustream has been known to do), getting a revenue share from ads would be a bonus
- Inexpensive or free—Under $10–$20 per month to reach your whole live audience
The most important thing for you is to always have a central platform where you send people. That's why I recommend having your own /live page. Then, it doesn't matter what technology you use because you're always pointing people to the same page. This will remove the need to monitor multiple chat rooms.
Live-streaming video: YouTube Live / Google Hangouts on Air
I used to use and recommend either Ustream or Livestream for live-streaming video. But Ustream started interrupting content with ads; Livestream started pushing sexually driven ads for alcohol to my rated-G channel, and they switched to separate embeds for each show.
Then, Google+ Hangouts on Air was introduced and eventually offered also as YouTube Live. These two technologies are related, but not entirely similar.
YouTube Live is a live-streaming service that can be a broadcast destination from desktop software such as Wirecast, Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder, and others. YouTube Live can also be streamed from Google's own Hangouts on Air, giving you camera-switching, lower thirds, screen-sharing, and more without an additional app.
Google+ Hangouts on Air (HOA) is really the readily accessible front face to YouTube Live. When you host an HOA, you are using YouTube Live as the backend technology.
YouTube Live and Hangouts on Air events can be scheduled in advance and will appear in your YouTube channel's list of live events.
The beauty of YouTube live is its flexibility and workflow. All you need for an embed on WordPress is the YouTube URL or standard YouTube embed code (available when you schedule your event, and when you go live with an HOA). This now works everywhere.
Using YouTube Live / HOA is also an easy way to create video content for your YouTube Channel. These talking-head videos will have higher reach and retention than “fake videos” (podcast audio over just an image), but lower reach and retention than produced videos (where you're actually showing things).
You can make a YouTube Live / HOA event public and findable, “unlisted” but viewable by those with the link (or on your page with the embed), or “private” to those with invitations only. Thus, you don't have to be public in order to live-stream to your YouTube channel or use Hangouts on Air.
The big drawback to YouTube Live / HOA is that each event has its own URL and, thus, it's own embed code. But that's where the free IX Show Latest YouTube plugin for WordPress comes in! This plugin (which I now actively maintain) offers a single WordPress shortcode to embed the latest video or multiple videos from one or more YouTube channels. It can display live events, upcoming events (called “pending”), or a message when there is no scheduled event.
I don't recommend pointing people to a HOA page on Google+ for your live events. If you set this up as a default Hangout on Air, it becomes less usable for your audience as they often can't watch and comment at the same time, and it (currently) doesn't work on mobile devices.
This is what I use on my Noodle.mx Network live page and I love it!
Thus, YouTube Live is my new recommendation for amatuer and professional live video streaming.
Live-streaming audio: Mixlr or Spreaker
Maybe you want all the interaction and accountability of live-streaming, but you don't have the technology or bravery for video. That's when an audio-only live stream can be a great choice. It also makes a good option for those with lower bandwidth. (On my Noodle.mx Network live page, I offer video and audio-only options for visitors.)
Here are the three audio-only live-streaming services to consider.
- Mixlr—This is my top recommendation for cost and quality. The free plan lets you broadcast for up to an hour at a time. Mixlr offers more pricing options for higher demands.
- Spreaker—Spreaker's live player now seems a bit better designed than Mixlr's and offers more options and ways for listeners to consume. Spreaker's pricing options are significantly higher than Mixlr's. But with Spreaker's ability to create an RSS feed, you could potentially use Spreaker to record and publish your podcast episodes straight to your subscribers.
- Potential: new BlogTalkRadio—Seriously? Yes! BlogTalkRadio is taking big steps toward improving their platform, starting with audio quality. Broadcasters in the beta program can now stream at 128 kbps instead of the previous limitation to phone-call quality. You can embed a player on your own site and accept live calls. However, BlogTalkRadio is currently too expensive (starting at $39 per month!) to receive my full recommendation.
Live chat rooms: Chatroll, Chatwing, Chatango, or Flyzoo
The best part of going live is engaging with your audience and allowing them to have conversations with each other. An embedded chat room provides a great place to build this community.
I believe a chat room should support a variety of login methods, allowing people to chat without an account or use a social login (such as Twitter, Facebook, or Google).
Here are my four recommendations for embeddable chat rooms.
- Chatroll—Clean, simple, and offers the core features. This is primarily a premium service (the free plan is limited to 10 users).
- Chatwing—This is packed with features and customization. It's free for unlimited users, and you can
add extra features or disable their branding for $1 per month per feature per chat roomupgrade to unlock all premium features for $11.20 per month per chat room (switched in early 2015).
- Chatango—This has long been a live-streamer's favorite. The latest version doesn't require Flash and provides nice display options (chat panel, a ticker, pop-up chat, etc.). It's completely free, but doesn't support third-party logins.
- Flyzoo—This new provider in the space has beautiful designs and a growing feature list. This currently starts at $3.90 per month per website.
Other options abound
There are plenty of other options for styles of live-streaming. But these are my new recommendations for technologies you can use on your own platform without having to send your audience to someone else's site or make them sign up for more accounts.
Please comment to share any other services you think are worth considering.
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- The Productive Woman: Productivity for busy women
- ONCE: Once Upon a Time podcast
- Welcome to Level Seven: Agents of SHIELD and Marvel’s cinematic universe podcast
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