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Periscope’s promise and peril

Live streaming is pushing further toward the mainstream, but hurdles remain.

With Twitter’s March acquisition of the mobile application Periscope (launched a few weeks after its main competitor, Meerkat), live streaming is now more accessible to both streamers and viewers.

The riots in Baltimore apparently have offered Periscope a journalistic coming out. The Guardian’s Washington correspondent, Paul Lewis, has been lauded for his powerful interviews conducted over the streaming app. Other journalists — Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell , Telegraph’s Raf Sanchez, ABC7’s Jay Korff and  D.C. Fox News 5’s Alexandra Limon have also covered Baltimore using Periscope.

Why now?

Live streaming is not new. But what’s behind its late surge? Writing for TechCrunch, Sarah Perez credits both recent technological advances and cultural shifts.

“Our cultural mindset has changed to the point where we’re ready to embrace this sort of public performance. Meanwhile, as viewers, the smartphone’s ubiquity means we all have an easy way to tap into these ongoing streams from anywhere,” she wrote on March 27.

It can’t hurt that Periscope has been integrated with Twitter, which boasts more than 300 million active users.

Sources of lag

Journalists have been accused of hyping the recent live stream boom, however. Selena Larson of the Daily Dot noted that while these tools have been used by a few members of the press in Baltimore, “[n]either Periscope or Meerkat seems to have caught on with regular citizens” and “haven’t quite lived up to the hype of being go-to sources of real-time news in conflict areas or protest zones.”

And while live streaming apps offer opportunities for immediacy and engagement, the media may need to be reminded that the content of streams are more often raw information than actual journalism.

“We need to start making a distinction between ‘news’ and ‘source material’ again,” wrote Mic Wright March 30 for technology news outlet the Next Web. “As odd as it may sound, live video of a fire, an explosion or a protest isn’t the story, it’s a catalyst for a story. We need analysis and thought to be introduced before something become[s] news. Just being present is not enough,”  Wright added.

Periscope and the PGA

In areas where journalism and the entertainment industry mix, apps such as Periscope may get media personnel in hot water.

The PGA Tour revoked the press credentials — for the remainder of the season — of Stephanie Wei on Thursday after she used Periscope during a practice round of a Pro-Am tournament earlier in the week, which was not broadcast.

Fans are free to use the app, however.

With the assumed connection of technology and youth, some fans said the Tour (whose viewership skews old) had shot itself in the foot. Paul Kapustka of Mobile Sports Report wrote on Thursday that pro golf “should embrace livestreaming apps […] to attract new fans and show ‘missing’ action.”

Wei claimed she was promoting their product. Testing Periscope on the range on Monday, Wei said she followed a group in their practice round because she was told it would be interesting, and thought she “was spreading fanfare for the Tour.”

Wei said she didn’t know the Tour’s rule. “It’s such new technology!” she tweeted. She also tweeted that there are “[l]ots of theoretical questions here. What constitutes ‘video’?” Periscope is a live streaming app, she said, “and ‘videos’ disappear after less than [a] day.”

Wei added that her punishment “[f]eels personal” and does not fit the crime. When asked by GJR if she thought other members of the media would have received the same ban, she said no. Wei’s timeline made multiple mentions of the “old boys club,” which has been a long-standing criticism of the Tour.

But regardless of any potential personal motivation behind her de-credentialing, it could set a precedent for Periscope’s place in professional golf and the sports media at large.