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This article was published on September 23, 2011

Facebook’s f8 livestream: 25 days in the making, a 40-person team, a milestone in online media

Facebook’s f8 livestream: 25 days in the making, a 40-person team, a milestone in online media

For me, the biggest news from Facebook’s f8 event today isn’t social music, the partnerships or even the new Timeline feature – it’s the livestream.

This was no live feed of a CEO-fronted press conference as many tech companies have done before, this was a show with TV-level production values. Before the event even started, a team of bubbly presenters were building up the buzz by reading out comments from viewers. Then comedian Andy Samberg took to the stage offering a spoof Zuckerberg warm-up, before Zuck himself – far more the showman than he has been in the past – gave us a Steve Jobs-esque runthrough of all that was new.

This was no Jobsnote, though – this was actually far more – it was a mainstream show. While most livestreams of tech events are designed for the press, the tech industry and only the geekiest members of the public who care about such things, the f8 livestream (still ongoing as I write) has the production values of an event that the public actually care about and want to watch.

So, what was going on? Clearly this is clever marketing – Facebook wanted to make sure that it got the news out that it’s innovating rapidly in the face of competition from Google+ to a vast an audience as possible. Media outlets from the specialist tech press to general news sites such as the UK’s The Telegraph carried the feed. Even as I write, hours after the keynote itself has ended, the ‘TV show’ continues, featuring interviews with Facebook’s partners, streamed to an audience of (according to the livestream’s counter) over 10,000 viewers. We noticed it reaching highs of over ten times that number – up to 110,000 – during Zuckerberg’s keynote.

What Facebook has done today is set the bar for offering a self-controlled, uber-slick production about what, in the end,are just some new features on a website. In an interview on the livestream, a member of the production team said that the livestream production had been 25 days in the making, requiring a 40-person team on the day.

What we’ve learned today is that tech news (or at least, news about 800 million user-strong Facebook) has gone mainstream to the point where a slick TV-style show is completely justified. We’ve seen an example of how big companies with a high level of public interest can harness online video to get their story out first-hand, on their terms, in a way that’s accessible a wide audience without going through the filter of news reporters.

Once again – this is a slick TV-style show produced by a team of 40 people, topping over 100,000 simultaneous viewers (probably many more in total) about some new features on a website. Milestone.

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