If YouTube has taught us anything, it's that humans will watch just about any video you put in front of them. Cats playing keyboards? Why not? We can't get enough. Live-streaming service Spreecast is taking video to the next level with interactive features that turn the lens around, because as much as we love watching videos, we love starring in them even more.
Spreecast launched in 2011 as a way for people to live-stream their conversations. The iOS, Android, and browser-based service is akin to Google Hangouts, with up to four people able to appear on-screen at any given point, but the key difference is that the stream's viewers can request to join in on the conversation. To strengthen that viewer-creator relationship, Spreecast is debuting a dramatic redesign with a few new features.
The new look takes a few cues from YouTube with a white background, larger video size, and comments and viewer-submitted questions that appear below the video. In a nod to Reddit, the service also introduced an interactive question queue, so viewers can up-vote and down-vote questions.
"This allows producers to see the most important questions and the questions that the audience wants to see answered at the top of the list," said Spreecast product head Grant Lindsay. "We think the question queue is going to be key, because producers will be able to see [what's important] directly from their audience."
The previous design tucked questions to the bottom right of the screen, where they didn't get a lot of views. If the video stars decide to tackle a question, it moves to the top, right above the video, instead of overlaid on top of the screen as it did in the previous design. If you don't have a question and don't want to join the video, but you want to chat with other viewers, Spreecast has locked chat to the right rail so you can participate no matter where you are on the screen.
Spreecast works with major media partners like ESPN, the Wall Street Journal, and MTV to host interactive conversations about news, and allows those partners to embed live-streams on their own sites. But the service is also designed for you and your friends to host a chat about craft beer, crafting, or whatever you're interested in. You can make the stream private and unlisted (another new feature) or public and searchable if you want others to join in.
The new design offers a few new features to entice more video stars to host conversations on the service. Now if you're a producer, you can see a user's audio/video connectivity quality if they want to join in on the conversation.
Spreecast doesn't really know exactly how many people use the service. To watch a live-stream or search through the site's archives, you don't need to register for an account. To comment or participate, you do. That fuzzy active viewer count could make it tough for Spreecast to make money on ads, but founder and CEO Jeff Fluhr said Spreecast is doing just that.
"There's a hierarchy of video from an advertiser's perspective," said Fluhr, who also founded StubHub. "There are videos you might find on places like YouTube, but then there's live video. We believe that interactive live video is a notch above that."