Sometimes the right content is live video

What we learned using Periscope at DVSA for the first time

By John Ploughman (Content Design Manager) and Richard Northern (Content Designer — Visual Media)

Richard setting up the camera and lighting with Lesley Young

We used Periscope for the first time in August 2016. During a consultation about changes to the driving test, we wanted to give users the chance to ask questions about the proposals to Lesley Young, the Chief Driving Examiner at DVSA.

The first thing to say is how grateful we are that the Government Digital Service (GDS) made their experience of using Periscope for the first time available. We used this as the model for how we ran ours.

We won’t repeat all of the great stuff in GDS’s blog post, but we’ll focus on some specific things we did, and what we’ll do differently next time.

Promoting the interview

A week before the interview was due to take place, we published a blog post explaining what Periscope was, how to get the app or watch on the web, and how the session would run.

We also offered users who couldn’t take part in the live broadcast the opportunity to leave their questions as comments on the post.

We then promoted that blog post during the week leading up to the interview on Twitter and Facebook. We set up a Facebook event with details of how to take part so users could subscribe to that, too.

We also sent out email alerts to driving instructors, encouraging them to either take part live, or leave questions in advance.

Running the interview

We filmed using an iPhone in portrait orientation, connected to mics (iRig), with tripod and lighting.

Behind the scenes we had a moderator with a MacBook, looking at the questions coming in and adding them to a shared Google Doc. The interviewer also had a MacBook with this Google Doc open, so they could see the questions that had been selected to be asked.

The interview lasted for 20 minutes, which felt about right.

At its peak, we had just over 300 users watching live. Over 3,000 joined at some point in the live broadcast — which was much higher than we anticipated.

After the interview

As soon as the interview was over, we started to upload the video to YouTube (the Periscope app can save this to your camera roll).

We also put the video in a shared folder on Google Drive, and 2 people started to type a transcript of the interview.

When all that was done (the same afternoon), we published the YouTube video version of the interview, and embedded it into an updated blog post with the complete transcript.

We also uploaded a text transcript to YouTube so that closed captions were available on the video.

Since publishing, the blog post with video and transcript has been viewed over 9,000 times. The video embedded in the post has been viewed over 3,000 times, with users watching just over 11 minutes on average.

What we’ll do differently next time

Our top 3 things to do differently next time are:

  1. Create an ICS calendar file for the broadcast. We’ll make that available in the blog post that promotes the broadcast, so users can add it to their calendar and be reminded.
  2. Film in landscape rather than portrait. We wanted to give live viewers a great experience, but the statistics show more users have watched the recording after the event, so we need to give them a good experience — and portrait on YouTube isn’t good.
  3. Get an extra person to be involved in the moderation. So we’ll have one person constantly looking at the questions, and the other adding questions to the Google Doc. We found it’s too much for one person to do when 300 people are asking questions!

We hope that this helps you if you’re planning on using Periscope for the first time.