Periscope 101: How to Broadcast Street Journalism From Your Phone

Periscope How-To

Periscope is a game changer.

It’s Twitter taken to new heights. Information flows in real time, but with an authentic, visual glimpse of what eyewitnesses are experiencing on the ground.

We saw Periscope’s impact on its first day on the job, back in March 2015, when an explosion rocked New York City.

Within seconds, the app’s feed was teeming with first-person views of the scene. Video clips from bystander cell phones came from every angle, showing unprecedented footage ahead of first-responder arrival.

This is not what we typically would see from the standard television broadcast. This was immediate – and unfiltered – providing a whole new level of access to viewers around the world.

In order to stay competitive, reporters need to embrace social reporting technology like this. And, according to WTOP digital reporter Neal Augenstein (@AugensteinWTOP), Periscope may be one of the most exciting ways to keep up.

Augenstein, by the way, was one of the first major-market radio reporters to use the iPhone as a primary field production device.

Last week, in a MediaShift #DigitalEd course, he shared tips for how to break news faster with mobile live-streaming. This got me hooked on learning the ins and outs of the app.

Here’s what I learned about how to make Periscope work for your coverage, from basic setup to pro tips.


The concept is simple. You broadcast a live video anytime, anywhere from your phone. Simply download the app to get started.

After launching Periscope, you can to create a freestanding account using your phone number or integrate the app with your Twitter handle. Connecting it with Twitter is recommended for the best visibility. The app is owned by Twitter, so the two really work hand-in-hand, especially in helping get exposure to grow your audience.

Persicope Screen Shots

Left: Persicope’s log-in page. Right: Periscope’s global map of live videos.

Once you’re logged in, go to the camera icon at the bottom of the screen. Your first visit here will allow you to enable your camera, microphone, and location. After granting permission for all three, you are ready to start streaming.


Unlike Vine, there is no limit on your broadcast. But, Periscope streams typically are short – perfect for mobile attention spans – and are available for replay for 24 hours.

Before starting your stream, there are a few simple steps to take as dictated in your broadcast view.

Title: First, you need to give your stream a title that’s relevant to your coverage. The title should be captivating, search friendly, and include smart hashtags. You want to compel your audience to click now and also make it easy for people to find later. Keep in mind what people might search for if they hear about the event after the immediacy has passed.

Write a compelling title here before broadcasting your view.

Write a compelling title here before broadcasting your view.

Location: Then, you need to decide if you want to include the location of your stream. This is a critical feature for breaking news coverage. Once word spreads about an event, people will likely search Persicope’s map for videos of eyes on the ground. Enabling this will allow your video to be found.

Privacy: The lock icon allows you to control who sees your stream. Depending on the content, you can allow everyone in to see your broadcast, or you can invite a select few.

Chat: When you’re on air, viewers can send real-time comments that you and other viewers can read. With the tap of a button, you can grant everyone the ability to chat or limit it to just the users who follow you.

Twitter: Lastly, you can have Periscope send a tweet on your behalf over your integrated Twitter handle. Augenstein always recommends arming this feature to get more exposure for your videos. Periscope still is fairly new, so you likely have a lot more followers on Twitter.

The 4 icons that determine your live broadcast settings: Location, privacy, chat, Twitter

The 4 icons that determine your live broadcast settings: Location, Privacy, Chat, Twitter

You can adjust all of these features conveniently from stream to stream. Just make your selections, press the “Start Broadcast” button, and you are live. Now, the magic happens. Introduce yourself, be clear, and keep it short to ensure your audience stays for every second.

Your followers on the app will be notified and can tune in to see what you’re up to. If they catch your share on Twitter, they can easily view the video on the web or via the app.

To end your broadcast, swipe down on the screen to reveal the stop button. You can save your broadcast to your camera roll (in settings, you can choose to save all broadcasts to your camera roll automatically). You also can grab the link to your broadcast to post the replay yourself on social media. If you’re unhappy with the video, deleting the replay is an option, too.


Aside from the immediate settings in your broadcast view, there are a few other features to take note of when streaming.

Camera Toggle: Once you start broadcasting, you can quickly toggle the active camera. If you want to video yourself instead of what you are looking at, double tap the screen to switch the view from your rear camera to the front-facing camera.

Hearts:  Viewers can show you some love by tapping the screen, in a feature that acts very much like applause. Hearts can be given during both real-time and replay broadcasts, and your audience doesn’t have to stop at just one. They can tap as much as they like, creating a “flutter.” The more hearts you acquire, the higher you rank in the app’s “most loved” section, making you easier to discover.

Viewer Stats: You can see who is currently watching a live broadcast by swiping right. After your broadcast is over, analytics will pop up with details on who watched, how many hearts they gave, and more.


In a digital-first news landscape, Periscope can be the tool to get you on the air or the web first.

If you happen upon a breaking news event, you can quickly and easily transport your viewers to the scene sooner than the typical news broadcast. This is where arming Twitter is crucial – it’s a distribution vehicle for your video.

If you can be one of the first to post on-the-ground footage, your viewers are likely to stay with you throughout the length of the event, says Augenstein. If you do it the right way and make a great video, you can establish ownership of the story for extended engagement on Periscope, Twitter, Facebook and your website.

Outside of breaking news stories, you can use Periscope to share moments throughout the reporting process to keep viewers in the palm of your hand. Post teaser videos about an enterprise piece still in progress, or use the stream as a way to share updates around an unfolding story.  You also can use the broadcast to host Q&As or connect with your audience. The interaction can help skew your audience younger.


Periscope defaults to a vertical view, but once you start broadcasting you can change the orientation.

But, which view is better?

It all depends, says Augenstein. While many media professionals will say horizontal is best, especially for social sharing and repurposing on TV and web, the vertical view is better for mobile visitors and makes the chat view more practical (in horizontal view, you have to turn your head to read the comments). It really all depends on the content, the plan in place for the video and the targeted audience.

But, Augenstein says, it’s best to embrace and use both views, especially with mobile video becoming increasingly more important. “Just like journalists have to learn how to write for print and broadcast/online, they might as well learn how to shoot both,” he says.


Augenstein shared a number of tips, tricks and hacks to up your Periscope game once you’re comfortably using the app.

Smooth Sound: As Augenstein put it, poor audio equals an “instant X.” Viewers will undoubtably close out and move on if your broadcast is difficult to listen to. To improve the sound of your audio, try using a handheld microphone. For an analog input, a simple XLR adapter cable will allow you to plug a standard microphone in to your phone’s headphone jack.  For digital input, Augenstein suggested the iRig Pro, which plugs in to your phone’s charging port. The only downside to this, Augenstein says, is that you can’t charge your phone while recording. He recommends purchasing a windscreen, too, which he’s used before to cover a hurricane.

Battery Life: One of challenges in streaming live video from your phone is that it chews through your data, and also your battery life. To prevent running out of juice in a critical moment, Augenstein uses a power bank, like the EC Technology 22400 external battery. It’s compact and can charge multiple devices simultaneously.

Steady Hand: Keeping a steady hand during the adrenaline rush of a breaking news story is a challenge. For a smoother video, and less multitasking, a tripod could be a wise investment. Augenstein also suggested a selfie stick to help you get a wider array of shots.

Extend the Shelf Life:  The 24-hour viewing period for a Periscope video can be difficult if you work for a news organization. You want the video to still be there tomorrow. Luckily, a hack allows the video to live online forever. Simply add the hashtag #Katch in your video title and the video will auto upload to the website. Each Katch video has a permalink that you can share. It also has an embed code, so you can easily repurpose the video without an expiration date. To auto-katch all of your livestreams, without having to use the hashtag, just alter your settings on your Katch account.

So, the next time you’re heading out to a breaking news scene – or just taking a walk – have your phone ready to broadcast live on social so your followers know you’re there capturing the next can’t-miss news story.

Stay up to date on media trends and best practices. Subscribe to Beyond Bylines to receive posts by email.  Or if you’re looking for supporting information and statements for breaking news stories, sign up for public interest news via PR Newswire for Journalists – your one-stop shop for newsgathering with access to custom newsfeeds, ProfNet experts and our multimedia gallery. Sign up at or contact us to learn more.

Anna Jasinski is manager of audience relations at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter at @annamjasinski for expert tips on writing and social media. You can also catch her tweeting the latest news in journalism and blogging on @BeyondBylines.

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5 Responses

  1. foxbrownfox says:

    Reblogged this on The House That Fox Built and commented:
    I’ve got mixed feelings about the use of Periscope. I’ll just park this here and leave it as to be determined.

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