Broadcasting meetings to residents live on the Internet needn’t cost the earth, as Monmouthshire County Council has demonstrated in recent weeks.
The council has bypassed expensive monthly fees from livestreaming services by directly streaming meetings, from the council chamber in Usk, to YouTube. Joanna Goodwin, my old mucker from my time at Monmouthshire, works on the council’s website and digital strategy and was instrumental in getting the livestreaming working:
“We were given the brief to livestream meetings from our chambers, which were kitted out with cameras and audio equipment that allowed everyone in that room to see and hear what was happening.
“The price of bringing the meetings online using a paid for service seemed very steep – by working out how to stream to YouTube we have saved up anything up to £180k a year in subscription costs as well as the set up costs and hosting fees.”
Jo is a hero for getting this up and running!
It was plan that took some experimentation, some quick learning from the web team and some strong belief that we could make the project work using a different way.
I pitched the idea of free livestreaming services like Bambuser when Jo and I thrashed this out a year ago, then Jo suggested YouTube and it seemed ideal.
YouTube is a place where people already go and where they are familiar and YouTube is the second largest search engine on the web.
YouTube also allows people to share a link to a specific point in a video, handy if you want to point out what a councillor has said on Twitter or Facebook.
It’s owned by Google, as as a consequence, people are very likely to find these videos through the search engine if we are clever about how we name and describe video content.
YouTube also allows residents to easily watch on mobile devices, something some of the paid for services don’t provide. Increasingly, smartphones are being used to consume information, so this was important to us.
And, it’s free.
Initially we played with Google Hangouts which would then publish to YouTube.
I left the council early 2014 and Jo took the lead to complete the project, working with an expert who has worked livestreaming events like the London Fashion Week and got it all working properly.
These things are never easy – technically and professionally.
We were working on a new way to do things which included getting buy-in and trust from senior manager that it could be done and getting support and patience from residents who wanted to see meetings as soon as possible.
Just buying something off the shelf would’ve been the easy answer so I’m proud to have been involved in this – we went with our hearts and it takes a mature organisation to let staff do that.
Hopefully, other authorities can learn from this livestreaming adventure and save money in a hard time for local government of budget cuts and job losses.