Bambuser, Flattr, And A New Era Of Citizen Journalism

Last weekend’s #Occupy protests saw an outpouring of protesters in the streets of cities all over the world. The anger against banks is accessible to anyone affected by the financial crisis, but is now also easily accessible to anyone able to catch a live stream from a protester’s smartphone.

The Swedish mobile live streaming service, Bambuser, has seen a large swing in popularity in part due to the Arab Spring and #Occupy protests. This mobile shift feels like a natural progression as the internet has trended towards making news more instant and unfiltered.

This video of Rome was broadcast live last weekend

But unlike firsthand reports from Facebook or Twitter users, Bambuser provides viewers with an unfiltered reality as you move around with the cameraman. The service allows people thousands of miles away to live vicariously through protesters at these populist events, or even just to see what the situation is like on the ground for themselves.

The company informs us that hundred of thousands people visited Bambuser to watch over 2000 pieces of video during last weekend’s protests alone. “These numbers are unprecedented and emphasises how Bambuser has become the activists’ digital tool of choice,” said Executive Chairman Hans Eriksson.

To get a feel for the service myself, last night I browsed around the Bambuser live feeds and caught some street democracy in action. An Occupy Stockholm live feed was broadcasting live and a small group was gathered on a sidewalk talking logistics. “Hey! We have one viewer!” the cameraman said.

The group gave a hearty yell and waived to the smartphone. They quickly got back to discussions on how to get the most attention from the TV cameras, where to organize Saturday’s event, and who was going to bring the sidewalk chalk. The entire broadcast the cameraman dutifully aimed his smartphone at the person talking, which I was thankful for. Bambuser has been around since 2007, which means this live-from-a-smartphone streaming technology is old news. But the fact I can watch protest organization live from some guy’s iPhone still gives a “the future is now” feeling.

On Wednesday Bambuser announced a new integration with Flattr that may help develop a new era of citizen journalism. For those of you unfamiliar with Flattr, it’s a Swedish micropayments service we’ve covered in the past. It works similarly to the Facebook “like” button but also includes a small transfer of money. As live streams become a popular way to watch world events, micropayments seem like a clear path to repay people for showing us their reality. And if you take the concept one step further, each streamers’ desire to get paid by popularity may also motivate a higher quality of coverage.

But don’t get the impression Bambuser is all torches and pitchforks. A quick browse of their “broadcasts” page show people walking through NYC, filming sports events from their seats, and videoblogging unattached to their computer. Bambuser claims that the average delay is about 1.5 seconds, and recordings are also backed up to view later. Last month the company also came out with a Google Maps mashup that allows you to sort feeds by location.

By allowing users to publish free live streams to their blog or social media, Bambuser is reshaping how we think of both video and journalism on the internet. Chairman Hans Eriksson claims, “It’s apparent that people across the globe are eager to share what’s happening not only on Twitter and Facebook but also through live and interactive broadcasting. As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words.”

An action shot of Bambuser at a recent protest

The Bambuser blog also gave some protest highlights from this past weekend:
– Police surrounding London protesters
– Julian Assange talking to the crowd in London (starts approx 30 minutes into the clip)
– Street protests in TorontoBerlin and Portugal