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OPINION: Can Twitch be the future of media?

It is not a new idea that the world is quickly evolving into the digital age. This has been happening for quite some time and discussed enough to make many sick of hearing about it. However, this past election cycle we saw a new phenomenon occurring that was unexpected to many. The rise of the popular, primarily video game streaming service, Twitch.

Twitch began in 2011 as a platform to stream gaming online but has very rapidly evolved into much more. From people livestreaming their public lives to people simply streaming themselves eating, there has been an increasing demand for content about people’s lives and events. In November 2020, we saw this emerge in the middle of the heated election campaigns.

In one of the hottest U.S. elections for some time that brought drama and turmoil, several online streamers became some of the most-watched channels for news sources. The most popular of these streams came from popular Twitch streamer Hasan Piker.

Piker hosted a stream for over 80 hours over the course of the election that peaked with more than 225,000 viewers and hit 4.5 million views. Anyone that knows this media well can understand that these are unprecedented numbers. Especially for a one-person streaming channel rather than a large network. This has been talked about often since November, but in many people’s opinion this is an event that could mark a large shift in news resources and viewership. 

A lot of viewers are tired of the traditional news channel and talk show presentation that has been common for years. This led to more shows using a gimmick or present in unique and interesting ways. From shows that interview while eating spicy chicken wings to Piker’s Twitch streaming channel, there are many varieties of this concept.

Does all this mean that the death of modern news casting and presentation is near? Well, not quite. These new platforms are a manifestation of a new generation’s differing interests. A fresh alternative to bring some diversity to the genres. I believe this amount of viewership is not lost on larger networks. Many are likely to change, if they have not already, to find viewership in this generation that craves this style. 

There have already been many different groups to take advantage of the growing platform of Twitch. Branches of the U.S. military have Twitch channels, along with several networks increasing investment into the platform. Twitch is only one example of this. Another is the culture-changing phenomenon Tiktok. Many news channels have also made Tiktok accounts to increase viewership for a wildly different audience than what they are known for. Even the Herald has gotten into this genre of content with our own Tiktok account, which you can check out at @wkuherald.

In the opinion of this editor, these phenomena are necessary for the future survival of these networks. The audience is quickly growing as the new generation changes. The traditional news network is not going anywhere anytime soon. 

These networks are still seen as more “legitimate” and hold a certain air about them, though this is likely to change as Gen-X ages. 

As the new generation grows up it seems they care less about the precedent that these networks hold over this genre. Especially when watching a less regulated platform like Twitch, simply because it’s more entertaining. Many people feel that individuals like Piker are more relatable, especially in their take on the news.

As for Twitch alone, there will likely be a large wave of political commentators seeking the same success as Piker on the platform. Though not all of them will find success, there is sure to be rapid growth in the creation and viewership of this content. 

Will networks be able to evolve with this creative avenue or will they be left in the dust by young content creators? Submit your thoughts to the Herald!

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OPINION: Can Twitch be the future of media?