IRL Streaming: Everything You Need to Know
The digital age has taught us that if you can put it online, there’s an audience for it. People have been live streaming their hobbies and talents for years on platforms like YouTube, Facebook Watch, Instagram, Periscope, and Twitch, but the latter has kicked off a new branch of video content — IRL streaming.
You’re undoubtedly hip enough to know that IRL stands for “in real life,” but what kinds of content falls under that umbrella? Essentially, an IRL stream is anything unrelated to video games (due to its roots on Twitch, which is famous for its gaming community). Arguably, it’s also taken on an interpretation that infers solo creators or small groups broadcasting their hobbies, conversations, or other snippets of daily life instead of big-budget productions.
Content creators are streaming just about anything, from sports-related discussions and fortune-telling to ASMR and crafting. Some streamers even build substantial followings that result in earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The question is now, what are you to make of IRL streaming, and how do you get on board?
What Is IRL Streaming?
IRL streaming started on Twitch, which created a separate category for non-gaming content creators who were struggling to attract viewers on a platform dominated by gamers. The new category allowed these creators to distinguish themselves and reach new audiences who may not have found them otherwise. However, even this new genre became convoluted, so Twitch introduced a wider array of tags like Just Chatting and Food & Drink that allowed streamers to categorize their content even further.
IRL streaming has since expanded beyond Twitch. The platform remains the go-to platform for this kind of content for many, but media like Q&As (which many celebrities and professionals are known to host now and again), behind-the-scenes looks, and informative talks that fall under the definition of IRL streaming are discoverable in places including Instagram, DLive, Periscope, and TikTok.
Examples of IRL Streaming
Some examples of IRL streams on Twitch and other platforms include:
- Fitness and Health: Trainers and fitness instructors are increasingly leveraging IRL streaming to coach audiences at home through workouts and meal planning.
- Crafts: Crafters can take advantage of streaming platforms to create their works in front of viewers. Their audiences don’t have to wait to see finished products; now, they have a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how different crafts come to life (such as model robots, crocheted blankets, costume design, etc.)
- Travel: Travel content is popular on almost every social media platform, so travelers have Twitch streams IRL useful for walking viewers through different cities and providing tips in real time.
- ASMR: ASRM stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response,” which is a tingly and relaxing sensation many people feel when hearing certain trigger sounds. If you like extra help falling asleep at night, you can listen to ASMR streamers whisper or create other soft noises as if they were right next to you.
- Cooking: Why read instructions or watch a prerecorded video when you can follow along with someone as you try to master a new recipe? You’ll know exactly how long it takes, what steps are required, and have opportunities to ask questions.
- Just Chatting: This category is immensely popular on Twitch among viewers who simply want to participate or tune into casual conversations, study sessions, opinion talks, and more.
- Politics: Discussing politics on the internet can get messy, but if you have thoughts you want to share, IRL streaming opens a designated forum for conversation between streamers and viewers about subjects that deserve analysis.
- Commerce: Some e-commerce platforms enable merchants to stream product demos to curious shoppers while answering questions and providing comparisons.
How to Monetize IRL Streaming
There are all kinds of ways to make money from live streaming, but traditional routes like ad revenue are mostly for channels like YouTube. When it comes to IRL streaming on Twitch, in particular, common ways to earn money include:
- Subscriptions: Twitch streamers can put their profiles behind a paywall and require viewers to pay monthly subscription fees of $24.99, $9.99, or $4.99 to access content. This method is best reserved for individuals who stream consistently and already have a sizable audience.
- Donations: The donation feature is pretty unique to Twitch and is the most common way for beginning streamers to make some cash. Viewers simply tip their favorite content creators to express appreciation, so the more tips streamers receive, the more they earn.
A way for IRL streamers to monetize their videos across platforms is to acquire brand endorsements. Companies seeking to take advantage of influencer marketing are learning the value of live streaming because, unlike a well-produced social media post, a casual product mention during an unskippable live stream comes across as word-of-mouth marketing instead of an obnoxious advertisement. Content creators who attract enough attention from brands can secure deals worth thousands.
How Businesses Can Get on Board With IRL Streaming
Besides making brand ambassador deals with content creators, how else can businesses take advantage of the IRL streaming trend? Honestly, it’s challenging — due to the genre’s nature, IRL streams tend to be non-business related, so any attempt to put one of your employees in front of a camera may feel disingenuous.
Influencer marketing is your best bet if you want to take advantage of IRL streaming from a marketing perspective. However, there is another facet of this category that many businesses love: live commerce. This sub-category isn’t like individual people streaming their hobbies — instead, platforms like Taobao enable business owners, solo entrepreneurs, farmers, and other merchants to sell their products through shoppable videos. Sellers can stream product demos and Q&As directly to interested consumers who can interact with products more closely than any other kind of online shopping.
Some businesses are taking advantage of subscription-based models, too. The fitness industry is an excellent example. We previously mentioned that trainers and instructors are turning to live streaming, but companies like Peloton and well-established gyms are also known to host fitness classes live. Prerecorded training sessions lack motivation, but real-time workouts — even remote ones — encourage people to keep moving, and they have fewer issues paying for the accountability and convenience.
Proper IRL Stream Setup
Ready to dive into IRL streaming? If you want to produce something higher-quality than what Instagram Live lets you get away with, you’ll need a proper IRL stream setup with equipment including:
A Top-Notch Camera and Microphone
The better quality your video and audio are, the more likely viewers will be to keep watching your content. Grainy images and hard-to-understand sound encourage audiences to look for similar streamers elsewhere. Desktop computer cameras are usually sufficient, but you can also opt for a GoPro or DSLR camera if you’ll be filming on the go.
Invest in some lighting equipment, too. Outdoor and travel streamers can get by without it, but anyone streaming from their homes would benefit from lighting that doesn’t force them to get online during peak sunlight hours.
Be sure to check out our favorite camera, mixer, and switcher recommendations, including how to make a full-blown live streaming studio on a budget.
Social media platforms like Facebook Live and TikTok incorporate native encoding software, but if you want to multicast and reach audiences across channels, you’ll likely need encoding software like Vmix, Wirecast, or OBS Studio.
You’ll also need streaming software or a cloud-based platform to enable said multicasting, transcoding, and adaptive bitrate streaming. This technology allows you to deliver your content to audiences no matter where they are, what devices they’re using, or their internet speeds.
This one should go without saying, but a solid IRL stream depends on a fast internet connection for first-mile delivery. The point of live streaming is that it’s in real time, not a few seconds after!
Get Streaming IRL
IRL streaming is a younger live streaming trend, but it’s not going anywhere. Who would pass up a chance to live their daily life and get paid for it? As long as you’re comfortable putting it on camera, chances are, someone will be interested in watching. Businesses have an unprecedented opportunity here, too, but the bottom line is: whatever you’re going to stream IRL, make sure it provides someone with value.
Get started streaming with Wowza to reach the audience you never knew you had. Or even better, build the next big IRL streaming platform on top of our video technology.
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About Jacob Yoss
Jacob is Wowza’s resident content writer, creating blog posts, case studies, and more that educate Wowza’s audience. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Jacob currently travels the world as a digital nomad and is also passionate about social justice, art, and fantasy literature.