The story of Twitch is the story of online streaming as a whole.
From the start, Twitch has maintained a stranglehold on market share and mindshare. When you look to stream an esports event, or even just check out the latest game, there is a good chance you would be jumping onto Twitch in one way or another.
From the company’s purchase by Amazon, to the creation of Twitch Prime, things have been bright for the online streaming platform. It’s given countless viewers a portal to watch their favourite players, personalities, and even celebrities. While there has been plenty of competition, particularly from YouTube and Facebook, none can top Twitch from an audience point of view. Sitting down with Chase, head of PR at Twitch, I wanted to dive into what makes the platform so engaging. In a forthright and candid talk, Chase outlined why fans love the platform, the changes that have been made and how Twitch will continue to evolve to meet its fanbase.
CGMagazine: Tell us about the current landscape of Twitch.
Chase: I think we’re at a very exciting time of where Twitch is heading. There are a lot of areas that are important to our community that we’re really doubling down on. Twitch’s mission statement — when we open up our staff meetings every week — our goal is to enable creators to make a living entertaining and educating their fans. And so to do that, a big focus of ours is monetization. We’re constantly looking for new ways — better ways — to enable creators to make a living.
When you look at Twitch right now, we have more ways to monetize than other services, and we have a lower barrier to entry, so we take advantage of those functions. We now have over, combined between our partners, billions — we have close to 230,000 people monetizing on our service. So those are really big numbers, and I think a big thing that’s been so beneficial to us is the free sub that comes with [Twitch Prime]. We’ve seen a really huge boost with the amount of subs our creators are bringing in based on the free 30-day subs they get through that program. So that’s been one of the biggest, best things we’ve done for our community.
CGMagazine: Can you explain the lower point of entry?
Chase: To become a Twitch affiliate, you really just have a very meagre amount of things you need to do to become part of that program. Just a minimal amount of broadcasting per week. The only different why it’s not open to everyone, because there’s no point in opening up services to people who don’t stream live. There’s no point in saying, ‘Welcome to the affiliate program,’ so it’s really for people who just show an interest in broadcasting regularly. That’s who we’re bringing into the fold.
CGMagazine: How have things changed from then to now?
Chase: At first, monetization, but I think moderation has really evolved. And I think a lot of it comes down to our updated community guidelines. And our guidelines govern the behaviour of the people on our site. The challenge we’ve always faced was early on, we had very specific rules. You cannot do X, Y, and Z. And then people would find way to skirt those rules. They’d go, they’d live to the letter of the law. So we go, ‘Okay, we need to not be so specific to make sure we can get people who are in the end trying to run around those rules. So we made it a little bit broader. But then people kept saying, ‘We need more clarity. We’re not sure what’s right or what’s wrong.’ And so it’s become like the Goldilock Syndrome like, ‘This bed’s too soft, this one’s too hard,’ and now we’ve found the one that’s just right, which is now we’re taking a holistic view with how we look at things.
For example, if somebody is accusing somebody of using their chat for sexual content based solely on how they’re dressed, we’re not going to suddenly take down that stream. We’re going to look the full, holistic view of the channel, look at the intent of the streamer, like what is the name of the channel? How are they using their cameras? What are they saying below their screen or site? Are they driving you to Patreon or things that are against our community guidelines? So being able to have that holistic view makes it so it’s not black and white, but it also gives clarity.
The other thing is, we now are able to [see] behaviour that happens offline. If it’s something we can validate when people are reporting a stream or reporting somebody else. So if somebody goes onto another service and says, ‘Hey, you guys. I want you to all raid this channel and say something offensive,’ — if they can report that person as a Twitch user and site this other source — that’s something we can actually validate that that person did indeed say, then we can take action. In the past, it was always a case of that if it didn’t happen on Twitch, we can’t really factor it in.
Everything we’re doing just comes from listening to the community, and that’s always been our truth north. It’s saying, ‘These are things that they want, these are things they want to see changed.’ And I feel like we’re getting closer to that. I mean, moderation is a never-ending challenge anybody in social media faces, but I’m really happy with where we’re going and how we’re leading it in terms of best practices.
CGMagazine: How do you actually moderate it?
Chase: Well, we have 24/7 human moderation teams, and we have a report button on every channel, so they’ll be moderating just like they’re moderating already. We’re constantly growing our moderation team as well. We also encourage people to use our — we create things like auto mod for a reason — our machine-based learning moderation product. We definitely encourage people to use that.
I think that people should be using a combination of relying on Twitch, but also relying on the tools that we created for them, and their own moderators.
CGMagazine: Speaking of Amazon, has there been any big changes related to that?
Chase: The big change has always been — why we work with Amazon is because they let us retain our culture and leadership. And from the very beginning, they’ve always helped us do things we wanted to do, but better and faster. That’s still how we work, but we’ve been collaborating with them based on things that we want to do for our community that makes sense.
Twitch Prime is a perfect example. That was a collaboration between Amazon and Amazon Prime products that we saw could be really beneficial to our users. And lo and behold, it was.
We’re also working with game commerce. We actually have a merch store on Amazon that’s in partnership with — so there’s a lot of things we work together on. But as far as Amazon changing — the way we operate in terms of our culture — that’s not their goal. Their goal is to support our community, not try and change it.
CGMagazine: With this acquisition, are you finding that you are getting more support?
Chase: Definitely, because they’ve enabled us to bring on board a lot more staff. We also have a share of knowledge. Amazon’s has amazing expertise in so many areas, and so we’re able to leverage their knowledge to help improve our knowledge of the industry.
We bring our own strengths to the table as well. We’re solving problems nobody else has ever done by live streaming on a global scale. We definitely have things we can offer each other, but having somebody like Amazon has been really great for us.
CGMagazine: What do you think of the competition? What makes Twitch unique?
Chase: We’re a community, not competitor-focused, in a nutshell. The direction our brand is flowing is influenced primarily by what our users want. So we constantly look to them, like some news service might come along and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this cool novel feature,’ and we’re not going to say, ‘Oh, they have that. We should get that, too.’ If our community is not asking for it, we’re not going to focus on it. I think by always being community-focused, that’s our ‘secret sauce.’ On top of that, we’ve also created our own native language in chat, which also helps unify this community. Our strength has always been our community, and listening to them, and trying to deliver on the things that they want from us to be successful.
The four biggest pillars that I think are of interest to us are monetization — you hear a lot about challenges on other services, and we’re trying to make it as easy to monetize and provide as much guidance on how people can move from being an affiliate to a partner. Moderation is always top of mind, as more and more things are happening in social media that are making headlines, we want to make sure that we’re doing our best to be as responsible as possible with our community. Technology-wise, I think the extensions innovation adds something that nobody else is doing, which is making — you’re not just watching content, you’re finding new ways to engage with it. I think that the fact that we expand so much new content categories that people have a lot more freedom to showcase things that they’re passionate about.
CGMagazine: Where do you see Twitch going in the future?
Chase: I think the future is extensions. I think the future of Twitch is helping change the way games are viewed and played, and our extensions product, along with drops and cheering with Bits — all of these elements are really changing how games are watched and played.
You can read the full interview in issue #34 of CGMagazine, available online, in print and for purchase here.
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