The wind is already whipping and New Yorkers, having bought up all the bottled water and discount Halloween candy they could find, are ready to hole up in their apartment for the next two days. It’s not like you can hop on the ACE and go check out the scene at the waterfront, since the subway is shut down and all.
Luckily for anyone seeking a little vicarious storm-chasing, there’s Livestream. The startup has installed a camera on the roof of its Chelsea HQ and will be broadcasting the storm’s transit across downtown on what they’ve dubbed #SandyCam.
“We just decided to scramble everybody, and they’ll be working and locking in with food and maybe even sleeping in the office Monday and Tuesday,” Livestream CEO Max Haot told Betabeat. Now that’s dedication.
By “everybody,” he means a skeleton production crew of about five people, who’ll be responsible for the feed. The rest of the company’s New York employees will be working from home. For his part, Mr. Haot is coordinating the efforts from afar, as he is currently stuck in Las Vegas. “I’ll be safe, but without my wife,” he said.
The motivation behind this last-minute effort, which wasn’t even conceived until Sunday morning? “Basically, we didn’t see any good coverage of [Sandy] in the media that’s really, like, very interactive, simple, and 24/7,” Mr. Haot explained.
Going on infrastructure alone, Livestream was well positioned to provide just that: “Our office happens to be in one of the most connected buildings, both for video fiber and also in terms of power,” he said, explaining they’ve got backup generators on the roof in case of a total blackout. (Hurricane party at 111 Eighth Avenue?)
At the moment, the stream is merely a placid view of downtown, with a NOAA warning on endless loop and a stream of chats. But once the storm really gets going sometime later this afternoon, the excitement will ramp up accordingly. In addition to audio (“so people can really hear the noise and the sounds of the wind”), Livestream will be aggregating the best user-generated footage shot on their remote streaming mobile apps. The company is also dispatching citizen journalist Tim Poole with a specially equipped Jeep and team to shoot photos and live footage across the city, “as long as it’s safe.”
“That could get quite interesting, to weave that in, instead of just the static camera,” added Mr. Haot.
There’s a good chance the page will attract quite a few eyeballs as the weather plays out. Even with a very basic setup for last year’s Hurricane Irene, said Mr. Haot, “we reached about 100,000 uniques and 30,000 concurrents during the evening, and obviously that was editorially not very compelling and not as big as this.” The stream and the entire page are also embeddable, for maximum distribution.
“It could get very interesting in terms of crowd-sourced live news coverage,” he said.
Well, it’s not the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore being buffeted about in a blue anorak, but it’ll certainly do in a pinch.