The race for attention: how realtime features are the key to growing audience engagement


In this increasingly competitive world of audience engagement, live streaming has opened up new ways for brands to get the attention of customers. 80% of consumers say they’d rather watch a live video from a company than read a blog post. Another study from Cisco reveals that live internet videos increased 15-fold and accounted for 13% of all internet video traffic in 2021, meaning it’s now a mainstream form of interaction.

Whereas brands have traditionally relied upon the text or social media to get their messages across, they can now Livestream audience interaction to get closer to their customers. They can even reach customers in multi-user virtual spaces to make sales. Businesses benefit by getting invaluable feedback in real-time, as well as being able to increase customer loyalty, and raise brand awareness. While consumers like live streams because they are inclusive, they can get information instantly and are an interactive way to share their opinions with the companies and fellow users.

With organizations looking to maximize the value of real-time audience engagement, having the right technology architecture in place will be essential.


Choosing the architecture

An event-driven architecture is best suited to meet today’s audience engagement demands. It’s ideal because event-driven architecture is designed to deal with data that must be processed immediately in order to deliver a great user experience. Essentially, it eliminates the need for blocking or constant polling and notifies the application code whenever an event of interest occurs.

Event-driven architectures work by using the publish and subscribe (pub/sub) process. An event publisher sends messages when a state change occurs, such as a person entering a virtual event or a chat message having been received, and an event subscriber consumes that information. Usually, there’s a dedicated broker located between the publisher and its subscriber, meaning the event publisher can be loosely coupled or decoupled from its consumers. The responsibility is then offloaded from the publisher onto the broker, which is able to deliver notifications at scale to consumers across a variety of devices.


Achieving audience engagement success

The ability to scale across multiple distributed platforms, track changes to presence information, and the successful delivery of chat messages are crucial to providing enhanced audience engagement.

The nature of multi-user spaces often means unpredictable audience sizes that may vary throughout the event – from tens to millions of people. The infrastructure in place needs to be elastic to handle any sudden viewer surges, because a lack of availability may cause significant embarrassment and degradation of the user experience. The non-blocking nature of event-driven architecture and its pub/sub patterns means it can adapt as needed, so real-time failures don’t happen.

Presence is important and means all audience members are kept track of, so for instance within a Livestream quiz, it’s possible to show who is online and notify other viewers when certain people enter or exit. This form of architecture is also able to keep subscribers notified whenever an individual log on or off, without the need to constantly poll users.

Another element needed for successful audience engagement is chat messages. While the pub/sub pattern can support the distribution of messages in real-time at scale, subscribers need to be able to trust the integrity of any notifications received. It’s vital there is a way of being able to guarantee that messages are in order and that none are lost or duplicated. Again pub/sub is able to provide that guarantee and underpin any integrated chat features.

When it comes to messages and presence notifications, their state needs to stay in sync even if the connection is unpredictable, which is where pub/sub has some key advantages. As events are received from the event producer, the pub/sub will ensure every event is recorded. Essentially this means those engaging on live streams can access ‘live’ history alongside longer-term (persisted) history, thus providing a great experience, even when some participants have unstable connections.


Finishing in first place

Delivering a bidirectional, low-latency platform for live audience engagement demands expertise. Most organizations wouldn’t attempt to build their own email delivery system or content delivery network because it’s simply too complex, real-time infrastructure is the same. Organizations can save on development cycles and implement their projects faster by offloading this complexity to a third party with the skills to synchronize digital experiences in real-time and at scale. As live streaming continues to grow at an unprecedented rate and companies look to innovate to meet the rising demands of customers, it’s this approach that will put them in the first place.


Article written by Matthew O’Riordan, CEO and Co-Founder of Ably