For years past, TV personality Al Roker was all about presenting “what’s in your neck of the woods” -- as in what’s the weather like. But these days Roker isn’t just about temperature and rainfall; he’s forecasting the latest mobile apps and digital trends.
Roker has been quite focused on live video streaming. He was an early adopter to live-streaming startup Meerkat, and last summer, he streamed three different cooking shows. He then started experimenting with Periscope behind the scenes at the Today Show. And now he has access to Facebook’s Live app.
“I can put up when I’m barbecuing in my backyard. People love to cook. That’s why with the shows and the vertical we’ve kind of chosen is food. Everybody connects with food,” Roker told International Business Times.
Roker sat down with IBT shortly after a presentation at Stream Con NYC, a conference around online video with hundreds of social media personalities, marketers and fans in attendance at the cavernous Javitts Center in New York City. He shared insight on what social network he’s using for Halloween (note: the answer may surprise you), the best type of Twitter (not about elections or sports) and what the next big app could be.
International Business Times: What social network have you used today so far, and how are you going to capture your Halloween weekend?
Al Roker: Today I’ve used Instagram and Twitter. I didn’t Periscope because when we’re doing the Halloween show there isn’t really time to do other things.
This might sound like heresy, but I’m not very active on social media on the weekends. I’ve got on older daughter who’s 28, but I’ve also got an almost 17 year old and a 13 year old. We try to stay off of it on the weekends. We do enough of it during the week, and I try to foster at least do one hour where we read, out of a book. At dinner time, everything goes away. We don’t even answer the phone.
— Meerkat (@AppMeerkat) August 1, 2015
IBT: You have a new cooking show on Facebook Live called “Camila’s Code.” But first take me back to what happened to your show on Meerkat from this summer?
Roker: It’s somewhat like doing live TV, only you’re doing a live shot. It’s the difference between doing the Today Show and being in the studio or being out in the field. Out in the field, it’s a single camera experience, two or three minutes, and you’re done. In studio, it’s a longer experience, more cameras and more production value. It’s very much the same thing.
Every experience is unique [on livestreaming apps]. It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. With “Camila’s Code,” it’s a lifestyle kind of show. She’s a smart, fun person and personality, who’s a mom, who has great idea. It’s going to revolve around her. The mistake people make is they try to fit pegs into certain holes when they should really just let it happen.
IBT: Since we all don't have access to Facebook Live, tell me a bit about it. What's it like? What are the best parts?
Roker: I don’t see it as different because I’m doing it, and I’m sure at some point everyone will be. What I like about it is not everyone’s doing it, and not because it’s exclusive, but because like the problem with the other platforms, who’s watching if everyone is doing it?
— Al Roker (@alroker) September 7, 2015
IBT: Who are you watching when you aren’t streaming?
Roker: On the average day I’ll get alerts, and if it’s something that I’m interested in, I’ll click on it. But if my life is going on, and if I don’t really have time to do it, I ignore it.
I physically don’t have the time, and sadly the time that I could watch, which is when I’m on a plane, you can’t stream. That’s actually when I catch up on all my TV, and I wish I could stream and watch all of these folks.
IBT: You launched a company dedicated to live-streaming research called RokerLabs. What’s the goal?
Roker: What we’re trying to achieve is to break through the noise. There’s a phrase in television called appointment viewing, where you want to watch it. There are shows in television that you click through -- it might be one of those police chase shows or something.
We want to make shows that people want to come back to to watch. They might come across it by accident, but it makes them say wait, let’s add this to our browser or our phone.
IBT: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said this week, “Election Twitter is great Twitter. Baseball Twitter is great Twitter.” What's your great Twitter, and why?
Roker: Severe weather Twitter is really good. You can get a lot of information, and we get a lot of user-generated material. And Savannah Guthrie has said to me that Twitter is her news feed. You can find out a lot that’s verifiable using Twitter.
I follow the National Weather Service sites, a lot of comedians, and a lot of people I work with. I’ve got some other eclectic things.
IBT: IBM announced this week that its purchasing The Weather Channel’s digital assets. From your perspective, does that acquisition make sense?
Roker: Nobody’s told me what they’re hoping for out of it. But I think it makes sense in that IBM is big data. There are a lot of analytics there, and I think why they bought the company is that are a lot of analytics at WSI and Weather Underground. If you want to provide data to companies, to individuals, to the government, then you want to have as much data as possible.
Weather cuts across all lines. It’s industry. It’s agriculture. It’s commerce. It’s environment. It’s lifestyle. There are so many aspects of life that weather touches. It may seem like an odd choice, but when you look at it, it makes perfect sense.
IBT: What app, not in the mainstream, are you excited about?
Roker: I’m kind of shocked that a lot of people don’t know about Blocker. It’s an ad blocking app. Apple has built in a lot of privacy ability so that you can on your phone put these third-party apps that block certain content that you don’t want to deal with.
This app, to me, is like magic. It speeds up your web-browsing experience on mobile. But being a content creator like myself, it’s like a double-edged sword. I’m getting a club to beat myself over my head with.