When a live event creates a buzz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A massive swarm of bees gathered on a hot dog cart umbrella in New York City’s Times Square on Monday. Before long it became a social media sensation thanks to live footage from Reuters.

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For almost an hour, thousands of people watched a masked beekeeper from the New York City Police Department painstakingly remove some 25,000 bees with a low-power vacuum. (

It may have been just a piece of light news on an August afternoon, but it illustrated a widening trend.

“People like to watch things in real time,” said Natalie Armstrong, who manages live coverage for Reuters Digital in New York.

Reuters carries an average of 20 live broadcasts daily (, streaming raw footage from events around the globe. At times, we may have as many as six live video feeds running simultaneously on our digital platforms, often in different languages. Some feeds come directly from Reuters video journalists and others are supplied by TV stations that are Reuters clients and share content.

The New York City’s bee swarm already ranks as one of the most-watched live broadcasts this year, according to our internal tracking software. More weighty news events also draw big audiences.

All live broadcasts capitalize on the power of social media to quickly attract large audiences, whether the event lasts a few minutes or hours.

Some of the most popular live broadcasts include a May 10 press conference following a meeting of Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s new prime minister, and Malaysia’s King Sultan Muhammad V.; Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s two-day testimony in April before the U.S. Congress; and the June 5 court arrival of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who was charged with rape and sexual misconduct.

Science-related topics, like the SpaceX Falcon test launch (here) and Mars explorations (here), also attract large audiences because of interesting graphics and “the cool-factor,” Armstrong said.

Airing live streams presents certain challenges, such as graphic content after violent events or unchecked profanity. To the extent possible, Reuters tries to warn viewers in advance that they may see or hear something that they could find disturbing.

And unlike Reuters news stories, live broadcasts may feature a speech from a rally or press conference that is not fact-checked or is missing context, and sensitive information that may not be public might end up being heard over an open microphone.

Reporting by Lauren Young; Editing by Toni Reinhold