The Twitch streamers who spend years broadcasting to no one

Twitch, the leading live streaming platform where people play games, make crafts, and showcase their day-to-day lives, attracts over two million broadcasters every month. The number grows each year, thanks in part to how easy it has become to live stream, and platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube also increasingly encourage people to share and watch live stories. With the push of a button on your game console or phone, you can share whatever you’re doing at that exact moment with friends and strangers alike. The rise of popular (and profitable) influencers on platforms like YouTube and Twitch has also made the idea of being an online influencer aspirational. Some parents note that their children pretend to unbox toys to a nonexistent audience, and teachers report that their students often say they want to pursue YouTubing as a career. But when seemingly everyone wants to record footage or live stream, who ends up watching the content?

Starting a career on platforms like Twitch often means spending some time broadcasting to absolutely no one. Discoverability is an issue: when you log into Twitch, the most visible people are those who already have a large following. While there are tools to find lesser-known streamers, most people starting out without built-in audiences from other platforms or supportive friends and family end up staring at a big, fat zero on their viewership counter. This lonely live stream purgatory can last anywhere from a few days, weeks, months, sometimes even years, depending on your luck. According to people who have gone through it, lacking an audience is one of the most demoralizing things you can experience online.

This story feels so sad. Building and maintaining an audience is really hard, especially when you’re dependent on platforms like YouTube and Twitch who can pull the rug out from underneath you at any time.


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