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The Man Behind Jackson Hole’s Viral Live Feed

And five other U.S. cities with awesome webcams.

By Jessica Walker Boehm on November 15, 2016

Downtown Jackson, WY
Jackson / Courtesy of Al_HikesAZ under a CC 2.0 license.

Small-town life often gets a bad rap – people say there’s not enough to do, and thanks to the local gossip(s), everyone knows everyone’s business. But there is one small town people can’t seem to get enough of: Jackson, WY. Home to less than 10,000 residents, the city has garnered both national and international attention with its live feed of a downtown intersection.

Yes, you read that correctly. People are tuning in all over the world to watch Jackson residents and tourists cross the street and drive through the intersection of Broadway and Cache streets, also known as the Jackson Hole Town Square. So far, notable sightings have included a bride-to-be twerking, a horse pooping in the street and dozens of red vehicles, which viewers love to point out (especially when they see a red truck). Compelling content, no?

YouTube found it pretty interesting – interesting enough to recommend – and that’s how the intersection’s live feed went viral.

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Jackson Hole Town Square Live Feed Captivates YouTubers

Bob Strobel, who founded the Jackson Hole tourism website that includes more than 20 live streams, says he began his venture 21 years ago with JPEG cameras that uploaded to www.jacksonholenet.com, but switched to video documentation in 2014 after launching his new site. He was confident the videos would be a hit, and he isn’t surprised people enjoy watching the live feeds.

“The JPEG cameras were the most frequented parts of our pages,†Strobel said. “I started thinking: If a picture says a thousand words, what does a video say?â€

He was right. Video says a lot, and people have plenty to comment on, filling up the YouTube chat section with their take on what they’re watching in the town square’s intersection. Some say it looks “peaceful,†while others chime in on recurring conversations about the arch made of shed elk antlers in the middle of the feed (supposedly, many viewers consider the arch a ruler of the vehicles and pedestrians passing through the intersection).

Strobel believes the intersection’s live feed has grown so popular because it’s showing the busiest intersection in Wyoming, which is often used as a gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, world-class ski resorts and other popular destinations. He says it’s not locals who are typically tuning in – this is nothing new to them – and it’s often the folks who had never heard of Jackson prior to viewing the feed who are the most interested and engaged.

“My whole thought process with the cameras was inspiring viewers with compelling content on the internet in order to convince them to visit,†Strobel said. “After all, we have more than 100 different activities for people to enjoy. In the unfolding months and years, I think many of the viewers who discovered Jackson online will come check us out.”

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Live Feeds Grow in Popularity Across the U.S.

Other towns are getting in on the live feed fun, too, such as Mitchell, S.D. The community has installed a Corn Cam focused on its recently-renovated Corn Palace, a world-famous attraction that draws more than 500,000 tourists each year with its corn murals, festivals, concerts and special events. The Corn Palace also hosts district, regional and state basketball tournaments – USA Today has even named it one the top 10 places in the country for high school basketball.

Estes Park, Colo., is another small city that’s jumped on the live feed trend, with video cameras set up downtown, at Castle Mountain Lodge in Rocky Mountain National Park, at the Estes Park Fairgrounds and several other locations in the community. Visit Estes Park, the city’s destination marketing organization, says the webcams give viewers unique opportunities to see the sun rise and set over the mountains, and they provide an easy way for residents and visitors to monitor the weather.

On the east coast, Charleston, S.C., and many of the surrounding communities (Hilton Head, Kiawah Island and Mount Pleasant, for example) have dozens of webcams that capture daily life in real-time. The College of Charleston has installed nine cameras on its campus, while Clemson University has nearly 30 cameras spread across its various campus locations – good news for parents, but maybe not quite so exciting for students. One of the Charleston area’s coolest cameras pans across Folly Beach, giving viewers an extended glimpse of the sand, surf, boardwalk and beachgoers.

Nearby, Myrtle Beach, S.C., has several cameras that show various resorts and different portions of its beaches, and to the north, a camera documents the comings and goings in downtown Burlington‘s Church Street Marketplace District. Drawing approximately 3 million annual visitors, the four-block pedestrian mall is a perfect place to people-watch – and, of course, that makes it an ideal location for a webcam.

Although many U.S. cities still have not embraced the live feed webcam trend, it’s safe to say that more will in the future, especially after seeing the positive public response Jackson has gotten to the video. 

Maybe you’re a skeptic, too, and you’re not sure why anyone would want to watch someone else, often a stranger, go about his or her daily life. Sure, it might be a waste of your time, but give it a try – you might just agree with Strobel, who says, “People love watching life unfold organically.”

“People love watching life unfold organically.”

Bob Strobel
Creator of www.seejh.com
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