First things first, I’ll confess I have not actually downloaded Meerkat — and while that may leave me in a horrible position to write this post, I am going to write it, anyway.
Given I spend more time in my Twitter feed than my wife would certainly prefer, I saw the buzz around Meerkat make its way through the Twittersphere, starting this past weekend. What initially pulled me in was how effective they were at bringing the product to market. All of this, of course, starts with having a buzzworthy product (check!):
Live mobile video streaming has been on my mind a lot since Ferguson. So much so that I wrote a post, driven in part by my fascination with how quickly this tweet spread (75K impressions in the first hour after being tweeted):
Unlike Kevin, however, I did not download Meerkat (I don’t use an iPhone and very rarely use my wife’s iPad).
Not having the app has both limited and shielded my experience. Meerkat sessions, for me, have lacked live mobile video. While the phones of many of you have been besieged, mine has remained (Meerkat) notification free. My sessions have been audio only with engagement and interaction taking place on Twitter, as opposed to within the iOS native app.
Then I realized something important: live mobile video streaming is only part of the story here
I came to this realization while lurking on another one of Matt’s broadcasts. I say “lurking” because, as someone who has not downloaded Meerkat, I don’t actually know if my attendance was being reflected to those viewing from the app. This particular session was led by Matt and Danny Trinh. Here’s Matt’s recollection of what went down:
I agree with Matt that Twitter is the “perfect soil” for “a movement towards live moments layered on top of our otherwise asynchronous digital world.” While there’s a clear benefit to live streaming video in certain instances (sporting events, concerts, scenic travels, and the like), there are other instances in which live streaming audio only does not necessarily detract from the moment/experience.
Touring the CNBC newsroom with Eli Langer, for example, is going to be a much better experience with video:
Listening to Keith Rabois speak at Launch Festival, on the other hand, can function as a (more useful) substitute to listening to music while working or commuting, among other things. No video required here (and thanks, Niv Dror!):
More accessibility and improved discoverability of live mobile streams (whether video, audio, or both), while nothing to scoff at, becomes much more interesting when paired with realtime engagement opportunities.
During Matt/Danny’s Meer2Meer session, several well-known influencers from the tech/VC community were announced in realtime as they joined the session. As topics were being discussed, those broadcasting would often request for someone viewing/listening to circulate to the group supporting/referenced links. Despite nearly 200 participants in this session, it’s worth reiterating Matt’s sentiment. The experience, as he points out, was uniquely “authentic and intimate.” It left me feeling similar to how I felt after being wowed by my first Uber ride in early 2011:
Reflecting on the past week, the big takeaway for me is not specific to live mobile video streaming; rather, it’s more about the value of Twitter’s social/interest graph (incredibly valuable) as it relates to distribution/discovery of live mobile streams (again, not necessarily specific to video). Huge opportunity for Twitter to increase engagement while also assisting to convert logged out users/increasing the amount of time logged in users spend on the platform. Obviously this should bode well for Twitter revenue.
With Meerkat being out in the wild for only a week, it’s far too early to speculate on their longevity. What is clear to me is that realtime engagement while consuming live mobile streams is a natural extension of Twitter’s platform. It’s also pretty game-changing, in my opinion.
I had a hunch that we would start to see more live stream distribution/discovery by way of Twitter, but I underestimated the importance of realtime engagement. The context I had in mind then was specifically around live mobile video streaming of current events (citizen journalism); however, now I realize that value can be created/extracted from a far wider reaching set of applications:
It’s going to be fun to watch how formats evolve and see which end up sticking. The live mobile streaming space is quickly heating up now that the value of Twitter’s social/interest graph has proven effective for distributing/discovering this content.
From a broadcasting standpoint, everything I have read/heard speaks very highly of how frictionless/quick it is to get live mobile video streaming via Meerkat. Products looking to successfully execute in this space are going to have to differentiate around the user experience of realtime engagement.