Live Streaming Apps Are Going Mainstream

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First it was Coke vs. Pepsi, then Apple vs. Android and now we are dividing camps into Meerkat vs. Periscope. Meerkat quickly became a social media darling for streaming sessions from this year’s SXSW conference in Austin,  but just as quickly as the live streaming app took off its wings were clipped by Twitter’s announcement that it had purchased Periscope, a similar live streaming app with more robust features including seamless integration with Twitter itself.

Twitter cut Meerkat off at the knees by disabling some of its functionality upon releasing Periscope, including the ability to automatically notify followers on Twitter when a broadcast begins, forcing Meerkat users to grow an organic audience on the app instead of being able to comfortably rely on their pre-existing Twitter following.

Meerkat is still able to perform its core intentions which are to be able to open the live streaming app and livestream on demand or schedule a livestream for later, but the ability to sync up with Twitter and notify your following in real-time of your livestream is a luxury afforded exclusively to Periscope users.

Another defining feature of Periscope is that the live streaming app automatically saves your streams for 24 hours and keeps your broadcast alive and watchable to your audience via a clickable link on your Twitter. Meerkat’s live streams vanish the moment you stop recording. Blink and you might miss a Meerkat live stream altogether as they fizzle out as quickly as the hype surrounding the app seems to have. Blink and you might miss a Meerkat live stream altogether as they fizzle out as quickly as the hype surrounding the app seems to have. Click To Tweet

A lack of playback feature may just be the final nail in Meerkat’s coffin, with Periscope wielding the hammer. Without a playback feature Meerkat is limited to merely being a live streaming app whereas Periscope is primed to become a hub for content as it is enabled with the ability to browse and search for video, allowing for users to easily discover new content on the app.

In many ways Meerkat was doomed for failure from the get-go despite being an app that the media clamored to call the biggest app of the year before spring had even sprung. The failure is rooted in the fact that the “successful” live streaming app has had much more success generating a buzz surrounding the app than it did securing actual app downloads.

Thousands of tweets and hundreds of articles have been written about Meerkat in less than a month, but in that time the live streaming app never actually even came close to breaking into the U.S. iPhone download top 100 chart – it peaked at No. 140 and has since plummeted into app download obscurity along with Meerkatz Challenge, an actual puzzle game that can be found in the app store for $0.99 and is “quite the delight for those who like their puzzle games cute and furry.”

Media frenzy for an app can mean the difference between it being a passing fad, a profitable phenomenon or just the butt of a joke (we would know).

In retrospect, perhaps Meerkat developing a product that is dependent on a third party for content creation, distribution and interaction might not have been the wisest decision (if it were wise the app would maybe be called Owl instead).

Meerkat avoiding being overshadowed by Periscope depends almost entirely on its ability to retain early adopters and convert them into native content creators and influencers for the live streaming app.

Whether it be Meerkat, Periscope or an unexpected late entry underdog, a live streaming app is due to join the league of extraordinary social media platforms right alongside Vine, Snapchat and Twitter itself. Brands are already using Periscope to post exclusive live-video content and interact with their fan base, but where the real excitement lies with real-time live streaming video is in uncharted territory.

I for one am stoked to see compilation videos on YouTube in a few months of the “Best Live-Streams of 2015” made up of micro content creators with an audience native to a live streaming app. Brands are going to have to work to feel out live streaming apps to determine what kind of content their audience is craving from it, but once they earn those eyes, they will own their attention.

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