Live video streams are back on the rage lately with the launch of Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope in February and March respectively. The mobile live stream applications were made public within weeks of each other and sparked discussions on social media and various publications about the seemingly impending shift in media consumption and creation.
Before going further, it’s worth noting that at the moment both Meerkat and Periscope are only available from the App Store which means only iOS device owners are able to download them and stream their activities, though the companies behind both apps have said that they are working on the Android versions.
Additionally, both apps are currently popular only among the early adopter segment of the market despite the significant coverage in mass media. It’s nowhere near the level of Twitter or Instagram just yet.
Regardless of the apps’ currently limited popularity, live streaming as a mobile activity is considered as the next stage of social media. If Twitter delivers real time updates of what’s going on in the world through text, live mobile video will actually show the raw footage as it happens. It certainly helps that both apps allow announcement of every live broadcast on Twitter to tap into people’s existing network of followers.
For documentary filmmaker and author Daniel Ziv, live streaming mobile apps are going to change broadcasting.
Periscope app by @twitter, THE next big thing. It will change how we interact, broadcast, waste time, discover talent, report content & news
— Daniel Ziv (@DanielZiv) April 8, 2015
Live video streams can be quite fascinating, entertaining, and informative when the broadcaster happens to be streaming something of value. Few people may be interested in someone’s daily commute or lunch, for example, but there’s certainly a lot of interest towards streaming activities such as cooking sessions, city tours, concerts, festivals, or product launches.
Ellen Degeneres live streamed her monologue segment from her TV show the other day and gave viewers from around the world a different perspective of the show. This will no doubt seed ideas to marketers and brand owners who are considering to incorporate live broadcasts over the internet.
When Path founder and CEO Dave Morin live streamed Apple’s spring event on 10 March through Meerkat, hundreds of people tuned in throughout the roughly two hour stream despite an official high resolution live broadcast by Apple through its own website.
Several hundred people watched Mashable editor Lance Ulanoff stream his attempt at showing off Microsoft’s brand new browser, codenamed Spartan, which after 15 minutes unfortunately didn’t happen because of technical issues involving his preview version of Windows 10.
Of course, the impact of live streaming would be quite significant for news reporting as it essentially allows even larger group of people to deliver the same coverage of a particular occurrence. At this early stage however, people are still exploring the use cases and it can easily be compared to Twitter’s own early days where people were posting random tidbits and conversations (hang on, they still do).
Whether it’s a journalist going through his thoughts, a music performance in a cafe, or a poetry reading half a world away, a live interactive experience through video is about as close as it can get to being there given current technological limits.
So what’s the attraction of live broadcast aside from raw footage? It’s immediate interactivity, because being able to leave comments or ask questions while the stream is ongoing certainly adds a dimension to the broadcast.
While Meerkat seems to be more free-flowing, Periscope explicitly limits the people who can comment on live videos to the first 100 viewers. Periscope founder Keyvon Bekpour told Fusion that that number may be raised in the future.
However, as Alexis Madrigal noted in that Fusion article, even with that limit on comments, broadcasters can easily be overwhelmed by the number of comments posted during the stream if there are far too many to deal with.
Obviously live video streaming over the internet is not a new activity. There have been plenty of similar apps in the past such as Qik (the old version, not Skype Qik), Livestream, Justin.TV, and Ustream, and there are still more today, including Streambox, YouNow, and Stre.am, and countless other commercial live streaming services but what makes it different today is the level of technological advancements that allows a much smoother and easier way for smartphone users to live stream.
Despite the technological advancements allowing the so called democratization of live broadcast, the activity is still limited technically by data caps, lack of consistently high quality internet connection, and the lack of well polished Android apps to really push the envelope further.
Brands and agencies can certainly start thinking of incorporating mobile live streaming into their activity programs for exclusive consumer access but until the adoption of interactive mobile live stream video reaches critical mass, it might not have that much of an appeal just yet.
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