By now you must have heard about Meerkat, the latest tech media darling that lets people tweet (stream) live experiences with friends and followers on Twitter. It’s basically an easy to use app that combines ephemeral livecasting/livestreaming on top of the Twitter platform but through a dedicated screen where participants can see video, who’s watching as well as the Tweets between them. I call it Meerkasting and yes, it’s already a verb. I realize that most of the words I used up until this point were either geeky or buzzwordy.
Leading up to the big SXSW Interactive event in Austin, Meerkat started to gain significant momentum. At SXSW, it was all the geeks could talk about and do (Meerkast). Brands too. This makes Meerkat one of the prestigious few apps such as Twitter and Foursquare to break out at a festival known for its many amazing experiences as well as its distractions. This attention doesn’t guarantee longer term success however. Sorry Highlight.
During the event, I spent several moments with CNN’s Sarah O’Brien who authored a series of articles on Meerkat’s rapid rise to digital relevance. Following is a summary of our conversation…
What’s the viability of Meerkat, to stay hot and keep people engaged? Is it just a tech/media thing or are others around the world just as interested?
It’s easy to ask what’s the viability of any new startup that appears out of nowhere these days. Meerkat introduces a new way to foster engagement in social communities while adding a new experience layer to Twitter. At the same time, there’s been a race for years to make livestreaming an everyday form of communication. At the moment, Meerkat is definitely something celebrated by the early social media adopters and is promising for younger users as well. It’s true test will come at and immediately after SXSW (a 30k strong tech festival in Austin). And, its performance in the near term will also be a true test for livestreaming over all.
What’s the potential for profitability?
I look at Snapchat when I think about monetization for Meerkat. The natural play is to offer a premium service for celebs and digital influencers. I don’t see that working. I believe media will pay to access elusive connected consumers much in the way media and brands are doing so with Snapchat discover today.
Why live-streaming now when others, like Qik, have tried and failed?
Technology believe it or not wasn’t there before. Additionally, social media and mobile were still becoming pervasive in everyday culture. At the same time, livestreaming and livecasting placed too great of an emphasis on the user to generate buzz and audience. Now, in an era of ephemeral engagement and message-based communication, Meerkat touches upon something we have and will do, in this case, Twitter followers and events. They come and go and therefore enhance Twitter’s experience, deliver ephemeral livestreaming aka Meerkasting (new potential buzzword), and create a tighter community bond.
Do you have any insight on the Twitter/Periscope deal? Think Twitter will eventually kick Meerkat from using it as a platform? Could Meerkat have success as a stand-alone site?
Periscope is a natural acquisition for Twitter allowing it to offer an additional value-added experience which extends Twitter as a media platform and not just a sharing platform. It’s Twitter’s Instagram vs. Snapchat if you will. I wouldn’t rule out the independent success or an acquisition of Meerkat either. It’s Instagram vs. Snapchat where one offers a lasting vs. ephemeral experience.
What will it take for Meerkat to survive?
Meerkat is going to need to look at optimizing the experience across other social platforms. Its reliance on Twitter exposes a weakness for the app to maintain long term scale. And, with Twitter limiting social graph access, Meerkat is already at risk of losing momentum and relevance. Additionally, it needs to also ensure that content producers and content consumers find one another similar to that of a TV guide or directory.
For more on Meerkat, Twitter’s developer platform and SXSW, please listen to the latest episode of Context Matters.