I'm sure I’m not alone in my fascination with Periscope (https://www.periscope.tv/), the live video streaming app developed by Kayvon Beykpour and Joe Bernstein and purchased by Twitter for $100 million in Q1 2015. In fact, with the reported 1 million plus sign-ups in its first 10 days of launch this April, I know I’m not alone!
As the guys at Periscope put it, they are..."fascinated by the idea of discovering the world through someone else’s eyes. Whether it's through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine or watching the sunrise from a hot air balloon in Cappadocia. While there are many ways to discover events and places, there is no better way to experience a place right now than through live video. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but live video can take you someplace and show you around."
Mobile Apps come and go and many a purported “game changer” has raised its head above the fence to disappear into mobile obscurity just as quickly. In reality, of the 800,000 apps listed in the App Store, only around 80 of them broke $1 million in revenue in 2013.
Live streaming is nothing new with websites like JustinTV and Twitch having provided niche platforms to stream live since 2006. So what has made the difference this time and enabled Periscope to deliver such great early results? Furthermore, will this early performance be sustainable?
A quick tour of Periscope.
Periscope enables registered users the ability to live stream video from anywhere in the world via their iPhone, essentially making everyone a broadcaster. In fact this terminology is used in-App and Periscope are very clearly trying to stand out from being merely another video sharing App such as Vine (another Twitter owned platform), Instagram, and Keek, none of which are true live streaming Apps and also have limitations on the length of the videos. In fact Periscope’s only real competition in this space is Meerkat (http://meerkatapp.co). Launched around the same time as Periscope, it works in a very similar way with largely the same features and functionality.
Periscope is very simple to use. Being part of the Twitter family you can of course register via your existing Twitter handle, or you can set up an independent profile if you don’t have a Twitter account or would prefer to keep them separate. Once in, you can immediately start to watch live streams from anyone around the world who is broadcasting. You can also start broadcasting yourself just as quickly. Following completion of your broadcast, you get the option to save it to your iPhone camera roll and/or upload to the Periscope platform. The platform allows you to view it for 24 hours after the broadcast finishes following which it is removed. Something that Meerkat doesn’t offer.
The resolution quality is of course dependent upon your phone camera and bandwidth or that of the broadcaster (if that’s not you), but what’s interesting is that while I was watching a Periscope mobile video stream (MVS) from @Andrew_Mulligan, sports anchor at New Zealand’s Prime TV, Kiwi’s watching the TV show while viewing Andrew’s Periscope broadcast commented on how the App broadcast was ahead of the TV broadcast. Not a scientific test I know, but still a pretty good indication of the efficiency of the service.
Periscope allows you to follow, and be followed, by fellow “Scopers” and also show your appreciation for their broadcasts by tapping the screen while viewing those broadcasts. These taps are represented as heart shaped emoticons that accumulate against your profile to show the most “Loved” broadcasters on the platform.
What is interesting is that Twitter popularity doesn’t necessarily correlate with popularity in Periscope. Amanda Oleander (@AmandaOleander), a freelance artist from Los Angeles and considered to be one of Periscope’s first “stars”, has just over 3,000 Twitter followers which is dwarfed by her followers on Periscope which are over 70,000. Her fellow Scoper and current Mr Popular on Periscope is German Entrepreneur Alexander Khan (@1AlexKhan) who has over 18,000 followers on Periscope but only 1,500 on Twitter. So in one month (Periscope went live in March 2015) they have both amassed in excess of 10 times the number of followers they have on Twitter (having both joined Twitter in 2011).
You’ll notice I’ve not mentioned Android phones – currently Periscope isn’t available on the Android platform and its competitor Meerkat is only available in beta to the first 200 registrants. This obviously isn’t going to always be the case and, as well as the Meerkat beta, there are already Watcher Apps for both Periscope and Meerkat on Android, enabling you to at least join the streaming party and view Periscope and Meerkat links on Twitter. There are also less well known established platforms such as Tarsii and Stre.am available on Android but again with limitations on stream length. At present there is no date for the launch of an Android version of the Periscope App, but with Android accounting for for 76% of the global mobile OS market, its only a matter of time before this is resolved.
Aside from the fun, what are the pros and cons, applications and implications attached to being your own live outside broadcaster?
Having the ability to stream live news gathering whilst in the field has been demonstrated repeatedly since CNN’s ground breaking reports during the first gulf war. Live streaming in the past week from the public (both victims and rescue services) via Meerkat and Periscope from the aftermath of the scene of the Nepal earthquake has enabled vivid promotion and awareness in real time of their plight. This has in turn contributed to our knowledge of the situation on the ground and the mobilisation of resources both financial and physical to help.
In 1991 the Rodney King beating was a landmark in news reporting when “as it happened” news footage directly influenced the arrest of the police involved. For every Rodney King moment it’s argued that there were likely many other similar moments before and since 1991 that have gone unreported. Recently the tragic killing of Walter Lamer Scott by police in South Carolina and filmed on a mobile phone shows that the power and value of evidential filming means it is unlikely to be the case ever again.
As a quick example, I found it simple to find this "as it happened" filming (left/above on mobile readers) of unpaid artists protesting at the Guggenheim Museum as I was writing this post. Whatever it's newsworthiness, I'm pretty sure that without Periscope I not only would never have heard of this taking place, but I certainly wouldn't have found out and watched it as it happened. However, setting up a few alerts, its on my phone live from the scene, not only to me but globally broadcast.
There are arguments for free speech and equally compelling arguments that balanced reporting needs to be managed else a skewed view of current affairs will be publicised. Before MVS, this argument sat largely within the textual content world. Now it does not, and I believe in the next 12 months as MVS becomes increasingly prevalent and free expression is truly unleashed, the debate will only broaden and gather pace as to what is and isn’t acceptable for unrestricted public consumption. Will it turn us all into Jake Gyllenhaal's Nightcrawler? I suspect not. However, if Periscope becomes the dominant App in this space as I suspect it will, Twitter will have a debate on its hands that will dwarf the current one around trolling and free speech. With this in mind Periscope are already looking to introduce more moderation into near future releases.
From a commercial perspective the opportunities are obvious and immense. Everything from public and private sector real time remote training and education via MVS through to marketing and communications are now literally within reach and in the palm of our hands. I anticipate big brands using MVS as a new customer engagement tool that will take social media strategy to the next level of evolution. I envisage this being fully integrated (sooner rather than later) with programmatic ad planning solutions which will take video ad targeting to new levels of accuracy and focus. This was very ably explained by Steven Rumbelow at OMG in his article for Marketing Week (http://www.marketingweek.com/2015/04/01/driving-the-future-of-performance-marketing-devices-data-and-display/).
In entertainment the potential is huge. How long will it be before we see live concerts streamed via Periscope? Officially or otherwise, expect to see it happening within the next 12 months. Also with the ability to choose who you broadcast to, there are all sorts of opportunities to organise exclusive/private live shows for fans. Also second screen opportunities present themselves with backstage broadcasts at concerts or in the tunnel/dressing room at sporting events.
So where in the commercial world are the early adopters and what are the benefits of this early adoption?
The most active vertical is in News media. It has embraced the Periscope platform in both on the ground news reporting and also in behind the scenes “this is how we do it” interaction, putting them in even more closer touch than before. Where before, followers might get a retweet or reply in Twitter, they can watch those they follow in their work and interact with them via in App messaging. So the retweets and replies are now live visual and audible endorsements or responses. A few examples of these are the previously mentioned Andrew Mulligan and also Liz Kotalik (@LizKotalik) of ABC Tuscon Morning News who both stream live during their TV broadcasts which creates a new dimension in connecting with their audience.
The potential for celebrities and brand ambassadors to interact with fans or brand customers more compellingly and personally is obvious, although I don’t expect a complete move away from the less personal social media management teams dealing with their more conventional textual Twitter and Facebook remit.
Massive opportunities in this channel for brand and product placement immediately arise. How long will it be before we see celebrities broadcasting via MVS going about their daily lives using products/brands that have paid for that privilege?
I jokingly tweeted earlier this week that it wouldn’t be long before the platform would be overrun with multiple levels of commercially driven content. The reality is that any platform or channel that has the ability to directly enter into the consumer’s daily lives will be taken advantage of commercially. As a marketer I don’t apologise for that. However, it is up to marketers to apply the same best practice to MVS that exist throughout marketing – deliver content that is meaningful, that engages the consumer, resonates with them, and as a result provides a richer brand experience.
So to answer the question whether Periscope is just flavour of the month. The answer is only time will ultimately tell, but in my opinion this is a genuine game changer.
I anticipate we will see brands embarking on dedicated Periscope campaigns as well as part of fully integrated digital strategies. We'll see celebrity brand endorsement via Periscope as well as those celebrities connecting with their fans on a new personal level. Behind the scenes live broadcasts will become common place and I predict we will see the first live news report via Periscope within 12 months.
On a less commercial perspective and one which some will say is more important, Periscope will also open up our eyes to experience events, locations, and phenomena that we would simply not have thought or dreamed of. Whether it's watching the sunset over Key West, promoting the protection of wildlife in Africa, or a landmark in personal achievement, being able to share that experience and interaction is where the real freedom of expression lies.