The ‘new’ can change everything
I remember going to see The Strokes in Glasgow in 2001 before they released their first album 'Is This It?’ There was a lot of hype surrounding them but when they released their debut, the hype went stratospheric. Sometimes, if the stars align and if you have 'a certain ratio', success is yours for the taking. Something similar is happening in the digital world right now; a start-up social media app has grown so fast it's scary.
I wouldn't blame you if you haven't heard of Meerkat (and I don’t mean Aleksandr Orlov) yet – it’s only been available for 19 days!
As a quick overview, Meerkat is a social video sharing platform linked with Twitter, where users stream live content from their iPhones and, through their Twitter following, allow other users to watch live streamed content on a once only basis. Meerkat’s pretty exciting, though it's not brand new; there's a competitor app, Periscope, awaiting release and SnapChat offers similar video features (although not live streaming).
What I'm more fascinated by is not only the speed of the uptake, but the avenues it opens. It's growing at a staggering rate – on its 15th day of existence, Meerkat grew its user group by 30%! This is all due to the massive South by Southwest festival, a clever idea and a drive to make an impact.
I read that the team making Meerkat work so fast to meet the demands of the users, one of their developers took only two days to make an Android client app – for anyone who makes apps or has dabbled in this area – that's scarily quick!
So why has it grown so fast? It’s all to do with Twitter and SXSW really. The clever guys at Life On Air, inc (the makers of Meerkat) realised that you get more uptake if you use your Twitter user account rather than setting up yet another account with another app provider. By using your existing account, you can get going in 30 seconds. ‘Piggybacking’ on an existing user group like this means you can grow quickly.
Unfortunately, there’s been a speed bump in the relationship between Twitter and Meerkat, as Twitter cut Meerkat’s access from its social graph and belatedly announced it had acquired competitor app ‘Periscope’. This only made Meerkat look like the scruffy underdogs to the good people at SXSW, which only added to the uptake in app downloads!
Last month, one of my colleagues, Calum, wrote a great article on SnapChat and how the power this technology has could change the way we receive news in the future. And a few weeks later, a new platform offering similar features gains significant momentum for live mobile video technology. It's a real positive move in the direction of live video streaming, be it from a user's device or broadcast.
When I spoke with Calum about this yesterday, we were both pretty excited about with what the future could bring:
"I was in the crowd wandering through SXSW and listening to guys on stage talk brain waves and bbq sauce from my sofa, and I was excited. The Meerkat live stream of the GE #bbqscience made the event come to life for the brief moments I watched then it was over. If this was a video on YouTube no one would care."
I'm not saying (just now anyway) that in the future, we'll receive our news in real time from users’ devices but maybe we’re seeing the beginning of a major shift here…