Like most people in this digital age, I watch quite a bit of video on my mobile phone. Ted Talks, iPlayer, cats, people falling over, cats falling over… all sorts. Frankly, if it helps me avoid eye contact with other human beings on public transport, I’m all for it. Saying that - so would knitting, but I think I’ll wait a few years until I take that up.
“But what have you been watching in the last four-and-a-bit days?” I hear you ask. Well dear reader, I’ll tell you. I’ve watched one of my favourite comedians do a Q&A with his followers, a Surface Pro 3 unboxing, a sunset from one of the highest points in London and a man filming his radiator to the soundtrack of melancholic music.
So far, so not-very-interesting you might say. But what if I told you that this was all live-streamed to my phone via them there internets? Slightly more interesting!
What I’m talking about is Periscope. Acquired by Twitter in February and launched in late March, it’s perhaps the most talked about new platform since Snapchat and in some ways it’s not dissimilar. Whereas Snapchat has the novelty of a message that ‘self-destructs’, Periscope is all about ‘the moment’ – and by that I mean literally; because in firing up the app you open up a window to your world right there and then – allowing your followers to see what you’re seeing, live (although there is an opportunity to view broadcasts, in full, up to 24 hours after). Whereas some people have been using the platform to show off their central heating system, or, admittedly, a quite pretty London sunset, the aforementioned Q&A with Reggie Watts was actually pretty interesting; 30 mins of him just sat at home answering people’s questions, all submitted in-app. I can definitely see more celebrities using Periscope, as it allows them to address their followers and effectively give them a platform in which to cut out traditional media: it’s this feature that really helped the growth of Twitter in its formative years.
Of course, live streaming apps aren’t new.
Ustream and the now defunct Justin.tv have been around for a number of years. However Periscope feels much more accessible than those that came before it – and being integrated with Twitter is, of course, a huge advantage - upon launching the app for the first time I was presented with all the people I already follow, allowing me to connect with them and see what they are broadcasting alongside new ‘suggested accounts’. This will drive uptake of the platform, as people discover new and interesting accounts via organic means.
It’s going to be interesting to see how things develop over the coming months – just as the concept of ‘citizen journalism’ evolved when US Airways Flight 1549 crash landed onto the Hudson River in 2009 (within minutes of it happening and well in advance of major news broadcasters reporting it, a single tweet was viewed tens of thousands of times) and when an IT consultant live tweeted the Bid Laden raid without realising it at the time; Periscope may well have its own defining moment.
Let’s not forget the Zoellas of this world. Just one look at YouTube’s homepage tells you all you need to know about the rise in popularity of vloggers. Periscope will feel very normal to this new breed of internet celebrity and the platform is already seeing its fair share of people showing off their cooking and make-up tips.
But what about brands? I’m sure many are currently thinking about what they should be ‘scoping’ to their ‘scopers’ - the first that came to my attention was Adidas announcing that one of their athletes had agreed a new deal with them - hardly ground-breaking, and a little bit awkward to be honest, but it’s only the beginning. There’s undeniably going to be opportunities for brands going forward; behind-the-scenes access, one-off events and world exclusives seem an obvious fit, but it’s where the more creative ideas come into play that will get the most attention. Perhaps live-streaming cats… or cats falling over?