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Understanding the Meerkat live-streaming magic

Mike Elgan | March 16, 2015
You're going to be hearing a lot about a new app called Meerkat.

Meerkat fixes the passive audience problem (a.k.a. the TV problem)

On Wednesday, Rubin said on CNBC that "watchers are part of the content." Here's what I think he means by that: When the "watchers" comment on a Meerkat video stream, those comments appear right there on the video. They're not below it or on another page.

It's also interesting that Meerkat creates a space on Twitter where everybody involved — the Meerkasters, the watchers — participates in the same conversation. The person or people on the video get feedback from the people watching. The people watching can influence the people on the video and also talk to one another.

Meerkat fixes the talking head problem

The single biggest advantage of Meerkat over Hangouts is that it's mobile. You can't initiate a Hangouts-on-Air session from a mobile device, so most Hangouts are panels of talking heads, or a single talking head.

Meerkasts, on the other hand, often happen at parties, protests (this week in Ferguson, for example) and conferences — mostly the tech and culture event SXSW, which is happening now,  and which will truly propel Meerkat into the mainstream.

Point is, making it mobile takes live video streams out of people's home offices and into the wild, where things happen.

Meerkat fixes the virality problem

Ephemeral media are great, but they tend not to scale or go viral. Meerkasts, however, can. And will. The reason is that people are rapidly adopting Meerkat. And it's just a matter of time before freak occurrences, natural disasters, unbelievable crimes, plane crashes, the Oscars or other highly newsworthy events are streamed via Meerkat.

After a few such events, people will feel compelled to stay glued to users or sites or Twitter feeds that point to links to breaking news events that are being streamed via Meerkat.

Nothing can stop Meerkat now.

Except Twitter.

Twitter last month quietly acquired (the news broke this week) a startup called Periscope, which makes a Meerkat-like live streaming app that hasn't been released to the public yet.

Twitter tends to shut down or shut out sites that use its platform for monetization in ways that Twitter could do itself. So the Periscope acquisition could be the first step in taking over the live-streaming-via-Twitter idea that Meerkat currently owns.

Either way, Meerkat-like live streaming via mobile is here to stay. And Meerkat is also here to stay, although it may eventually be forced to find a home elsewhere.

If you'd like to learn more about Meerkat and explore this brand-new medium further, I invite you to follow me. I have a lot of Meerkasts where we talk about how to use Meerkat and what it's all about. Just follow me on Twitter (@MikeElgan) and then find me in the Meerkat app.

 

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