Can an app in your pocket challenge live television?

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A new generation of apps enabling live streaming of video content is threatening to revolutionize one-to-many narrowcasting – and broadcasting. Franc Carreras, digital advisor to Ebiquity Spain, demystifies meerkats and periscopes.

The emergence of social media during the last decade created a whole new category in digital marketing, but it is no longer a new thing. The majority of internet users already spend a significant amount of their online time on social media. This has caused shifts in consumer habits that inevitably affect marketers in their efforts to capture some of that fickle attention that is now moving to and between different screens.

As an example, Facebook has gone from dorm room pastime to challenging Google on mobile advertising. In a different way, Twitter has changed the way news is spread around the world, and Instagram has turned photography on its head.

When it comes to video, Google’s YouTube is now taking the millennial generation’s attention away from their parents’ TV at such a pace that advertisers are rushing to online video to increase the reach of their television campaigns. But to the readers of this publication, none of this is news anymore.

That said, once every few years a new player barges into the social media landscape, bringing with it the potential for fresh disruption. Here’s one that was missing from every 2015 prediction I saw at the end of last year: live streaming of video directly from mobile phones.

Before March the words ‘meerkat’ and ‘periscope’ were merely a small carnivorous mammal from the mongoose family and an observation instrument commonly found in submarines. Since then, the presentation of Meerkat at Austin’s South By Southwest (SXSW) festival, and the knee-jerk launch of Twitter’s Periscope in response shortly afterward, shot these two mobile applications to the top of the download charts on Apple’s App Store. Now they are also available on Android phones.

What does this mean to advertisers?

Fast-growing social networks have been shown time and again not to attract any significant volume of advertising until user acquisition slows down. Because of that, most pundits don’t expect to see meaningful volumes of, or revenue from, advertising on either Meerkat or Periscope for quite some time yet. That said, the following lessons from the explosion of both platforms must be taken into consideration:

Audiovisual is king: Video has proven to be a superior form of media over text, image, or audio. As compression improves, broadband expands, and data plans cheapen, the main barriers to user adoption on mobile phones are crumbling.

The YouTube generation: Google has shown how appealing pre-recorded, on-demand online video can be on YouTube. A whole generation has grown up skipping from video to video just with a swipe on the screen of a tablet. Live video is next.

Mobile is the present: Last year, mobile overtook desktop in internet traffic for the first time in most of the developed world. Consumers are moving from ‘mobile too’ to ‘mobile first’ and some are already on ‘mobile only.’ Just watch a baby boomer shoot video next to a millennial. One will use two hands to shoot landscape thinking about how it will look on the flat-screen TV in her living room. The other will shoot vertical with one hand, knowing she and, crucially, her intended audience are likely to only watch it on their ever larger mobile phone screens.

Considering these three take-outs, plus also the incredible volume and diversity of video being broadcast from all over the world in real time, it is not hard to imagine the future. Witnesses broadcasting live as news happens in front of their eyes (cameras) will be able to attract audiences in their millions just seconds after any major unexpected event. And what advertiser wouldn’t pay handsomely for a slice of all that attention?

It is clear that the clock has already started ticking, although the tsunami may still be slow to come. But brands should avoid the temptation to dismiss live streaming video as yet another new social media fad that will fade and die. Live streaming from mobile devices is here to stay and the major national and global news networks should watch out, both for the source of new content and for a rocky ride from some serious, independent, and disintermediated competition.

And if you don’t believe me, just watch!

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About Author

Digital Director

Franc started his career as a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Tampa, FL. After four years leading projects in Europe he spent six years doing Marketing Planning at the Bertelsmann Music Group and directing Digital Marketing campaigns at Sony Music in New York. Upon moving to Spain in 2010, Franc has been a digital marketing consultant and advisor to brands such as Revlon, Bodegas Torres, Honda, Epson, and Eroski among others, surpassing €1 million in combined billings over the last three years. He currently teaches Digital Marketing at ESADE Business School in Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, hosts a digital news show at Onda Cero radio, and is the co-author of El Lechero En Bicicleta, a popular book in digital marketing circles published by Penguin Random House in 2013. Franc joined Ebiquity in 2014. Franc holds an MBA from Columbia Business School in New York and a BA in Business Administration at Universitat Ramon Llull in Barcelona.

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