A New Breed of ‘Kat

As many of you may have read in Re/Code, the team here is working on something new. Our heart is still with our users, as always. We love the content you create and the community that you’ve built. Meerkat isn’t going anywhere, but we are thinking about cool new ways that live video might become a part of everyone’s daily lives.

We wanted to share with you the full memo that was referenced in the news because we believe it shows what we’re about and how this decision was made.

Change is never easy. We’ve been humbled by the attention we’ve received so far, and honored to have you along for this wild ride. We hope you’ll continue to be a part of the Colony, no matter what shape it takes.

Keep smiling,

— Ben Rubin


Meerkat update — CONFIDENTIAL TO INVESTORS -
Dear NAME,
Please read below — I hope we can set some time next week or two to go over what makes us excited and where are we heading!
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since we first launched Meerkat on Product Hunt. it has been quite a whirlwind and we have seen and learned a lot. The year started on a high note with the rapid explosion of live video, the excitement of SXSW, and the launch of Twitter’s Periscope. But over the year, it became rougher waters — mobile broadcast video hasn’t quite exploded as quickly as we’d hoped. The distribution advantages of Twitter/Periscope and Facebook Live drew more early users to them away from us and we were not able to grow as quickly alongside as we had planned. Among our many investments in that time, we built a few key features we believed could help us differentiate and bring new live content to life including Developers API, our GoPro integration last August (first ever live streaming!) and our Cameo feature which brought watchers into the live broadcast.
I want to share a few thoughts on what our team believes has been happening in the live video space over the past year, as well as some decisions we have made to focus the company for our best opportunity going forward. We are investing in a new product that we think addresses some of the challenges and furthers our vision of bringing mobile live video to everyone the world.
While live video has become an interesting feature on top of Twitter and Facebook, it hasn’t yet developed into a self-sustaining new network as we hoped we would do with Meerkat. Our assumption was that by reducing broadcaster’s cost to broadcast to zero (no equipment, etc) we would be able to create a whole new class of live broadcasters like YouTube did with video and YouTubers. We always believed that it would take a lot of time, but we hoped we’d see more positive signs a year later. One thing we have learned is there is a very high emotional cost to being entertaining in a live format, and bringing on enough of a live audience to make it worthwhile is challenging too.
So far, the value proposition of being live is just not clear to people who are not celebrities/media/news. If you are one of them (and particularly if you have an existing audience on Facebook or Twitter), there is clear value in occasionally going live as a new way to bring content to your audience or interact with them. This is especially true around existing live events with behind the scenes content, etc. But for most regular people — it has been hard to figure out when or even why to go live. It’s different than sharing photographs — think of it this way: before Instagram, people already knew what constituted a beautiful photo and tried to take them. With live video no one really knows what “good” live video they can create is.
Given all of this, 1-to-many mobile live video is still in a state of infancy and a lot of its success depends on these media, stars, or influencers. Their main currency is audience and viewership. As long as we are competing on those with Twitter/Periscope and Facebook Live, we don’t think the current Meerkat product is set up to win. All of these platforms are struggling to create repeat broadcasters at a growing rate and the viewership isn’t much higher today than we thought it was last summer. With a large media team and paying content rights, we believe we could have kept attracting audience at some levels, (we had some great moments with YouTubers like Michelle Phan, exclusive content like Discovery Channel Shark Week, and even made for Meerkat shows by publishers such as Hulu, The Weather Channel, and TMZ) but it didn’t feel sustainable. Facebook and Twitter were able to leverage their advantages here.
There is a bright spot to all of this. We found the best Meerkat moments happened when people who knew each other (either in person or online) came together live and interacted in realtime. We saw this in the conversations when the threads would go on and on and on. We especially saw this in cameo when broadcasters were able to see their audience and interact in a more human way, people passed around the camera for a campfire chat session. And we saw many of these groups have the best repeat behavior of anyone.
With the support of our board and the enthusiasm of the entire team, we began building a new product in October around this concept and are feeling good about its potential. At the same time, we’ve kept Meerkat running and stable and plan to monitor the network for anything that begins to draw new attention.
If you are up for it, I’d love to jump on a call with you to go through:
* what we are working on now (and what we are learning)
* our long term plan
* company financing status
* any questions you have
Ben