Is Live Streaming the Next Big Thing?

Over the past couple of weeks, I have noticed that live streaming is starting to grow in popularity. I first came about it when I was introduced to Meerkat, which is app that lets anyone stream from their phone through their Twitter account. Then shortly after, there was news that Twitter was buying Periscope, a startup built around live streaming. So it made me start to wonder if this is going to be the next big thing.

If you look at the explosive growth of Instagram and Snapchat, there’s no question that visual content is huge right. Even before they existed you started to see that with Facebook when people’s news feeds were packed with photos. From a marketing standpoint, visual content is great because it captures the user attention. It’s easy to scroll past a feed filled with text, but an eye-catching photo or short video clip causes the user to engage with your content for a couple of seconds. A live stream, like a video grabs the prolonged attention of the user.

You may be thinking, why not just create a YouTube video? Because something about it being live gives it that exclusivity. You can only see it right now as it’s happening. With YouTube, that video isn’t going anywhere unless it is taken down. So users will be able to watch it today, tomorrow, or next week. If the only time they will be able to see this content is right now, people will feel like they have to stop what they’re doing because they won’t want to miss it.

Events and conferences are a great place to use these apps. As many of you know, South by Southwest is going on right now, which is a huge event in Austin TX. It’s basically a week long party with some great talks in between. Live streaming lets those who are unable to attend feel like they are part of the event. I know I was personally watching some streams just to see how crazy it was and how many people were there. It’s like having a backstage pass.

There is however one issue I see at least in the near future, and that is connectivity. Streaming audio and video requires a fast internet connection. If this is being done on a phone and over a 3G or 4G network, I think there will be many drop-offs. I’ve seen this with Meerkat most recently. When there is a slow connection, it turns off the video and only plays the audio. If that slows down even more, then the stream is paused until it gets better. People don’t want to stare at a blank screen unsure if or when the stream is going to come back so they will leave.

As with any new app, it is still a business and eventually there is going to need to be a way to monetize it. Since it is unlike Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, there is no scrolling feed where you can place ads. I see these live streaming apps taking the approach of YouTube where users have to watch a 15 or 30 second ad before they can start their live stream.

Overall, I’m not sure if it will live streaming will become the next big thing but I do see many benefits to it and will keep an eye on it. I would love to know all of your thoughts on this so please leave me a comment below or message me on Twitter @GregBParker.

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