What we learned from a week of katching Meerkats

How our two-day hack got seen by 1M people in 10 days

Meerkat, an app that lets users livestream video from their smartphones, has set the stage for a new wave of mobile livestreaming products. But it’s entirely ephemeral. Should it be?

We built a micro product called Katch to find out if time-shifting Livestreams is important to users.
The Twitter account for @KatchKats created Katches seen by over 900,000 people.

TL;DR

Broadcasters and Viewers Want Time-Shifting in Livestreams. Not for every stream, and the audience wants it more than the broadcasters. But we saw demand (measured in Katches) on both the broadcaster side and the audience side. And we saw a big opp for broadcasters to expand their audience by time shifting. Other learnings: Product Hunt gives great distribution; The Meerkat team is awesome; SuperTags work; Getting privacy/control right is crucial; Celebrities — Jared Leto, Stephanie McMahon and Jim Gaffigan really help get eyeballs (OK duh)!

Katch is born

The idea for Katch started during SXSW. We had become obsessed with Meerkat. But we kept missing the streams, clicking on tweets in our feed that were already over. It’s great for creating FOMO, but our feeling was that Meerkat broadcasters were missing a non-realtime audience for their Meerkasts. Surely some users must want to “save for later,” or get a great video instead of a dead link?

Product Hunt comment in original Meerkat post showing potential interest in time-shifting Meerkats
Apple Store comment on Meerkat page, mentioning record ability

We started by exploring Meerkat’s JSON — you can witness the birth of Katch, saved in a Meerkat video on Youtube, appropriately enough.

One-button solution

Katch was a two day hack. We wanted Katch to be delightful and we wanted the delight to come from getting a video reply back nearly instantaneously. We built it 1) to give users a “save for later” button and 2) to give broadcasters a simple way to publish without wasting bandwidth/time uploading. We decided #Katch, the app and the tag, could be a SuperTag — a hashtag with superpowers. We wanted Katch to give users the super power of recording and publishing with one tweet.

Three early design comps for Katch — arty, funny and literal. We wanted the product name and action to be one and the same

The SuperTag

We’ve been using SuperTags in Seen and we saw an opportunity for Katch. Hashtags are native to the Twitter ecosystem. People are already using hashtags in their Meerkats, so the behavior is baked-in and familiar. Tags are the cheapest mobile app you’ll ever build and the most frictionless consumer experience in town — there’s no download, no profile, no login, no registration, and no clickthroughs to slow down the fun. They.just.work.

But, will anyone care?

We hacked our hearts out for a couple days. Katch felt unique... But, you just never know if anyone else will care. It’s like an opening night. You’re way too close to the work and you care too much. You’ve been obsessing over minute details and have completely lost site of the bigger picture. We released Katch organically on Saturday, March 21, by telling a few friends and using Katch on some current Meerkasts ourselves.

We launched Katch at katchkats.com and @katchkats with one page and three instructions.

The plan was to reach out to Meerkat, tell some more friends, post to Product Hunt and start writing a Medium post. But before we got a chance to reach out, word had circulated about us and someone notified Meerkat . The moment of truth had arrived. It’s not like we asked for permission to do this — we could wind up upsetting broadcasters, Meerkat, Twitter, YouTube, and probably a few others we hadn’t thought of. What came next surprised us.

Ben Rubin, the co-founder of Meerkat was supportive from the beginning and remains so

Wow? We spent the rest of the day responding to users, clarifying how the product worked and trying to followup with inbound press requsts. The team’s phones started overheating with Twitter notifications. We had no idea, but this was just the beginning. Then came the Whale.

The Amplifier — Product Hunt

We were added by Emiel Janson, who beat Ben to the punch!

Enter Product Hunt. Product Hunt is a site started by Ryan Hoover for talking about new tech products. It has an active community so it’s a valuable forum to get early validation/feedback for an idea. As Katch moved up the leaderboard on Product Hunt, reporters started reaching out. Before the end of the day Katch had articles from TechCrunch, Mashable and The Next Web and wound up “winning” the leaderboard on 3/22/15, just 24 hours after release.

Whoa, Katch won the leaderboard — hadn’t seen that coming!

It’s nice to win things, and getting social validation feels great. But what was actually helpful was getting distribution for Katch and being able to hear unvarnished reactions from a community of our peers. Reaction was split between “love it!” and “no, eww!” We got 33 comments on Product Hunt, here’s a sampling.

A fan of Katch weighs in on Product Hunt
A future Katcher of America?
A valid concern, and a great product idea. Lightbulb!

Broadcasters wanted more control

Broadcasters spoke — they wanted more control over their videos. Originally, Katch was permissive — our original paradigm was a DVR — anyone watching can save for later. But it was clear after talking to users, that Meerkasters really needed to feel in control. We sketched out a new workflow that allowed anyone to #Katch, but we gave broadcasters ultimate say through a simple twitter workflow (as suggested by Greg Barbosa in his Product Hunt comment above). It looks like this.

Broadcasters can simply retweet or reply with #katch to confirm

So, like, who owns these Katches?

On day two, as the service grew, we started getting questions about ownership. We didn’t want to bog Katch down with having to click on a terms of service, but we needed to clarify that we didn’t want to own anyone’s streams. So we asked our lawyers at Cyr Barnes — their take was that under copyright law and without further agreement, by using Katch Meerkasters (not us) are the author. To put a cheery on top, we disclaimed copyright ownership in broadcaster’s work and we don’t claim to have the right to do anything with Meerkaster’s work other than post it to our YouTube account.

We believe growing community is about being honest, listening and responding. That’s the glue that cements the bond. With the copyright issue clarified, we wrote Katch’s FAQ (scroll down), and pinned the final version to our Twitter profile.

Katch users loved our clarifying FAQ

Flow

The next few days were a blur. We were developing a product in real-time with an active community. The feedback and release cycles were so tight, it felt more like a conversation. It was, literally, an unending hackathon. We didn’t want it to end either, users kept surprising us.

Perhaps it seems like a small thing, but we were 3 days into a product idea and Neal Augenstein created a 30 second tutorial and posted it to Youtube. Katch is an odd concept to wrap your head around (invisible app) and Neal did a better job of describing it than we could. It was incredible to see Katch users educating new users.

Thanks @AugensteinWTOP, we sent this tutorial to our parents ☺

We also started getting our first celebs. Adam Goldberg came early to Katch. Adam was an early pioneer on Vine and he looked to be pushing the artistic boundaries again with Meerkat and Katch.

Adam Goldberg uses Katch

The celeb thing took on a whole other level when 700 Jared Leto fans besieged him with online requests to Katch the performance he Meerkasted.

Jared Leto uses Katch

The Meerkat team had been great during all of this, supportive promoting, retweeting and educating. Here’s an example of Meerkater, Niv educating users about Katch using the Jared Leto moment to explain how Katch works to Meerkat’s followers.

Thanks Niv!

Then Stephanie McMahon got 25,000 views off a single Katch!

Katch found a hugely engaged audience with professional wrestling fans

We saw Katches by Guy Kawasaki, Mashable, Gary V, Jim Gaffigan and so many more. All of that was amazing, but the Katch that made all the hard work worth it was this one from Shannon Brown:

Thank you Shannon for using Katch

We’d like to give a shout out to all our top Katchers in our first week, thanks folks for using Katch and giving us such great feedback!

Top 10 Katchers last week

  1. RuudRensink (20)
  2. 94Corey (15)
  3. holgermu (15)
  4. talestold (13)
  5. alisammeredith (12)
  6. iSocialFanz (11)
  7. Socializations (11)
  8. missrosemurphy (9)
  9. AhronZombi (8)
  10. Jaredewy (8)

So how’d we do?

With Katch, we wanted to find out if people cared about saving livestreams. We wanted to know if that behavior was important both to broadcasters and to viewers. And we were curious if another, potentially larger audience existed beyond the folks that could just watch in real-time. What’d we find?

Broadcasters. About 3% of all broadcasters saved their streams using Katch. This is a significant number for an unknown product in its first week of release. Five of the Top Ten Meerkasters on the leaderboard tried Katch at least once. Some used us for all of their livestreams.

Thanks Brian, we’re your number one fanzos!

Viewers. Viewers watched 42 days of Katched video in the first week! We saw many hundreds of requests from audience members to Katch livestreams. After giving decision-making power to the broadcasters, about 9% of these requests converted. The desire is there if Meerkasters want to explore it.

Audience. If Stephanie McMahon is any indication, there’s a huge audience that broadcasters are missing by not timeshifting. Stephanie got 25,000 video views for her Katch which only had 900 live viewers on her Meerkast. that’s a 27X audience boost potential for every Meerkaster. To put it more succinctly

Thanks Van, couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

We’re cooking up some wonderful stuff that users asked for. If you would like us to consider you for early access to features, sign up to be one of our beta testers!

In future posts we’ll dive into how mobile media is changing how we learn about, consume and understand stories about our world. And how we see Livestreaming playing into real-time news, real-world events and local discovery. Please follow us on Medium and stay tuned for more posts from the Seen team!

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