The Live Webcast Space is Just Warming Up


At some point, the video industry created a fork in the road and has tried, with little success, to simultaneously walk both paths. Perhaps until now.

To the left, the journey takes us to the future of what used to be called television and represents how consumers will consume video entertainment and what sort of content and services will survive the current scrum. To the right, there is the business of digital marketing which rides atop the video medium. The sole aim of digital marketers is to align products with sociodigital celebs who have the trust and admiration of their fans.

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Standing at the fork in this road is the recent spate of real-time web applications that include Meerkat, Periscope, YouNow and Firetalk, as well as companies such as uStream that have been around for a while. The latest to jump on the live bandwagon is Facebook which announced its support of live webcasts from public figures (that leaves me out) via its Facebook Mentions stream. Unsure of where or how to follow the money, these selfies on steroids will attempt to double dip in the consumer and commercial spaces. The Meerkats and Periscopes of the world will use a variety of tactics — such as pairing with leading social networks — to become the favorite of the millennial set, while enticing broadcasters and marketers to use their platforms to make direct connections to deliver product and promotional messages.

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Some 10 years ago, pundits would have considered this dual strategy strictly nutso. Today, not so much.

A case in point is Instagram. And let’s not forget Pinterest. By building a large consumer base that has fun sharing pictures or creating digital scrapbooks/wishlists, services build legions of eyeballs, making them attractive to anyone who has something to sell or promote. At issue, as both Instagram and Pinterest have learned, is finding the right business model that provides an ad or commerce platform without mucking up the user experience. Come to think of it, that has been the key to Facebook’s success. Devising a strategy to build a large audience is the driving force that built every digital property from early Yahoo to YouTube.

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The live webcast space is far from a zero sum game, but it cannot bear more than a few players. A key ingredient for success will be the ability to keep copyrighted content out of its streams. Without protection such as technology that uses fingerprinting (e.g., uStream’s Vobile) to excise stolen digital goods, there won’t be many long-term takers who bring their marketing and advertising clout to the cash register. The seamless ability to use the major social nets as a platform for promotion (tune in now, Taylor Swift is on Firetalk) and actual distribution (Meerkat offers an embeddable player) also will be a key to survival.

With its financial resources, logic would dictate Twitter, owner of Periscope, would be the one to beat in the live space. The inability, so far, for Twitter’s brass to devise a way to meld its video properties Vine and Periscope to its core platform is not a confidence builder. On its recent earnings call, interim CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged the need to build a video strategy that takes advantage of each property’s value. The sum of the parts dictum seems appropriate here.

What will happen in the next six months in the live video space?

You can count on new entrants, mergers, acquisitions and a lot of trial and error. Will one platform emerge a winner this year? Not likely.

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This weekly column is part of VideoInk’s new research group — Cognito. Cognito releases monthly “Sweep” reports as well as “Pulse” reports each quarter. Click here to get data and research updates into your inbox.

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