The Power of Live

Two days ago, the Speaker of the House shut down C-SPAN camera access on the floor of the House of Representatives, disallowing Democratic lawmakers the news coverage they wanted for the sit-in they staged in protest of firearm legislation that failed to get enough votes. Oddly, as Sara Haider, Client Engineering Lead at Periscope, pointed out, “Our technology is meant to sort of give a voice to the voiceless. But ironically, our lawmakers–at this point–were the ones who were voiceless.”

Haider was talking about the live-stream takeover orchestrated by four lawmakers who took to Periscope during the sit-in. Periscope is the live-streaming technology tool that is both a stand-alone app and also integrates with Twitter and is where live video news is known to break. When the lawmakers started broadcasting their sit-in, it created the biggest audience to a live-stream feed that Periscope had ever seen. Haider herself found out about the feed on Twitter, where the buzz just kept getting louder. Eventually, C-SPAN decided to start using the Periscope broadcast from the House floor as their aired footage; the Periscope team had to get in touch with the network in order to educate them on just how the tool should be used, including everything from basic use etiquette to changing the stream on television from portrait to landscape mode.

Periscope 1

Periscope, for those who are unfamiliar, is the hot live-streaming app that launched a thousand new competitors (or really, just a few large ones). Haider described the company’s vision as “a way to see the world through someone else’s eyes.” Users can download the app and start broadcasting live to anyone in the world and their feed can be joined by anyone, anywhere. Viewers can engage with the broadcaster by commenting or tapping their screen, which show the broadcaster visual “hearts” on-screen, encouraging them to continue their broadcast or agreeing with something they’ve said or done. Think finger-snapping at a poetry reading. Shortly after Periscope launched and began to catch fire, social giants like Facebook and Snapchat began creating their own tools for live-streaming, seeing the opportunity that clearly existed with this new type of audience.

Despite the large names that have suddenly become competition, Haider remains unfazed, indicating that, while Periscope currently operates on its own platform and integrates with only Twitter, they are willing and able to integrate across all social ecosystems. The brand seems to be working to build a loyal following that would be willing to use their specific live-streaming tool no matter which social media platform they’re using at the time.

That following of users is definitely building. Much like a Snapchat audience, many Periscope feeds are about the user themselves: who they are, what they’re doing at any given point in time. Many speakers and event marketers are using Periscope to create more attention and attendance for their conferences and seminars. A growing audience can also be found in Periscope communities; like-minded people are coming together for real-time meetup groups through the power of live-streaming, no matter where they happen to live. Where the internet gave individuals access to one another in conversation, Periscope gives them the ability to have coffee in a live meet-up group, physically watching and interacting with the broadcaster.

What does the future hold for Periscope? Live video apps may not seem as though they present a lot of opportunity for competitive differentiation, but there is plenty of unbroken ground to be discovered. Marketers should look for best practices guides as the tool grows in popularity; typical users should start to look for even more convenience of use and greater ecosystem integration and accessibility as time goes on. In any case, it is clear that the future of technology is in real-time visual; the data it can provide remains to be seen, but should most certainly be monitored closely!

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