Here at Let’s Do Video our primary focus is business communications, and most of our coverage tends to be on business tools and applications. However, once in a while a video application from outside the industry creates such a buzz that I find myself being asked about it in briefing after briefing. Periscope is the latest such technology, and after being acquired by Twitter in Feburary 2015 it became exponentially more interesting (and competitor Meerkat became unfortunately less interesting). I just wanted to quickly explain what it is, how it works, and what the implications are for the business video community.
At its core, Periscope is simply a live video streaming app. You download it to your phone (iPhone or Android) and can instantly start streaming live to other Periscope users, or view their streams on your device. Known as the “Instagram of Live Streaming” it has quickly become immensely popular with both broadcasters and viewers.
How Periscope Works
I downloaded the app to see for myself what it was all about and a few things quickly made sense. It was a lot simpler than I expected, which explains its quick growth and popularity. There are only 4 buttons on the app. One starts your broadcast and the other three are options for viewing other streams (i.e. general search, your “following” list, or a map view of streams). I clicked the button to start a broadcast, allowed use of my camera, audio, and location, and was streaming live. What was notable was that people were soon watching me, although I did not share it on Twitter or by any other means. With most services I test, I have to do some promotion, or at least ask friends, to get views. In Periscope I was found through other means. I expect mainly it was via the map view, which I believe is a big part of the real power behind Periscope.
While the general search allows you to find specific users to follow, and recommends “trending” broadcasters, I was much more interested in the map. Although sharing location is optional, I think location is the killer feature and takes huge advantage of the inherent mobility of Periscope’s install base of mobile devices. I immediately zoomed into my old stomping grounds in the New Orleans French Quarter and got a great view from a local club (above). In the map view, red dots represent currently live streams, while blue dots are recordings of streams from the last 24 hours (after that, they are deleted). After viewing a few more streams in New Orleans, I went over to Paris. It was too late for live streamers, but there were plenty of recordings from the last 24 hours so I got a great view of the Eiffel Tower. I then swiped back over to the US in time to watch a live streamer sharing the fireworks from Disney World. It is live virtual tourism at its best.
The Periscope Experience
In addition to its ease of use, I think Periscope’s popularity is also greatly due to its interactivity. When you record a video for YouTube, it is a very one way experience. Periscope viewers can send real time chat messages, which can be seen by the broadcaster and all other viewers. So the Periscope experience isn’t just bi-directional, it is a group experience. Viewers are also encouraged to tap the screen when they like something, as it makes cute hearts float up on the lower corner of the screen (the Periscope equivalent of applause perhaps).
What Does Periscope Mean To The Business Video Industry
Immediately two things come to mind when I think of what this means for us. The first is that there are potential business applications for Periscope-like technologies, and the second is that this really shows how mainstream video has become. Periscope is already being used as an effective tool for live speakers, Q&A sessions, focus groups, tutorials and interactive training, as well as countless other new uses being created by innovative entrepreneurs every day. Perhaps even the typical corporate webcast could benefit from a more interactive periscope-like approach. Clearly, we are culturally ready to adopt and embrace new uses of video where they add value and are appropriate. Periscope may be mostly used as a fun experiment for now (for those following me on Twitter, don’t be surprised if you see me Periscoping a bit to try it out in the next few days), but the business implications and potential are real.