Two of the most popular iPhone apps out right now have allowed mobile reporting to happen instantaneously. Periscope and Meerkat, two new live-streaming video apps, are duking it out in the court of popular opinion to see which one will stay around and how relevant they’ll be to news organizations.
The two offer pretty much the same service with only a few minute differences.
On both apps, users are greeted with a home screen of other live broadcasts. On Periscope, you receive a constant feed of new broadcasts from random users of all topics and then have the option to go to the “People Tab” and see the most loved users. But, on Meerkat, your home feed is comprised only of the broadcasts of people you follow, whether they be people on the Leaderboard (similar to the most loved users on Periscope) or other users that you know and choose to follow.
When you decide to start broadcasting, the process isn’t really any different between the two. You are prompted to give a title or a brief description of your broadcast and just start filming. Periscope gives you an option of whether you want to put the broadcasting link on Twitter, while Meerkat immediately puts out the link. Both show you all of the users watching and the comments that they have about the broadcast, most of which aren’t of any substance, in my opinion.
I feel pretty torn about this app because I think that it has potential to be a great journalistic tool. Mobile reporting was already pretty much instantaneous and these two apps take that immediacy to the next level.
I can see these apps coming out in breaking news scenarios like riots, security threats, rallies and so on. When word needs to get out, a direct broadcast from a cellphone beats every other medium. Both apps allow you to save the broadcast to your camera roll when you’re finished with them, meaning that reporters could put the live video out as a news event is happening and then upload the video onto other social media and their website when they get the opportunity. It’s just expanding the possibilities for getting out your story.
But I also have some doubts about the effectiveness of the apps. Right now, it seems like all of the users are still testing them out, and few people are using them to produce broadcasts of substance. By clicking on a wide variety of vague or detailed titles, I usually end up watching someone opening their refrigerator, or just keeping the camera on their face and responding to all of the live comments (which usually end up getting very creepy, very fast).
Meerkat, which allows you to manually follow people, could be an effective tool for journalists if their viewers only follow news organizations, a lot of which haven’t created accounts yet. But Periscope just provides an overwhelming and continuous display of random broadcasts. I have followed specific people, but haven’t figured out a way on Periscope to only see those individual’s broadcasts.
So if someone posts something of journalistic value, some breaking news that the world needs to see in real time, how will it compete with the feed garbage (just to be frank) of titillating titles or puppies running around in circles?
I practiced the two apps myself by asking my roommate to tell me a little bit about her upcoming study abroad trip to Japan. The experience of pressing the button receiving comments in real time was pretty exciting. Except, because it wasn’t a breaking news scenario, it made me want to edit what she was saying and put it into a nice video package, instead of letting the world see the rough edits.
I think that these apps have great news potential, but that it will become even more useful for journalists once the hype has died down, and feeds aren’t being clogged with “Will put girlfriend in triangle neck hold for 2,000 likes.”
Until then, I don’t see the appeal of it.
Here is an example of a video that I broadcasted on Periscope: