Periscope. Explained.

Over the past few days I've seen more and more of my friends start to use Periscope. I can't get through a day without receiving a notification that someone has started their very first live stream. So, what exactly does the app do and how can brands use it?

What is Periscope?

Periscope is based off the concept of "seeing the world through someone else's eyes". It allows any smartphone to livestream video to other users. People can then directly like moments and comment on the video. 

The Periscope company began just over a year ago, and was purchased by Twitter in March 2015 just before launching, for a cool $100 million. It launched on iPhone at the end of March, and then on Android devices in May.  

We've had live webcams before - what makes this so different?

Webcams are always limited by their lack of portability. As such, people can build stories and sets around them. By bringing the webcam feature to a phone, it becomes an extension of the creator's eyes. As MetroNews stated: "Periscope’s not just more intimate than any other popular social media I’ve experienced, but more authentic." 99% of the time the video has had very little preparation work and what you see feels more in line with what the creator does.

This means that many of the streams are just "a day in the life" type videos. For example, as I write this I'm watching a man drive a taxi round London. He's not anyone special, but it's compelling to see London from his perspective - as he blasts out London Calling from his car stereo.


Will it succeed?

It's far too early to tell if Meerkat will continue to grow - even the numbers don't truly indicate its success.

In August Twitter announced that Periscope had over 10 million users. An impressive rise from the 1 million in April. However, this is just an indicator of how many people had signed up - and in no way reveals how many of these are active on the platform.

It does also have some fair competition. Meerkat, a remarkably similar app, seems to release new features every week. As mentioned in a previous post of mine, it's had some success - but its main disadvantage is not having direct access to Twitter's users. Periscope provides a notification to your phone any time a user you follow on Twitter starts a stream. 

Having said that, the number of minutes watched is certainly heading in the right direction. While not exponential it does still show their is growing traction and appetite for the service at the moment.

How can brands use it?

Many brands have already jumped onto the bandwagon and started using Periscope for their own advantage. Fashion brand Desigual has been doing Periscopes from behind the scenes at Fashion Week, and Sage has been streaming its conferences. 

For journalists, particularly those in the technology space, many have been Periscoping straight after events to provide initial reactions. The Verge, for example, spoke about their thoughts on the iPad Pro straight after they'd gotten their hands on it. Another publication decided to stream their conversations with Apple staff as they were having the demo itself. 

Periscope is proving popular for the moment. For brands it makes sense to experiment with it. However, whereas authenticity used to be a choice for a brand, Periscope makes it unavoidable. Perhaps, after years of pre-prepared and heavily thought out content from brands, this is what the public wants.