Meerkan’t: Why Meerkat won’t be the app that defines Now-casting

Edited: Title changed – Fail was too strong a word – congrats to you guys Meerkat! But here’s why I think you won’t be worth bajillions.


I love live streaming. I love selfies. And I love social networks. But Meerkat? That’s not a name that’s going to stick.

Let me qualify:

Social selfie streaming – for lack of a better word – is an important trend and new behavior in human communications. And it’s going to be even bigger now that Meerkat has become the social app flavor of the month.

Personally, I’d prefer to call it citizen journalism or social streaming or UGC 3.0 or bonus content streaming or just live streaming. But to the Meerkat boosters out there, I agree – this concept is huge.

Meerkat will also succeed in raising plenty of money. They’ll no doubt gather a large user base. Plenty of digital & social teams are hatching Meerkat plans and surely brands have already committed some dollars to the platform.

But we live in fast times. And this live video frenzy around Meerkat is coming a bit too easy off the hype of SXSW.

So just in case you want the bear case, here it is:

I don’t think Meerkat will be worth greater than $1B in 2 years. Here’s why:

  • Will you Meerkat? It doesn’t work for me. The word “Meerkat” doesn’t make the concept accessible to the masses. Clearly the act of spontaneous, live selfie streaming is something that needs a name. And Meerkat has done well to spark the conversation. But it also feels like a word that a bunch of “south by” nerds dreamt up. And since the technology and use case are not at all fundamentally new, the name is critical.
  • No sleeping giants. There’s no shortage of talented teams at Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Apple, Twitch, Ustream, Livestream and countless other companies that are not only capable of launching live video streaming features – but already have them in-market. The fact is live streaming has been around for many years. (Sponsored: In fact, the maturity and pervasiveness of this technology is due in no small part to my client Wowza Media Systems. Wowza’s made it easy for tens of thousands of customers globally to harness the power of live streaming across an endless variation of use cases & workflows, many of which – like Meerkat – are super fascinating!)
  • Twitter is essential. The fact that this technology isn’t new brings me to another key point – the concept of Meerkat couldn’t exist without Twitter. It is Twitter’s public service as the globally connected, real-time newswire that quite literally makes the concept of a Meerkat possible. Almost by definition, what’s new with Meerkat is the notification to users of an upcoming live stream. Twitter’s recent acquisition of Periscope and restrictions on Meerkat are emblematic of the intense, sharp competition in Silicon Valley today where closing off APIs and developing monopolistic walled gardens is how billions gets done.
  • Flawed Product. I’ve tried to view four separate Meerkat sessions. They were all over – and only one was up on YouTube. OK, I get it – I missed it by a few minutes because I wasn’t glued to my Twitter, ready to be distracted by a random live stream. Or maybe I’m being unfair – after all, we’re teaching our entrepreneurs to create ‘minimum viable products’ – by which I guess we mean products with very few features. But the truth is I’d love to see the pre-game interview done by the AAC’s head of digital media – and it was obviously not easy for him to archive & publish that for followers like me who arrived a few minutes late. (I’d also like to see real-time dynamic graphics. Ben Rubin, I have the technology to deliver on that if you are reading this.)
  • This is intimate content – so brands will have to own it. Live selfie streaming is inside access. It’s back stage at an event. It’s the pinnacle of bonus content and fan engagement. But all of those things make it heavily context-dependent. Events, games, athletes, interviews – these are things that already have websites, pages, apps, and teams of marketers to build brand and digital buzz. Those ‘already owned’ assets are going to be key to engaging with large audiences in a live streaming context. And they are the right context in which to build a live streaming strategy – it’s hard enough to get users to tune-in to something live – now they should go download an app first?

The explosive reception to the Meerkat use case and app is awesome. It says much about where we are in the history of human communications. Simply put, we’re ready to embrace video as the most efficient data pipe into the human brain. And the history of technology is all about disruption – the newcomer – the upstart – the next big thing. But I’m afraid this time is different – and Meerkat will fail.


Expert in video tech, TV biz, prototyping, product strategy, marketing & sales.

2 Responses to “Meerkan’t: Why Meerkat won’t be the app that defines Now-casting”

  1. Wow – Periscope is absolutely the next great thing in TV. Now that I’ve had some time to breathe and test out the apps in this space…I’ve come to additional conclusions:
    1) This is a killer feature, not a killer app.
    2) The feature’s manifestation & power will vary with each different social platform / graph.
    3) As has always been the case with the history of “the future of TV” – this selfie-streaming feature set has been quite vibrant for years in the porn world. It’s called ‘cams’ in case you didn’t know. It matters because it cements the death of the idea that this use case / feature is a ‘passing fad’ or filled with dumb meaningless content. That might be true today but this is as sticky a feature as exists in the world and it represents a new TV format.
    4) Most of all – what I’ve come to believe is that what is happening right now as people around the world check out Periscope and Meerkat is a truly watershed breakthrough in social human terms, not in technology advancement.

    It’s true that Periscope is well-named (unlike Meerkat) and well-designed – and that matters. Given it’s tie-in to Twitter, it’ll undeniably have deep impacts for SocialTV. But what Periscope’s really about is an advancement in the accepted methods & norms of communication between groups of people. We’re learning to broadcast ourselves – and to enjoy the selfie broadcasts of others – without worrying about the production value or embarrassment of it.

    Checkout my original take on Meerkat here:


  1. Newsletter – Sunday edition | Future of TV - March 23, 2015

    […] Meerkan’t: Why this time is different and Meerkat will fail. | Brian Ring […]

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