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Periscope’s About To Change Twitter Forever

Photo of Karol Severin
by Karol Severin

Periscope now plays live streams directly in Twitter feeds on iPhones, with Android and desktop functionality to come. It is a move that will change the way Twitter works and its audience uses it. Though integrating the two was a long anticipated and easily predicted, its potential impact is huge. This arranged marriage is so much more than the sum of its parts. Borrowing from the quote of Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti ‘If content is King, distribution is Queen…and she’s wearing pants.’ Beyond the obvious benefits of user growth, time spent on Twitter, and better distribution channel for Periscope, the move creates a whole that will be bigger than the sum of its parts. Twitter has spent the last year scrabbling around for a way to reinvigorate growth and to break out of the confines of its current audience, all the while looking longingly at the video revolution and wanting a piece of the action. Periscope integration may well deliver on both counts.

Twitter Has The Potential To Become One Of World’s Mobile Video Leaders

All the media and Wall Street chatter about Twitter has revolved around a lack of new user growth, especially when set against the dynamic growth in mobile messaging apps (which now number 5 billion monthly users) and short form video (which exceeded 5 trillion views in 2015). Periscope now may change how investors and users alike view Twitter. By being so deeply integrated into the Twitter user experience Periscope video will become a natural extension of the Twitter experience. While Twitter doesn’t have a massive user base when compared with fellow social media or messaging services like Facebook, its sizeable 320 million monthly users just became a mobile video audience. [i]

Furthermore, if there’s one metric more important in mobile video than monthly users, it’s daily active users. Last time we heard in Q2 2015, 44% of Twitter’s MAUs were also using it daily. This translates to about 150 million potential video viewers without Twitter adding a single new user. For comparison, Snapchat, often hyped up as the leading mobile video platform has 100 million daily active users. Furthermore, survey data soon to be released by MIDiA shows that only 18% of consumers watch Facebook videos on their mobile[ii]. In Q3 2015 Facebook had 894 million daily active mobile users, so applying the percentage results in approximately 152 million mobile video viewers on Facebook.

But Twitter not only has the numbers, it brings something new to the online video equation. The live broadcast aspect of Periscope entices consumers to view instantly in a way pre-recorded short form does not. Twitter users will be more likely to stop and watch, knowing the videos might not be there when they return. Persicope transforms online video into a scarce experience in stark contrast to the choice abundance that currently characterises the online video landscape. If Periscope gains enough scale, the potential conversion rate from users to viewers will likely end up higher than Facebook’s.

The Power of Now

Companies are spending large amounts of money to secure content which they hope will retain appeal. Twitter’s ‘content strategy of now’ secures a timeless video genre that will never get old, because it is by definition always about the present, and because it is created by users acquires an invaluable authenticity. The key to the ‘now’ genre is the breadth of appeal. It doesn’t matter whether you are into sports, music, news, comedy or paparazzi videos, what is happening right now will always sit towards the top of your priority list within that genre. Now is scarce, yesterday is not.

Twitter Will Become The World’s Largest Breaking News Network

Twitter’s ability to spot breaking news long before major news outlets is well known but it hasn’t been able to enjoy the associated benefits. When news breaks on Twitter it is often the major news outlets that curates and shows the tweets as a part of the broader coverage. Twitter has struggled to create a way to compile broader stories for users to discover and engage with on the platform. That changes with the implementation of Periscope. Users will no longer be solely dependent on waiting for ‘broader story coverage’ but instead will be able to connect directly into stories as they unfold. The difference in the resulting user experience (watching video flow vs. waiting for the next tweet to appear) is huge. We might see news outlets embedding more Periscope videos into their broader story coverage, while the live reporters’ role could turn into one of becoming background story investigators. However, in the long-term there is nothing stopping Twitter from making moves to capture ownership of the entire news coverage process. Traditional news channels could well struggle to compete because of Twitter’s global coverage at an incomparably low production cost, immediacy , and well twitter’s ability to communicate in real time to a large user base via push notifications[iii]. 

Young Audiences Are Not Everything

Twitter so far failed to win over young audiences, which is seemingly bad news in the social media user growth race. But on the other hand, the fact that adults are steadily using Twitter means its proposition has moved past the risks of being just a youth fuelled fad. While popularity amongst youth usually translates into rapid initial growth rates, popularity amongst older audiences often means longevity. Witness the example of Facebook, which managed to transform its appeal from a youth popular trend onto adults which secures it a promising long life going forward.

Twitter has spent some time integrating Periscope into its stack but now that it has done so it has flicked the switch on what may prove to be its biggest transformation yet. Who needs 10,000 characters?!

[i] For detailed analysis of the current Mobile App Messaging Landscape, refer to the MIDiA Mobile Messaging Report

[ii] Facebook’s data will show more because they count a view after 3 seconds already, while MIDiA survey data counts with what users perceive as a view themselves.

[iii] For more detail refer to MIDiA Push Notifications Best Practices and Vendor Landscape report

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