It’s hard to escape the buzz surrounding Meerkat and Periscope at the moment, especially now that the ever-influential Taylor Swift has started taking action to prevent fans from using them to broadcast her concerts from inside venues. Just ask Apple about the impact she can have on a service’s name recognition.
Currently, however, it’s only tiny minorities of consumers who are using these live-streaming apps. According to our Q3 2015 data, about 1.5% globally are engaging with Meerkat and just under 2% are using Periscope. Numbers remain low in all of the 34 markets we survey, and while both apps have seen growth from around 1% in Q2 2015, it’s hardly the type of dramatic growth that we might expect, given the high-profile coverage that they have been receiving.
In light of this, we might well ask why brands are falling over themselves to have a presence on the live-streaming apps, and why many are touting them as the future of how consumers will engage with companies online. Well, dig a little deeper into the numbers and the potential of these apps is not hard to see.
On a site like Facebook, watching a video is one of the most popular activities. Each month, over half of the site’s active users say they are doing this -- putting it some distance behind clicking the “like” button but making it more common than uploading photos or posting a status update. It’s a major trend on Twitter too, where close to a third of the micro-blog’s active users are now watching videos.
But it’s the crossover between the giants of the social networking world and these new apps that is particularly striking: our data shows that over 80% of Meerkat and Periscope users have accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and that virtually all of them have a presence on at least one of them. Clearly, there is a strong appetite for live video streaming among the Facebook and Twitter audiences -- and it makes complete sense that both networks should be investing so much time and effort into integrating live streaming inside their news feeds.
The arrival of ad-blocking on mobile is particularly relevant here. Globally, our numbers reveal that over a quarter of online adults are already using ad-blocking tools on their main computers -- a trend that remains consistent across all world regions, but with a peak in ultra-privacy-conscious Europe. What’s more, about a third of iPhone 6 or 6+ owners are currently blocking ads on other devices, and it seems a safe bet that the majority of them will adopt the same approach on their mobile devices too. That surely sounds the eventual death knell for the mobile banner ad -- and while in-app advertising remains out of reach for now at least, the smart money is on native advertising on mobile becoming more and more important in the years ahead.
In this context, the future importance of live-streaming for brands is obvious. As advertising-weary consumers take steps to prevent their Web experience from being interrupted, we will undoubtedly see more emphasis on less overt forms of advertising where the consumer experience moves far beyond simply hearing about a brand or its latest product.
Significantly, look specifically at young mobile users at the moment, and 40% of them say they are watching native forms of video on their smartphone more frequently than they were a year ago. And their preferences when it comes to live broadcasts offer fertile ground for brands. Most popular of all are broadcasts of funny/entertaining content, which over half of mobile users aged 16-34 say they are interested in watching. Following behind are live broadcasts of breaking news stories on 40% and music concerts on 38% (sorry, Taylor). Smaller but still important groups express interest in watching videos broadcast by brands (26%), celebrities (21%) or vloggers (19%).
It’s among these audiences in particular that brands could hope to carve out an important presence on smartphones despite the inevitable rise of mobile ad blockers. The numbers might be relatively modest at the moment, but they do represent a point of refuge amidst the growing anti-advertising tide. And would it really be such a bad thing if the industry is forced to get better at native creative on mobile in preference to traditional forms of advertising which simply haven’t evolved well enough to find their place on mobile?
Meerkat and Periscope might be highly niche names at the moment -- but you have to wonder how much longer that will remain the case.