Periscope Could Fuel Spectacular Growth For Twitter

  • The popularity of Twitter's live video streaming service Periscope is growing spectacularly.
  • Politicians and churches are beginning to use Periscope - "the new TV" - for outreach and community building.
  • Periscope could give a much needed boost to Twitter's global reach and stock value, both of which have been disappointing in 2015.

Next week, from Thursday January 14 to Sunday January 17, social media enthusiasts from all over the world will gather in San Francisco for the Periscope Community Summit, described as the largest live streaming event in history. Not bad for a service that didn't exist one year ago.

Periscope was acquired by Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) in January 2015, before the product had been publicly launched. The financial details of the acquisition weren't disclosed, but credible sources mentioned an amount of between $50 and $100 million.

Periscope, launched in March 2015, lets everyone stream live video to the world from an app available for iOS and Android devices. While Periscope wasn't the first live video streaming app for consumers, it's arguably the first to achieve mass usability and appeal, and captured ten million users in just four months from launch. In December 2015, Apple named Periscope as the iPhone App of the Year.

The Periscope website describes the app as a remote viewing app that opens a window into others' lives and lets viewers see the world through the eyes of other people far away. Writing on The Huffington Post, Danielle James  reports on the spectacular growth of Periscope in the last 9 months, and describes its potential as "the new TV." In fact, besides broadcasting rants and family moments from one's living room, Periscope can be used to broadcast current events live.

"I've seen German reporters walking across borders with Syrian Refugees. Whether it's in Serbia or the #BlackLivesProtest at home, everyone gets an audience," said Periscope co-founder and CEO Kayvon Beykpour.

Therefore, Periscope can be seen as part of the push of social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to enter the top news media. Of course, mobile broadband availability and cost limit hobbyist reporters in remote regions, but many cities have cheap cell broadband and outdoors WiFi. For example, the LinkNYC initiative will replace the obsolete phone booths in New York City’s streets with WiFi kiosks, known as Links, which will emit super-fast Gigabit WiFi to anyone standing within a 150-foot radius, free of charge.

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) introduced live video streaming in Facebook Mentions, the company's outreach tool for public figures and brands. But Facebook's service is more difficult to get into, with multiple identity verification steps required before signing up. On the contrary, Periscope is simplicity itself, and anyone can start broadcasting live video immediately after downloading the app and creating a profile, no questions asked. In fact, the bare immediacy of Periscope matches that of Twitter itself and Facebook's photo sharing service Instagram.

One of the best features of Periscope is the real-time interaction between broadcasters and viewers via in-app hearts and messages. Typically, the viewers send text messages and the broadcaster replies by voice, which gives the impression of a live conversation rather than a monologue. An interesting and very useful feature of Periscope is the possibility to limit a broadcast to invited users only.

Politicians - including Donald Trump, who hosted four Periscope broadcasts to date - are starting to use Periscope, a trend that is expected to increase with the 2016 presidential elections. Another interesting trend has been started by the Church of England, which partnered with Twitter UK to broadcast services across the world using Periscope.

It seems likely that many sectors could be revolutionized by cheap and easy live streaming. In the future, apps like Periscope could be technically enhanced with smart glasses for broadcasters, spherical video, and Virtual Reality. The combination of these technologies could open the way to really compelling next-generation social media.

Not surprisingly for a relatively new service, there's much room for improvement in Periscope. For example, at the time of writing there is no iPad version of the app, which could offer an improved experience to iPad users with messages, hearts and keyboard separated from the video. Periscope, which was designed with a mobile-first approach, is not yet fully integrated with the web, or with Twitter itself. However, there are reasons to expect a major update in January.

Twitter investors will have an opportunity to experience Periscope on February 10, when Twitter will release financial results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2015. On the same day, Twitter Investor Relations (@TwitterIR) will host a conference call and earnings on Periscope to discuss the financial results at 2:00 PM Pacific Time.

If, as all seems to indicate, Periscope continues growing in popularity, it will give a much needed boost to Twitter's global reach and stock value, both of which have been disappointing in 2015.

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