The Evolution of Communication: From Journalism to Blogging to Tweeting. And Now? Meerkasting?

I have been thinking about this trend way before Meerkat was a thing. In fact, I believe it first occurred to me before Twitter was a thing. Now before I explain why I think the trend is clear, let me state that I do not believe that each link in this chain replaces the one that preceded it. I believe that each stage remains relevant but its relevancy decreases as the new stage enters.

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So let’s take a walk down memory lane. Remember websites? I kid. But really, remember traditional journalism? You know, those big sites for which journalists, real journalists would write after completing a Master’s degree in journalism. Those big sites, or even, actual print. Once upon a time, those sites, those newspapers, those magazines, they were all that mattered.

What was at the center of their influence? The publication, of course. No one cared about you, the person writing the article, or at least they didn’t care about you as much as they cared that you were writing the piece on the NY Times. So the NY Times was at the center of the influence. People followed sites.

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Then something strange happened. The democratization of opinions. Or simply put, everyone, all of a sudden, had the ability to become an influential voice, or even, some might say, a journalist. How? By clicking on your web browser, navigating to WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, or any other blogging platform, and just starting to write. There, done, you have a voice and you didn’t even need a degree in journalism.

That changed everything. Well, not everything because people still followed blogs, which are just another form of sites. TechCrunch, Mashable, and hundreds of other blogs began to steal that influence and by extension, traffic, away from sites like NY Times and many others. And yet, the person was still not at the center, the blog was.

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And then it all changed, this time for real. Without discussing specific platforms, the social web took the currency of influence away from sites all together and put the human being at the center. All of a sudden, people stopped following sites and starting following people. I believe Twitter played the most central role in this shift.

All of a sudden, you were not reading my article on this blog or on one of many places in which I write, but rather, you were just reading my post. No, seriously. Close your eyes. Close them! Now tell me where you are reading these words. What site is this? What is the URL? You don’t know, right? Because you clicked on this link from Twitter or Facebook, and you did not come to the home page of this site hoping to find my latest article. People don’t follow sites, they follow people!

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This has been the case now for several years, and it’s not just a trend, it is a trend that seriously affects many businesses. Take Outbrain for example, the company you see on many big sites like CNN and others at the bottom. After reading an article, it says “You may like…” and tries to direct you to other relevant articles based on the one you just read. Same story with Taboola. Why are these companies so tremendously successful? Well, because they are awesome, but other than that, it is because they saw this trend before it was a trend.

If you are reading an article on a site, and our assumption is that people don’t follow sites, then what is the first thing you are going to do once completing the article? That’s right. You are going to close CNN.com and open Twitter.com to see what else you missed! Unless, something keeps you on that page. Unless a company like Outbrain brings content to you in that split second when you are about to leave the site to look for more content. Thanks for that, A.D.D.

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But it goes deeper than that. Outbrain has endless analytics about people’s behaviors on the web. What do you think they are seeing in terms of the traffic that home pages are getting over the past few years. Correct, a sharp decrease! Why? Because companies like Buzzfeed, Playbuzz, and others capture your attention with their social-optimized titles and before you have the time to type in Forbes.com, you have already completed ten Buzzfeed quizzes.

Home pages are becoming less and less relevant and that means that these large publications who spent months and sometimes years optimizing every pixel on their home page, now have to shift focus to what brings in the eyeballs because their home page sure isn’t what people are looking for anymore!

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So back to Twitter and other social platforms. People are at the center and the content they provide is now, for the first time, able to be consumed in real time. Well… Not exactly real time, now is it?

Not only are these platforms not truly real time but there is still something that stands between me (the one generating the content) and you (the one consuming it.) Text. Reading my tweets, while I try to make them as colorful as possible, is still not the same as sitting in front of me. You can’t see body language, you can’t hear my tone, and even sarcasm gets lost when reading text.

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So when is the user, the person, the individual human being, truly at the center of communication? When there is no delay, there are no boundaries, and people can truly follow and get to know you. How does that happen? Live streaming is how!

Now, I know, it is not natural to go live. It is not right for everyone. Some people still use Facebook to read and catch up and almost never post… I have heard it all and I do not disagree. Live streaming is not for everyone, but then again, neither are hamburgers, and that is ok.

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Is this the next step of communication? Is live streaming here to stay? Will it go mainstream? Will it cause revolutions in the world? Will it give people who would have otherwise been silenced the possibility to voice their opinion to the world? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Who will win, Meerkat or Periscope? Maybe another company, like Livelens, doing live streaming that isn’t getting as much buzz today, but will win in the long run. If I am going to continue the thought process above to answer that question, I will ask you, who will win? Pizza or hamburgers? (I may or may not be hungry when writing this post. Can you tell?)

Who cares? There is room for more than one company, and some may enjoy one while others enjoy the other.

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Which do I prefer? Meerkat. Why? I like the underdog especially when it became the underdog through foul play. Twitter bought Periscope then handicapped Meerkat. Kinda reminds me of when the press goes nuts trying to trash a political candidate. All that does is make me want to vote for that candidate. That’s just how I’m wired.

I also like the fact that comments on the stream in Meerkat are tweets. While that may be a bit aggressive, now that Meerkat allows you to not tweet those comments, I think it is one of Meerkat’s most important differentiators. Periscope has a lot going for it. I love the hearts and from what I can tell, the numbers are there. When I go live on Periscope, I get much higher numbers, but ten minutes in, the two platforms equal out.

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The bottom line is, we are in early days, but the sheer amount of market interest in this live streaming space is, to me, a clear indication that something big is happening here and it is not just another cute app that will go away in a few months.

Again, you may not be the type to broadcast on these apps but the time will come, and it won’t be long, that you will go to Meerkat, or other similar apps to get your news before the large news networks know about them.

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In fact, call me nuts, but I am pretty sure you will turn to live streaming apps in the near future to get breaking news the way you turn to Twitter today. Except one little difference. This time, we mean it when we say it is real time, so you can expect to look at Twitter as a breaking news source the way you look at CNN today. Yes, an authority and a reliable source on news. The fastest way to get your news? Not even close! Just wait, it is coming…

 

hilzfuld

Hillel is Co Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at ZCast, a company taking on the pain of modern audio broadcasting. Hillel also blogs for many influential sites including TechCrunch, Mashable, The Next Web, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Venturebeat, and others. Additionally, Hillel mentors startups across Israel in different accelerators including The Google Launchpad, the Microsoft Ventures accelerator, Techstars, The Junction, and more. Hillel has been named Israel's top marketer, has been featured on CNBC, Forbes, and many others and was recently added by Google to its marketing experts program. You can find and talk to Hillel on Twitter. He is @Hilzfuld.