March 13, 2015

Streaming video to your social followers may be the next big thing and journalists are already buzzing about the Meerkat app, and an even newer app called

Meerkat launched a few weeks ago and is currently only available for iPhones and iPads. It makes it easy to stream live video and audio to your Twitter feed. Just a touch of a button and you are live. Or you can schedule a feed and it will turn on automatically.

Don’t think of this like YouTube. Think of it as a live video source. Like SnapChat, the Meerkat videos disappear rather than sit on a server. It is easy to comment on the video feed during the broadcast. It is not the first in this app category. There is Bambuser and Twitcaster.

But Meerkat has a big advantage because it “mirrors” your Twitter account. Anyone who follows you will see a message on their Twitter feed that let’s them know to tune in because you are going live.

All this week I have watched journalists play with it. Retailers are already looking for ways to use it. CNBC interviewed the developer to ask if he was planning to sell it off to Twitter, he said “no.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 7.52.31 PMLike me, technology columnist Monica Guzman quickly launched into a Meerkat frenzy, testing out feed after feed. She told me by email:

I really like that it makes it easier to be honest. Something about how ephemeral it is takes off the pressure to make it too produced or too polished or too perfect before shipping it out into the world. In a way, it’s a little bit like blogs were to the finished article: it broke something down into a process and gave people a friendlier, more approachable look in.

I’ve thought about the journalism use case too. On the surface, it looks like a really great tool for breaking news and developing news.

As for me, I love this app. I have shared everything from my work to my family life at home, a couple of times streaming my son putting together puzzles and my teaching him about the planets at the same time, and last night I even streamed myself practicing on the guitar playing my son’s lullaby, the rainbow connection. The most rewarding stream I did was several days ago, when I read out loud my favorite as able time, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance.” I had a pretty good-sized audience, and got a lot of great feedback. Most interestingly, I have read that essay dozens and dozens of times. But I never absorbed as much from it as I did when I read it to an audience.

Once the broadcast is finished, Meerkat gives the option of saving the video to the device’s camera roll. Unfortunately, this function has not worked for me. Guzman says she would use this feature, posting some of her streams to YouTube, but not all.

“I really enjoy how fleeting the content is, and like that it makes the stream feel more present and more raw to know that you’re not going to save it,” said Guzman.

Whenever something is new in social media, TVAmy will be trying it out. Amy Wood, an anchor at WSPA-TV was already on Meerkat when I jumped on board.

She told me by email:

“I’m very excited about Meerkat.  I have experimented with live stream platforms for about 7 years – starting out with UStream, Livestream and others and this is the easiest to get started with. There is no learning curve. Unless you are not already on Twitter.

I have already used it to stream breaking news live on Twitter on day two of its existence.”

Amy used Meerkat as a way to have a live conversation with her Twitter followers.

Amy has also taken her followers live on the news set a few times.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 8.06.04 PM

One other feature of meerKat to be aware of is “scheduling.” If for example, you wanted to broadcast at noon, you can schedule it, send out a Tweet that you are going to be live. Then at noon, open the app and the broadcast begins. There is news potential in that application. Let’s say the mayor is going to hold a press conference at noon. You can set up a Meerkat stream at noon, send out a message to followers and they will know to come back to you at noon.

A few oddities about Meerkat. If you try to watch yourself online while streaming, you will find it difficult to accomplish because there is a delay, maybe 10 seconds.

You will also be confused by the orientation of the screen. We all have learned that when capturing video, you should use the landscape orientation. Meerkat wants you to use vertical (portrait) orientation. If you use the landscape orientation, the image zooms in closeup.

Already a New Competitor


Meerkat is only weeks old and already there is a new direct competitor that works on Apple and Android platforms and it can stream on both Twitter and Facebook. recently launched and promises “the ability to share to Twitter, Facebook, SMS and email–individually, or all together, as desired.” is also different from Meerkat in that it allows people to record and save 15-second video highlights called ‘Reels’ for 24 hours. is a finalist for the South by Southwest Innovation Awards this weekend in Austin.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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