Twitter is, once again, transforming the media landscape


Next year believe it or not, the social networking site Twitter will be a decade old, and since the start of 2015, the service has been struggling to attract new users with its growth very much tapering off at 300 million users. This is despite social media rivals Instagram recently surpassing this user base and the instant messaging app Whatsapp, now approaching the billion user mark.

When the service launched back in 2006, Twitter changed the way people consume their news globally in just 140-characters or less. Now, following their acquisition of the live video streaming app Periscope, the company is shaking up the industry yet again. This new app is already being referred to as the ‘new Twitter’, but specifically aimed at reporters and news rooms.

Periscope was created a little over a year ago but has been kept behind closed doors in a private beta mode until last Thursday, when it was released to anyone with a piece of Apple hardware. Twitter purchased the app from a small team of developers for a reported $100 million, which shows the social network giant believes it could become a big part of how it fulfils its mission ‘To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers’.

Periscope is a new service that lets you watch and broadcast live video from around the world. The video is streamed from a person’s mobile and gives people a live look at what’s happening anywhere at any given time. The video can be viewed either on a mobile device, through the app, or on any laptop or computer with an internet connection, via the Periscope website.

An example of the app being used in a journalistic sense didn’t take long to emerge, as last Thursday when the app launched, a fire in Manhattan’s East Village was broadcast live on video by a local restaurant owner, armed with his iPhone and Periscope that no news crews however responsive, would have been able to record. The Huffington Post then publicised a link to one of the streams on Twitter which at one stage, had more than 600 people watching it.

In the same way that Twitter helped journalists to report live from the ground anywhere in the world, Periscope will help them to broadcast live videos of the news and link this through their social media channels. However, the success of these broadcasts will rely on the speed and reliability of local data mobile connections.

Twitter was hoping to keep the Periscope app under wraps, until they felt the app was perfectly operational, but ended up not being the first to the market after the most recent wave of live-streaming apps, including its main competitor Meerkat – and not the furry animal!

Meerkat is an alternative to Periscope, but it is almost completely reliant on Twitter integration to operate, which is of course a major flaw in their plan since Twitter decided to join the market with their own livestreaming app. Following the launch of Periscope on Thursday, Twitter decided to block Meerkat’s access to a number of features that other apps have. For example, Twitter no longer lets Meerkat show new users which of their Twitter followers also use the video sharing service.

Twitter is banking on the success of Periscope but it remains to be seen whether or not livestreaming apps will be a fad like so many before them, or if they will integrate seamlessly into our lives and make reporting the news a job for everyone.