Rumors have been circling that Facebook may be eyeing Meerkat for an acquisition. Why should Facebook buy Meerkat? Because, Twitter bought Periscope — duh.
Okay so that may seem like an obvious conclusion, but Meerkat is not going to be able to combat Periscope all on its lonesome. It’s going to need serious financial power and a big audience to leverage.
For those of you just catching up, Meerkat and Periscope are mobile apps that let anyone livestream from anywhere, at any time. Both also use Twitter as a way to gather an audience for these live events.
Meerkat launched in February before Periscope, which didn’t debut until late March. It quickly became popular on Product Hunt and was getting use from celebrities, tech journalists, and the general tech community. Meerkat was leveraging Twitter’s API to push tweets live and to allow users to import their Twitter contacts onto the app. But a few weeks in, Twitter cut Meerkat’s access to its social graph — removing users’ ability to easily reach their networks.
Shortly thereafter, Twitter launched Periscope and Meerkat was quickly displaced. In its quarterly earnings, Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo noted that a million people signed up for Periscope in the first 10 days of its launch. Meanwhile, Meerkat has fallen off the charts — literally. Mobile app measurement tool App Annie doesn’t even register Meerkat within its top 1500 apps in the U.S.
That said, it’s not dead yet. The company has received $18 million in funding, the bulk of which came in late March from David Tisch, Greylock Partners, and a slew of others.
Money is great, but now the app needs direction and the right social media network to leverage its technology. Facebook is interesting, because it has enormous reach: 1.4 billion monthly active users. By comparison, Twitter has 288 million, according to Statista. With a Facebook acquisition, Meerkat would have the potential to access a lot more people.
But Facebook is a very different social stream than Twitter, and that may work against the app.
Facebook is great at distributing viral videos, news, and other popular content. Part of the reason it’s so good at delivering content is that as a user you’re never missing anything. As soon as you log in, Facebook feeds you popular content.
The problem with Meerkat is that it is live, happening now. Meerkat makes sense on Twitter, with its constant feed of real-time reactions, emotions, and conversation. Twitter is a fantastic conduit for livestreams; it’s great at pointing to something that’s happening now and enticing users to click.
If Facebook were to acquire Meerkat, it could prioritize Meerkat livestreams in its social feed for logged-in users, potentially giving those streams more visibility. And as the company increasingly looks to mobile, it could send users notifications when a livestream starts up. The company would also need to tweak the notifications so they wouldn’t be overwhelming. Early on, both Meerkat and Periscope suffered criticism for their use of push notifications. But that might simply be alleviated by allowing users to specify which livestreams they want to be notified about.
Facebook, furthermore, has additional outlets where users could broadcast livestreams: WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger could all conceivably support Meerkat streams.
The company has also shown a very big interest in growing its video content through its many platforms. On Facebook, video content reaches 4 billion eyeballs a day and Facebook Messenger recently launched video calling.
We also know that Facebook has a habit of latching onto hot technology. For instance, the company has launched two apps that compete with Snapchat’s ephemeral messaging platform. With livestreaming clearly taking off, it won’t be long before the company invests in some capacity.
Either way, someone has to buy Meerkat. Or else the former darling is doomed to be stuck in Periscope’s shadow.