You need to dive down to number 162 before the heavily hyped live streaming app pops into view. Its rival, Meerkat, isn’t even in the top 500 and though it beat Periscope to Android, it’s still not in the top 500 apps on the Google Play store either.
Widespread problems with the pay-per-view coverage sent viewers scurrying to live streaming apps much to HBO’s chagrin and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s (unwise) delight:
And the winner is… @periscopeco
— dick costolo (@dickc) May 3, 2015
You could argue that the spike in attention around the boxing match shows how important these apps could become around live events. But many of the mentions gained by Periscope are down to widespread media coverage of the privacy questions, not because it has so many fans. It benefited from a strange kind of luck because tech failings forced a lot of viewers to seek pirated sources.
Another argument you’ll hear from Twitter and Periscope is that the number of tweets mentioning it is not representative of how many people are broadcasting – users have the option to turn off tweets announcing they’re live.
That’s not really relevant though, as the decline in overall mentions still shows a general reduction in interest. The ability to hook directly into your followers to promote your appearances was also one of the app’s big selling points, particularly after Twitter cut Meerkat off at the knees.
The decline of both apps in the App Store rankings could also be dismissed as the effect of early popularity settling in to a lower level of interest. But that hasn’t been the pattern with truly popular social media apps. The current Top 5 on iOS in the US includes Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and Dubsmash, with YouTube completing the set.
Simply put: the new live streaming apps aren’t a phenomenon, no matter how much certain sectors of the tech press and beyond desperately want them to be. They’re a niche prospect right now – neither a source of compelling viewing, nor a place where broadcasters can easily build up truly significant audiences.
I wrote back in March that Periscope won’t change the world and I stand by that now definitively cooled off ‘hot take’. The figures support it.
It feels like mobile live streaming should be a huge phenomenon so plenty of commentators are trying to will a trend into existence. Mobile data capacity is good enough and cheap enough to support it, but the majority of people aren’t that interested.
Mobile live streaming will continue to see spikes in interest around big events, but we’re still not in a world where huge numbers of people feel the need to take to live streaming to show off what they’re doing.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Snapchat all allow you to easily manage how you appear. Periscope and Meerkat don’t. Live streaming is more exposing. It’s easy to show off the carefully arranged meal on a beautiful plate than make the process of cooking it look anything more than sweaty tedium.