Periscope, Meerkat and why communicators should be live-streaming events

Are you going to make the most of live-streaming services such as Meerkat (left) or Periscope to better communicate your story?

Are you going to make the most of live-streaming services such as Meerkat (left) or Periscope to better communicate your story?

We all love video delivered via the internet, and now there’s several more reasons to love video on the internet. The online community has been raving about the launch of live streaming video apps such as the Twitter-owned Periscope and Meerkat. I’m also excited, but for a different reason. Both Periscope and Meerkat open up a whole world of possibilities for public relations and communication professionals. These live streaming services, both of which were launched this year, will push us further down the line, towards visual communication and away from the old mantra of press releases and traditional media.

Apps such as Periscope and Meerkat enable any and everyone with an iPhone or Android-based smartphone to live stream, at no additional cost and with high-quality streaming. As a communicator, we can now capture and share our stories worldwide or to a select group through Twitter or directly via the apps as the story happens. Live streaming applications are already being used by journalists and commentators in the UAE. Dr James Piecowye of Dubai Eye (@jamesEd_me) and Khaled AlAmeri of The National (@KhaledAlAmeri) are both using Periscope – James to actually stream his radio show live every night as well as events such as Creative Mornings Dubai, Khaled to live stream his views on current affairs. With Periscope, users can comment during the live-stream which in turn fuels the conversation and promotes engagement.

On the PR News website Mark Renfree sums up eloquently why live streaming apps such as Periscope and Meerkat should matter to PR pros.

1) Capture and share the moment as it happens. Live streaming is here and people are using it. Politicians are giving speeches, celebrities are providing fans with virtual backstage access and people are watching their friends make sandwiches using live streaming apps. During a catastrophic fire in New York’s East Village on Thursday, journalists and citizens used live streaming apps to document and share the tragedy as it developed.

2) PR pros can provide a whole new type of content. Streaming apps offer communicators a whole new way to engage their audiences—whether they’re consumers, employees or the general public. Everything from shareholder meetings to PR stunts can now be broadcast and, specifically with Periscope, saved and posted on other channels.

3) Live streaming can give communicators increased control over messages. Streaming apps allow communicators to broadcast content themselves, a task that was usually left to journalists and the news media. Periscope and Meerkat eliminate the middle man between communicators and their audiences.

4) This opens up a new chapter for the hot-mic problem. Nearly everyone, everywhere is now carrying a live streaming video camera. For individuals and brands in the spotlight, these apps are adding to an environment in which there is already little reprieve from the ever-watchful eye of the public.

Has Nokia refound its mojo? And is Microsoft responsible?

Years ago, there was only one, the phone to rule all phones. No body ever asked for a phone. They asked for a Nokia. Saudi Arabia was the land of Nokia. And the rest of the Gulf wasn’t far behind. One tale I was told about the Finnish phone behemoth was that Saudi was the largest market worldwide for Nokia’s Communicator series of phones.

Saudi ten years back. Yes, Saudis loved their Nokia Communicators (this isn’t a Communicator but they’re about the same size).

And the came Apple, followed by Samsung, HTC, Blackberry and other mobile devices of all shapes and form. And Nokia was no longer the same company that it was before.

But then, there was a change. Nokia came together with Microsoft. And something new was born.

The Lumia 920 in all its glory. Yellow is optional.

The portents didn’t speak well for the partnership between the two companies. I remember owning a Windows-based SPV phone about ten years ago. While the phone did last, it wasn’t the easiest device to use. Microsoft hasn’t had a good track record when it comes to mobile operating systems. And Nokia’s Symbian has died a death. How would the two companies compete with Apple’s iOS software and Google’s Android platform?

As a reformed optimist and a gadget monster I took the plunge and ordered a new Nokia Lumia 920 on its release last month. I liked the look of the hardware – the Lumia has a 768 by 1280 pixel screen which is slightly larger than the iPhone 4, a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor, 32Gb of storage, an eight megapixel Carl Zeiss lens camera, NFC, Bluetooth, HSDPA and HSUPA connectivity and all the Wi-Fi that you’d need. The phone is chunkier than most, weighing in at 185 grams and with a dimension of 130.3 by 70.8 and 10.7mm, but I like my phones chunky and plumpy.

Going beyond the hardware, what I liked most about the new Nokia Windows-based lineup was the software. The operating system is simple to use with tiles on the front page to heavily-used applications and functions. The front screen can be easily customized to meet the needs of the user, it’s intuitive and copying files to and from the phone is so simple (though Microsoft still needs to work on the Windows Phone app which tends to crash when copying music). I can also sync files to my desktop and laptop using Microsoft’s Skydrive. All in all, the phone’s operating system is a joy to use and Microsoft is heading in the right direction when it comes to usability (though I’d love to see more shortcut buttons or tiles.

But there’s more good stuff to come. Nokia has long been a leader in the maps space following its acquisition of Navteq in 2008. The maps on the Lumia 920 are rich with detail including 3D rendering, they’re simple to use and most importantly they’re full of detail. With Nokia Drive you can do away with any other GPS software and hardware you may use for driving. Again, the system is easy to use, the voice directions are clear and I haven’t found any glaring mistakes in terms of geography and topography.

The most fun thing about my Nokia 920 experience so far is the Nokia City Lens, which is the smartest use of augmented reality so far. Basically, the City Lens allows you to look at the screen and view what locations of interest are nearby (be they restaurants, hotel, museums, shops, or even famous sights). Once you click on a point of interest you’ll be able to view pictures, read reviews and be guided there by Nokia Maps. Much of the content on Nokia City Lens is consumer-generated, which is going to make the application even more interesting as time goes by. As my brief explanation hasn’t the app any justice have a look at the embedded video.

I have tried the camera and true to form Nokia’s cameras as wonderfully clear. There’s much more I need to play around with on the camera settings, but I leave the photography to my talented wife.

And the downside? The applications, or lack of, currently available for the phone. There’s no Instagram as of yet and no native Twitter application, Whatsapp is still unstable, and compared to the iPhone and Android-based phones Microsoft needs to do more to convince developers to create apps for Windows 8 Mobile.

Having tested the phone both at home and abroad I know that Nokia is onto a winner. The Windows 8 environment will grow and develop with time and Nokia has bet its future on the operating system (it’s only crashed twice, which is remarkable for a Microsoft device). I’d love to see Microsoft publicize the operating system more (they’ve been surprisingly quiet in talking about Windows 8 Mobile despite it being crucial to their vision of a connected PC-phone-tablet ecosystem).

The question is now, will Nokia pick itself up again in the Gulf? While Blackberry is dying a death globally, the Canadian manufacturer is still doing remarkably well in the Gulf due in part to its Blackberry Messenger Service. Apple retains bragging rights to the best smartphone around, despite (in my view) doing remarkably little with the device since the launch of the 3GS. And then there’s Google. Can anyone stop the search giant with its Android operating system?

I’m certainly hoping that Nokia comes back strong. The product is one to shout about. Will its marketing be strong and bold enough to cut through the disappointment and ambivalence that many people feel about Nokia today in the Gulf to rediscover the love affair that they once had with the Finnish giant? Toivotaan niin Nokia! Game on Apple!

Google, Blackberry and Apple, where’s the Arab content?

I had the chance to sit with some very switched on and influential telecoms executives twice this week. While the first was a shin-dig for the most widely respected telecoms awards ceremony in the Middle East, CommsMEA, the other was a tea and dinner with a number of senior people from Saudi Arabia.

I love to sit down for a tea or a coffee. You hear more over a cup of warm water and a tea bag than you will ever do in an all-day meeting. The one thing that the executives were discussed was a content portal. One in particular was fed up. He told me, Blackberry and Google move too slow. All Google wants to do is sell Adwords rather than provide our country and region with a portal to sell applications.

Let me tell you a bit about apps, in case you didn’t know. Those programs that you can download to your smartphone are big business. The global leader by a mile, Apple has sold or given to iPhone owners 18 billion apps through its online store. Apple today offers over half a million apps to customers worldwide. Well, anywhere apart from the Middle East that is.

The problem for most of us consumers in this region is that we cannot pay for content online for our smartphones. Why? Because our credit and debit cards aren’t accepted by these online gateways. While consumers with a US or Europe-based credit card and address can choose from millions of songs, apps, and videos, those less fortunate souls in nearly all of the Gulf can only access free-to-download programs (the one exception is the UAE where Apple launched an online content store for local credit and debit card holders in August of this year).

What annoys telcos so much is that they’ve deployed state-of-the-art data networks based on LTE technology. In other words, they’re ready and waiting to see consumers download hundred of megabytes of data a day. Data is the next big cash cow for mobile carriers in the Middle East. So it’s annoying to see yourself all ready to go out and having no ride to get there.

But while Apple rules the roost when it comes to content, where’s Google and Blackberry? Everyone I know in this region has a Blackberry device, and yet the only application people seem to use is Blackberry Messenger or BBM for short. Similarly, Google’s Android mobile phone operating system is winning fans from across the region. So why aren’t they willing to beat Apple at its own game and roll out content stores for the region?

It’s getting to the point of desperation when operators have to develop their own online content and app store. But if that’s what it’ll take to get Google, Apple and Blackberry moving then so be it. Similarly, the more apps we shift in this region, the more content we’re actually going to get in Arabic (there’s always been a issue in the Middle East with the lack of Arabic-language applications for smartphones). The more content we have in Arabic, the more apps the operators and content owners will sell. It’s simple logic, and it’ll make lots of money. So what are you waiting for Google, Blackberry, and Apple. Where’s the Arabic content.

The only thing I’d like to know is whatever happened to Microsoft?

PS Claire good to see you at the CommsMEA event. Did you ever hire that comms director?