If my analyses of sites like Justin.tv, Ustream.tv, and Livestream indicate anything (and I certainly hope it’s more than one thing), it’s that video broadcasting is a viable web platform that is growing in quality and becoming easier and cheaper to distribute.
One new web property has caught my eye as leading the way in developing the technology necessary to make high-quality user-generated video content widely distributable. Qik.com (pronounced “quick”) launched its private alpha testing in December 2007. From the website: “Qik’s focus is on developing the perfect mobile video platform, providing the highest quality of live video experience across all devices and networks.” Qik enables users of mobile phones with video recording capabilities (including jailbroken iPhones) to quickly broadcast to Qik.com channels as well as live to their website/blog, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and others. It’s the live broadcasting elements that make their technology groundbreaking. Users don’t have to wait to upload their mobile video. Qik technology analyzes its live streams and allocates resources to ensure the highest broadcast quality possible. Qik makes true real-time broadcast possible from the smallest of mobile phones.
On Qik, a user can host a video channel - or embed one on another site. It’s a different growth model compared to the previously mentioned broadcast sites. In fact, it’s better not to look at Qik as a competitor to the Ustreams and Justin.tvs in the world. Qik is making an effort to work with other broadcast channels to embed Qik channels. To Qik, it’s less important to build a site full of excellent content; Qik gives users the tools to create it themselves. This growth model helps the growth of live broadcasting as a content distribution channel, and should attractive marketers wanting to promote products or events. Take for example, a group known as Twilighters Anonymous. This unofficial fan club for the Twilight book series by Stephanie Meyer started a channel on Qik to enable attendees at the opening night of the film version of Twilight to broadcast live – via their mobile phones – on the fan club site and at Qik. Eighteen attendees were broadcasting that night.
Here’s a sample (turn down your volume… there are lots of screaming teenagers).
Given the hysteria that night, I think it’s safe to say that this was a missed opportunity for domestic distributor Summit Entertainment to make an already big event even bigger. They should have allowed Twilighters’ embedded Qik feeds across multiple broadcast platforms as well as on the official site. This would have tapped into the power of 1) a rabid fan base eager to spread the word, and 2) a comprehensive threaded content distribution for the big event. Had it done this, Summit would have endeared itself to the hardcore fans by making them an integral part of the overall Twilight film premiere experience. This could have exploited a potential new fan base across the social media spectrum. It’s not at all surprising that Twilight found a mass audience on Qik. Their demographics over index with women and teenagers 11-17. This technology-savvy demographic is a key indicator of a channel that is in early growth stages but has heavy potential for large growth. (See demographic chart at bottom of article.)
The Twilight premiere might represent a missed opportunity, but it’s a teachable one. Qik is making real-time video citizen journalism possible and, beyond that, ready for the mainstream.
Qik in Adoption Phase
Twilighters Anonymous demonstrate the real potential in Qik.com. The small audience of core users producing popular and quality content drove its growth into the adoption phase of its New Media Life Cycle.
Its growth will depend on continued production and adoption by engaging talents and, more importantly, the continued development of the technology. Qik’s channel-agnostic broadcasts depend less on heavy traffic to their website than they do on high-quality streaming video. One obstacle they will face in terms of channel and traffic growth is their dependence on the proliferation of video-enabled mobile phones. It’s a limiting dependency right now. Nevertheless, it could work to Qik’s credit as early technology adopters tend to be fiercely loyal; it virtually ensures that channel producers are trusted producers dedicated to using the channel to its full potential.
The Future of Qik
Movie premieres are just one example of the power of Qik. Brands hoping to make a big splash at their next product launch should form a channel on Qik and encourage attendees to broadcast live to reach a bigger, and motivated audience. Cumbersome equipment, antennas and microphones are no longer necessary to get good video coverage. It would also allow said brand to ensure that it reaches its target market. If, for example, Nokia were to invite tech and mobile technology bloggers to broadcast their next product launch, the audience is high quality and likely within target demographics, not to mention the overhead is virtually zero. Or think bigger and colder.
This past winter was particularly harsh in New England; not that anyone was surprised. Cable news channel NECN used a bad snowstorm as the opportunity to enable some viewers to become a part of their coverage, all the while getting cameras into and footage from nearly inaccessible places. They enlisted footage from blogger Steve Garfield, broadcast via Qik technology on his mobile phone, to show the depth and severity of the storm.
Could it be that the days of young, overly ambitious reporters getting blown down by category 5 hurricanes … are over? Instead of placing newspeople in harm’s way, news outlets can tap people already there and already pointing their camera phones out the window, getting nearly the same effect, minus the unbelievable insurance and OSHA risk.
Reading this New York Times piece about the popularity of Huy Fong Sriracha sauce gave me another idea. Fan communities of the product could broadcast aspiring chefs who cook with the product, discussing the inventive ways they’re employing it.
So, should I use Qik technology for business?
I know I asked it, but it’s the wrong question. Live, streaming video technology has come a long way in a short time. Qik.com is building the platform and improving the technology, making quality content much cheaper and easier to produce. And by making the technology compatible with mobile phones, Qik is ensuring their reach is vast, growing vaster.
A better question is, How should I use Qik technology? If you’re covering, promoting, producing a live event, I’d recommend creating a channel for the event on Qik.com. Announce the channel in as many media as you can. Major media outlets, instead of fearing the rise of citizen journalists, should embrace them as a means to further broaden their coverage of news. Encourage attendees to broadcast to the channel, and embed the broadcasts on your own site.
And you don’t have to let the stream end. If you’re promoting a product, follow the example of Ford’s Fiesta Movement and encourage users to broadcast their experiences live. Give away the product – heck, if necessary, give away the mobile phone needed to broadcast.
Live mobile streaming represents a potential giant leap forward for video broadcasting on the web. As mobile technology grows and prices decline, the crop of potential producers grows, as does the ability to reach a mass audience of focused, motivated viewers ready to learn more about the latest products. Individuals trying to raise their own or their product’s profile should explore ways to exploit the platform now, not later. Early platform adopters usually win the race, as they are often endeared to the mavens driving the platform growth.
So if your audience is already using Qik, then you should absolutely stream live mobile video. However, no matter who you are, I suggest you take a look at Qik.com and see if you can find a way to experiment with live mobile streaming video.
My Question to You
Is Qik mobile streaming ready for prime time? How would you use mobile broadcasting to promote your (personal) brand? Have you tried mobile broadcasting? Let us know!