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Video sharing app Meerkat could prove transformative in 2016

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Fresh from this year’s SXSW Interactive festival comes the latest social media and political fixation.

Meerkat allows live streaming cellphone video on Twitter. In two weeks, the iPhone-only app racked up more than 100,000 new users.

What makes Meerkat the political trend for 2016 rests with its list of early adopters, reports Dylan Byers of POLITICO, including politicians like presidential hopeful Jeb Bush and political reporter Dan Balz, among others.

“Everywhere I have gone here at South by Southwest … people are talking about Meerkat,” writes former senior Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer in Medium.com.

“And if that same discussion is not happening at every media outlet and presidential campaign around the country, they are making a huge mistake,” Pfeiffer continued. “If 2004 was about Meetup, 2008 was about Facebook, and 2012 was about Twitter, 2016 is going to be about Meerkat (or something just like it).”

Pfeiffer notes four ways that Meerkat could transform politics in 2016:

  • This year’s “47 Percent Moment” will be on live video.

Every minute of a campaign  —  literally —  will be publicly available to anyone with the app, regardless of where they are. For example, while waiting in a grocery store line, Pfeiffer watched Jeb Bush’s New Hampshire event as it happened. Raw footage was previously the domain of C-SPAN’s Road to the White House, with limited appeal to hardcore political junkies.

Now, the barrier between voters and campaigns is slowly being erased, without using the filter of TV networks cherry picking coverage.

  • TV and print reporters will merge even further.

With the 24/7 cable news cycle, punditry made TV stars of many print reporters. Meerkat accelerates the trend. As 2016 looms closers, print journalists will append stories, tweets and blog posts with video, often accompanied by instant analysis.

  • Greater engagement with the Millennial generation.

Meerkat will offer connections to media outlets and campaigns for Millennials, right where they get their news — cellphones. With the rise of on-demand programming and streaming, the Meerkat model fills the gaps left by broadcast and cable television.

  • Twitter followers now become a key campaign audience.

@BarackObama, with nearly 56 million Twitter followers, becomes a vast untapped resource. Pfeiffer guesses that if only 10 percent adopt Meerkat, 6 million people will be available at a time, a larger audience than any of the Sunday news shows. Only broadcast and cable have a chance of touching those numbers. The takeaway: campaigns and media outlets large numbers of engaged followers will have a distinct advantage.

Meerkat – or similar technologies – could take time to catch on with the masses, like any innovation. But when it does, and it will, live video sharing will do nothing less than revolutionize American politics.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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