What can we learn from Meerkat

Anthony Caruana
7 April, 2015
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Over the last couple of weeks an app called Meerkat has been garnering headlines in the tech media. Meerkat is an object lesson in how to successfully market an app and why not all in the tech world is as it seems.

Meerkat was a video streaming app that allowed you to create a private TV station to broadcast video to your Twitter followers. We put all this in the past tense as Twitter blocked Meerkat’s access to the ‘social graph’ so that Meerkat posts will not automatically push notifications to users’ Twitter followers, effectively crippling Meerkat and dissolving much of its value overnight.

Meerkat was able to generate significant hype after it was shown off at the SXSW conference in March. A number of bloggers hyped the app heavily and shortly thereafter the mainstream media followed suit. As a result of the hype investors came to the party with Greylock Partners, celebrity Jared Leto and others reportedly contributing US$14 million.

However, Twitter bought an app called Periscope that does more or less the same thing. That move coincided with Meerkat losing its social graph access.

For app developers there are some lessons to learn. Meerkat’s creators reportedly spent two years developing their application only to see their work washed away in one fell swoop. Their ‘crime’ – relying on access to a service that they had no control over.

Developing apps that rely on specific functions that are controlled by other parties that could become or acquire competitors puts the entire business at risk.

For the tech media, it’s clear that they fell for the hype that was generated by the bloggers. Despite claims by the bloggers that Meerkat was popular, there was little evidence to support that supposition. At no point did Meerkat appear on any of the App Store’s most popular download lists or Featured Apps.

Journalists need to do a little more research before they believe claims made by other outlets. That’s not to say bloggers are unreliable. But simply fact-checking by looking at the first entry in a set of web search results is not enough. Everyone in the technology media – and that includes us – owes it to our readers to do better.

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