By B.L. Ochman
Periscope and Meerkat are old hat. Yes, already.
The new kid on the block is Blab.im – real-time live streaming video conversations for up to four people at a time. The audience watches, can comment within the Blab and on Twitter, and can switch places with the original chatters.
How should brands be thinking about Blab? Is it just a flash in the pan? Or a sea change in communication? Read on.
What Blab.im is
Blab’s new, easy, fun, free, completely interactive and on 24/7. Its creators drop into Blabs all the time (they don’t seem to sleep) and they update features in real time.
Unlike podcasting or other forms of live streaming, which are essentially one to many broadcasts, Blab participants can see, hear and chat with each other in real time, while simultaneously Tweeting about the Blab. And, oh yes, the immediacy of Blab is addicting.
Time spent on Blab already rivals Netflix & TV
Right now, average time being spent on Blabs, according to its CEO, Shaan Puri, is 64 minutes. That is mind-boggling given our short and fractured attention span, which is said to lag behind that of a goldfish.
When you get into a Blab, there’s so much going on that you only realize later that you just gave up two hours of your life, and/or that it’s 1 a.m.
Among those who drop into Blabs are Spencer Pratt & Heidi Montag from the Hills, Al Jazeera, T-Mobile CEO John Legere, and people from all walks of life who sometimes end up getting on airplanes to meet in real life.
Blab.im is social media city
There’s already a Blabaholics group on Facebook, and a Blab Rehab Show for the platform’s addicts. It’s a Blab, natch. That’s because Blabs start with the intention of lasting 30 minutes and end up streaming for hours on end. Sometimes, the host leaves and participants start a new blab where the conversation continues. And here’s a collection of Tweets from fans who love Blab.
The new Blab.im platform is ready for brands
Blab can become a terrific platform for:
- Holding town halls with executives taking questions from the community
- Running contests
- Holding career days for students to ask questions about working for the company
- Featuring talks by your experts
- Sponsoring live Blab events
- could be a terrific platform for a book club, perhaps sponsored by a major publisher (if any of those still exist)
- Video interviews that can be embedded in blogs
- Concerts – two songwriters met in a Blab, composed a song together in real-time, recorded it and have performed it live several times since.
- Raising money for charity (already money has been raised for clean water http://blabtalk.com/how-blabtalk-provided-clean-water-for-100-people/ and for NoKidHungry)
- Interactive after show chats for existing Hangouts, radio, TV and news shows on traditional platforms
- Talk shows with specific topic formats, which can be very specialized
- Political Campaigns, as a perfect showcase for candidates town hallsv
- Product demos
- Conducting interactive product training sessions
- Office hours to interact with customers and followers
- Live mobile reporting from conferences and shows
- Creating posts, Pins, Tweets, trailers and graphics from points made in Blabs
- Embedding edited, branded Blabs in blogs, Instagram, websites, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn or email
What Blab isn’t
Blab is not a substitute for Hangouts on Air, Crowdcast, GoToMeeting, or Skype. It will not offer private or paid meetings, says Puri, and it doesn’t want to compete with existing platforms. Each of those platforms has its own advantages and shortcomings. Blab, says Puri, does not want to duplicate features of other platforms.
Hangouts, for instance, are integrated with YouTube and all other Google products. So screen sharing and other collaborative features are enabled for public, private, free or paid sessions. But Hangouts has a steep learning curve for those who want professional results and many people find that daunting.
How Blab works
Here’s a screenshot from a Blab hosted by Ronnie Bincer, with me, Chef Dennis Litley and Michael Thomas discussing the role of video in building trust and marketing. You can watch the replay here.
Blab, which is free, is spectacularly simple to use, has features you won’t find on other platforms (yet) and is a very quick way to reach and engage with a vast new audience worldwide.
The key to Blab’s instant popularity is that it is essentially plug and play. It works on both desktop and mobile devices, and the two integrate seamlessly. And it is being constantly updated, in real time, by Team Blab, 12 people who work out an office in San Francisco. Here’s their step-by-step guide to Blabbing.
To participate, you sign in to Blab – via the Chrome browser on desktop, or on mobile device for Android or iOS – with your Twitter account, which also provides your Blab handle. (My Twitter handle, for example, is @whatsnext and whatsnext is also my screen name on Blab https://blab.im/whatsnext )
As a host, you get to accept callers into the Blab, and kick them out as well. You cannot control who partcipates in the comments, yet, but you can report spammers and trolls. The host will get the downloadable MP4, MP3, and embed code once the recorded Blab has ended. The MP4 can be edited, branded and uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, a website, etc.
Team Blab’s constant presence
Still in Beta, after a soft launch in April, Blab evolves daily. Puri (@ShaanVP), Brittany Metz @BrittanyMetz, Community Manager, and CTO Furqan Rydhan @FurqanR frequently join Blabs and hold Town Meetings to ask what features we’d like them to add. And then, astoundingly, they add them! PitchCrafts are also held regularly so startups can pitch prominent VCs.
Seamless mobile integration and video recording
One of Blab’s more valuable offerings is the ability to Start a Live Blab session from Mobile devices and have all the same features that are available on desktop. No other streaming platform offers that option.
Unlike any other platform, the host an even pause the recording and go “off the record” and it’ll be cut from the final recording! The host also has the ability to change the topic mid-Blab. Recordings can be up to 6 hours long.
Who’s the money behind Blab?
Blab has a bit of a complicated heritage. It was incubated at Monkey Inferno, a San Francisco-based incubator which has since been dissolved. Blab’s co-founder and main investor is Michael Birch, who created Bebo, a messaging app that was sold to AOL in 2008 for $850 million.
Birch bought Bebo back in 2013 for $1 billion and created Monkey Inferno with the same team that built Bebo, including CEO Shaan Puri. Blab spun off as its own company in January 2015, with Birch as its main investor and Puri as CEO. “That kind of financial security means we’re a fast-paced but low-stress workplace,” says Puri. “When we saw the way Blab was taking off, and saw the potential of the project, we doubled down to focus entirely on Blab,” he explained. The Beta of Blab launched in April.
What’s Blab’s business model?
None, so far. The goal, says Puri, is to build the audience to the point where it becomes possible to make money. Brands, he says, are usually late to the party. When they see that you have people’s attention, they take a close look.
Smart brands should take a look right now because the average active user is currently spending 64 minutes a day on Blab – making it a close competitor to TV and Netflix.
There is, without a doubt, a bit of mania on the platform. But many think that frenzy is just beginning.
More quantity than quality right now?
“We just make the tool,” Puri says. “The people make the products.” Creating something people will actually want to watch is another thing entirely.
Right now, Blab is a shiny new object and a lot of fun. There’s much more quantity than quality right now. People who don’t know anything about lighting or sound are jumping into Blabs and looking terrible. It’s like to early days of YouTube when people just uploaded home video that looked dreadful. “Right now this is new,” Puri says, “and game gets raised as the platform evolves.”
I’m enjoying the frenzy, but already bored by the hours-long talk fests that have no beginning, middle and end – often by people who should know better.
That said, I think Blab is terrific and I’m glad to have it in the toolbox. I’m also glad that people are coming to Twitter, but as someone who’s been there since 2007, I think they’ll see that just getting a Twitter handle is not the same as developing a following. Just saying
What about monitoring and analytics?
And Blab needs to start providing stats and analytics, which are said to be in the works. And around Blab, in the works could be 15 minutes from now.
What about Twitter and Blab?
In the past, Twitter has blocked platforms that used their name, their API. Given that the only way to sign in to Blab is through Twitter, this could present a future danger. But Blab is bringing new users to Twitter on a daily basis. That should be appealing to investors since audience growth has been one of Twitter’s core issues.
What’s the Bottom Line on Blab?
In the end effect, Blab’s eventual success is going to be about good guests, good topics and shorter segments. And those are the very things that create opportunities for brands.
Now is the time for brands to take a close look at Blab and jump in to learn more.