Can Periscope and Meerkat be the Conduit Between General Aviation and the Public?

9:03 AM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Anyone that watches the tech space for the hottest new mobile apps knows that two new "live streaming" apps - Periscope and Meerkat - are red hot right now. Both operate the same way, giving users a quick, easy and free way to create "live broadcasts" that allow real-time chat functionality.

So far, in testing both apps for a few days, I'm quite impressed with the technology. A simple user interface gives anyone the tools to go live and show their viewers what they are seeing, as long as both broadcaster and viewer have a decent connection. I have seen more than a few "poor" or "lost" connections, always over 4G LTE. This is not a review of the apps, except to say both have taken social media to another exciting level, and yet again, the bar has been raised on what we can do with our mobile devices. The only question is...what will people do with this new tool?

My initial reaction to Periscope and Meerkat after seeing how the apps are being used is that the majority of the content so far is drivel. "What's in my fridge" or "Me, eating at Taco Bell" does not generate "must see" streams. And my personal favorite of "My cat, sleeping" made me start thinking  that these new apps could have somehow found a way to jump the shark even before they grow big enough to became an everyday part of our social media lives.

But something on Periscope piqued my interest about the possibly of these apps being used by the aviation community as a great way to reach out to the public and welcome them into our world, if only for a few streaming moments.

I noticed that quite a few people were doing "23YO girl in Ireland, ask me anything" live sessions, and were getting anywhere from 10 to even 50 viewers "tuning in" live to ask mostly mindless questions. So I let myself wonder what would happen if it became a "thing" to see a serious number of pilots jump on these apps with "I'm a pilot, ask me anything about flying and airplanes" live broadcasts. Here is me, dreaming...
Throughout the week, what if 10 #avgeeks were on these apps offering to answer any legit questions about flying, aviation, airplanes...anything in this realm? Let's just say each pilot on Periscope or Meerkat answering questions were to get 20 viewers, that's 200 people we could reach! Sure, 200 people reached may not seem like a huge number, but it would be a start. And if general aviation is to grow, every licensed pilot has to constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities for public outreach, and there is no question these apps represent a new opportunity.
The demographics of the average social media user trends younger, and this is precisely the demo we need to target. With tech savvy #avgeek pilots using these apps to connect with this target audience, we may be able to amp up the "cool factor" of flying and convince a few of these "viewers" to seek out flight schools, head over to the local airport, or just visit the EAA or AOPA websites to learn more.

So for the next few weeks, I'm going to test this theory and see if there is any interest on Periscope. I will host some of my own "I'm a pilot - Q&A about flying and airplanes" live broadcasts, and track the results. If it turns out that these apps are really only about drivel and sleeping cats, the whole exercise can easily be shelved, no harm, no foul and no cost., dreaming:
How cool would it be to get 20, 30, even 50 people at once watching an #avgeek host a live Periscope or Meerkat session about flying? We'd have a captive audience who by their very act of joining the broadcast would demonstrate that they have some level of interest in learning about our world. We could answer their obvious questions like "how much does it cost to get a pilot's license" and "is it safe" while smiling - no, grinning - because we are overflowing with enthusiasm for something we love. Why not host the live broadcasts from our hangars, show viewers our airplanes? We could stream our EAA chapter meetings, rock their world from Sun N' Fun, or broadcast what we see at an AOPA regional fly-in...all of this to get them excited about aviation. Yes, maybe it will be just a few minutes of live streamed video, but if we connect with that tiny piece of their soul that is curious about aviation, it moves those viewers one step closer to converting them into a flight student, and that really is the end game here.
Looking ahead a few months to late summer, we all know what happens along the shores of Lake Winnebago, at the aviation family reunion we call EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Imagine what could happen if hundreds of #avgeeks all embraced Periscope and Meerkat and launched a flood of live broadcasts from the show every day. We could really reach out to the public, drawing them in to see that flying is fascinating, exciting and available to them. For one week, we could push live broadcasts from Oshkosh onto these platforms, and the results would be nothing short of incredible.

I will stay on this bandwagon heading into Oshkosh, because it is my belief that these two apps might just be the perfect conduit to finally bridge the expanding gap between our aviation community and the general public.

Keep an eye on Airplanista as I report back in on what develops in this "Pilot Q & A" experiment. If you like this idea, and wish to participate, just download Periscope or Meerkat and get after it. You can always email me here, or reach me on Twitter as @Av8rdan.

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