Differences Matter

I was struck by this paragraph in the Slate piece on our portfolio company YouNow this weekend:

In theory, YouNow sounds a bit like Twitter’s real-time video feature, Periscope. In practice, they’re nothing alike. Periscope’s tagline is “Explore the world through someone else’s eyes”; it’s named after a device that rises out of the darkness to take a look around. But on YouNow, you don’t see what the broadcaster sees—you see the broadcaster himself. You click into a stream and stare into his eyes. YouNow’s camera is always set, by default, to selfie mode. The whole site is designed to create personalities and foster fandoms around them. And its features are gamified to keep everyone’s eyes glued to the screen. When a Periscope broadcast is launched, only the user’s Twitter followers get a heads up. But YouNow broadcasts compete for the attention of the entire social network through a roiling leaderboard tacked to the side of the screen. When a Periscope user stops streaming, the screen goes black. When a YouNower signs off, her viewers are instantly pitched into a new stream, where a different broadcaster is challenged to charm the newcomers into sticking around. 

Yes, YouNow and Periscope are the two leading “broadcast video live” services on mobile phones. But as you can gather from reading that paragraph above, they could not be more different from each other. One is for broadcasting what you are seeing, Periscope, and one is for broadcasting your self, YouNow. Their names tell you all you need to know.

Periscope’s rise has not hurt YouNow the way it did Meerkat because the two services are actually quite different from each other. You can see that in this chart:

So what is the lesson to take away from this post? It is that being different matters. But you have to be different in ways that users will feel right away. From differentiation comes defensibility. And in the hyper-competitive world of social media, that’s a good thing.