It’s Zoom’s world. We’re just living in it.
The video-conferencing app has exploded in popularity during the pandemic era. Why this 9-year-old company is resonating at this moment in time is clear: Zoom helps people across the globe bridge the gap social distancing has created among homebound populations.
Zoom went from the 154th app with the most unique downloads in the U.S. across both the App Store and Google Play in February, according to mobile tracking firm Sensor Tower, to No. 1 in March when the pandemic struck, well ahead of Instagram and Netflix. On a global basis, only TikTok and WhatsApp drew more downloads for the month (up from a 156th ranking).
We’re witnessing a phenomenon unfold, though one with long-term prospects that can certainly be called into question.
But before doing that, take notice of another trend that isn’t quite at the scale of Zoom but is notable nonetheless.
Netflix Watch Party is an increasingly popular extension of the Google Chrome browser that reorients the group-video experience around content, enabling communal viewing for people who can interact with each other without being in the same room while they watch the same TV show or movie simultaneously. Watch Party is actually just one of many similar offerings from tech giants and start-ups alike.
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Social distancing has acted as an accelerant for the market traction of both group video chat exemplifed by Zoom and the communal viewing represented by Netflix Watch Party. But though these trends seem to be on separate, parallel tracks, don’t be surprised to see them intersect over time.
And Zoom would seem to be the perfect place for the two to commingle.
That Zoom, which just a few months ago could be neatly categorized a business tool, could evolve into a media platform might seem more far-fetched. But the period of crisis the world is in today has expanded Zoom in a lot of new and interesting avenues far from its humble origins in corporate conference rooms. It’s already become indispensable in worlds as varied as education, medicine and religion.
But what’s at this point less pervasive but still evident is how Zoom can be a remote means for bringing far-flung people together for content and commerce. Music has already appropriated Zoom in the form of bands staging remote concerts and DJs hosting virtual nightclubs. Brands are plugging their wares, painters are showcasing their canvasses.
Even Zoom’s backgrounds have been co-opted by studios who are promoting the latest movies and TV shows. Something tells me Zoom is meant for more than just being a backdrop for these properties, (though the company also has a minefield of legal and privacy issues to work out as well).
Perhaps that logic was behind Verizon’s own move last week to acquire another leading company in this space, BlueJeans. The telco has a media division that’s already demonstrating an interest in innovating on content delivery, from 5G-based production to affiliate commerce.
As an audience estimated to have reached 200 million daily active users worldwide get a new understanding of how group video could be adopted in a way they’ve barely glimpsed on either old standbys like Skype and Facetime or newer players like Houseparty and Metastream, it just seems inevitable that Zoom could make interacting around content more popular.
The go-to brand for virtual video community is uniquely poised to extend itself into this budding adjacent category. Zoom has proven it can bring people together, which opens up an opportunity to bring people together around content. If media companies aren’t already exploring how Zoom can be new kind of platform for video, they really should be.