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Spotlight on: Hang w/

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Move over Facetime and Skype – there’s a new streaming video app in town. And its successful adoption among both celebrities and average smartphone users pushed it to 1 million downloads last month, just shy of one year since the app launched out of Orange County-based company MEDL Media in March 2013. That’s faster than Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other major social media platforms each hit 1 million downloads. The Hang w/ concept is different, though, aiming for authentic social networking through real-time streaming video. In an era where most celebrities have social media teams to handle their accounts, MEDL co-founder and director Andrew Maltin saw a crossroads of inefficiencies in social media and a need for something authentic.

“The whole [entertainment] industry is all smoke and mirrors,” he says, “but this is the thing that won’t be fake.” Starting off with celebrities as the core users, Hang w/ has allowed Timbaland and Jay-Z to broadcast live from the stage at Madison Square Garden. It gave followers a firsthand look in the Broncos’ locker room after the Super Bowl. And 50 Cent and tech guru Robert Scoble streamed live from the showroom floor at CES 2014.

Celebrities in particular can reach their fans and customers on a more personal level through sharing their big events and simple moments live, while the fans get firsthand access to the celebrities they want to follow through not only the broadcasts, but also the ability to text-chat with them live at the same time. In December, the company announced its integration with Facebook that streams users’ broadcasts live on their Facebook pages regardless of whether Facebook friends have the app. Integration with other platforms like Twitter and Google+ is on the horizon.

The idea for the Hang w/ app, which is available on the iPhone and iPad and Android smartphones, was inspired when Maltin and his team were trying to solve a problem for one celebrity client in particular. “He was spending all kinds of time and money on social networking for little ROI; it didn’t translate into anything,” Maltin says. “Hang w/ gives him the ability to connect with his fan base and bring in revenue through ads.”

But what makes it different from other streaming video apps and sites? “Whereas Facetime or Skype, for example, are only ‘one-to-one,’ Hang w/ is ‘one to many,’ ” explains Maltin. “There’s no limit to how many people can view your live broadcast.” The only limitation is on the length of the broadcast at three, six or nine minutes each.

Ok, so any of your followers can tune in at any time, but what about the innocent bystanders who may not want to be on the other side of the camera? “I hate to say this, but I think we need to start getting used to it, that zero privacy is becoming the norm,” Maltin admits. “These days you can’t expect not to be on video when you’re in public, from security cameras to people’s cell phones. The younger generations don’t care, so the rest just have to come to grips with society. We’ve tried to stop technologies like these in the past and we just can’t."

He adds optimistically, “Maybe this will help make better people. Maybe knowing they are constantly on tape, people will start thinking about that more and it’ll keep them honest.”

At the very least, it’s an exciting new twist in the streaming video market with lots of potential. “We’re very excited by the prospects of the platform,” Maltin says. “We believe it’s the newest form of social media, the frontrunner to where social is going.”

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