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It’s no secret mobile usage is increasing every day. According to the Meeker Report, mobile data traffic increased by 69% in 2014 and a whopping 76% of internet users are using a smartphone around the world. This technological shift has created some dramatic changes in how people like to consume media. One of the biggest changes is the shift towards vertical screen viewing.
Snapchat Has Changed the Game
Since it was released in 2011, Snapchat has grown to be one of the premier social media platforms. The app currently boasts more than 100 million users and generates more than a billion video views daily. Furthermore, Snapchat boasts a user base that consists of over 60% of millennials, a notoriously hard market segment to reach. The social media platform has evolved to be more than just a medium for communicating with friends. It has become a powerful source of information. An example of this is the success of Snapchat Discover, a feature that allows the user to explore news/live stories. Different publishers, such as Vice, National Geographic or Buzzfeed, publishes daily stories that are hand curated and refreshed every 24 hours. 8x as many 13-34 year olds view live stories as opposed to TV for similar events. This skyrocketing popularity of Snapchat as both a social media app and source of information is forcing competitors and advertisers alike to reconsider video formats.
The Vertical Screen Revolution
Vertical viewing, has increased from 5% of view time to 29% of view time in the past 5 years. Our preference for viewing media on a wide-screen format is decreasing rapidly. It has been surpassing horizontal viewing on desktops and laptops for the past two years. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, it appears that people actually prefer to view videos that have been formatted to fit a narrow mobile phone screen than to simply turn their phones 90 degrees and view content the traditional way. Snapchat has reported that vertical video ads on the app had 9 times the completion rate of horizontal mobile video ads.
This trend has to leak into non-mobile media, such as television. Jeep’s latest $10M Super Bowl commercial was made specifically for vertical viewing. Super Bowl 50 was the third most watched U.S. program in history, with nearly 112 million people watching on TV. Yet, Jeep decided to only utilize one third of the screen for their commercial. Sean Reynolds, who is the global creative director of Iris Worldwide, the company responsible for the ad, stated that the commercial was made specifically with mobile and tablet viewing experience in mind. The strategy seems to be working. On top of reaching millions of people on TV, the ad currently has more than 12 million views on YouTube.
Periscope is a live video streaming app that allows people to broadcast videos in real time from people around the world. The content ranges from mundane everyday activities to coverage of war-torn Syria. Users are able to interact with these broadcasters in real-time as well. The app has just surpassed 10 million accounts and was bought by Twitter for a reported $100 million earlier this year. Though users are able to stream video content in any format, the vast majority of users broadcasts the content using vertical viewing. To them, it’s simply more convenient and easier to record spontaneous situations using vertical screens.
Considering places like China where mobile usage actually surpasses PC or laptop usage, the importance of formatting content especially for mobile cannot be stressed enough. Studies are showing that 94% of internet browsing sessions begin in portrait mode. Vertical screen viewing is no longer something that people complain about. It has become the preferred method of viewing media. As mobile and apps like Snapchat continue to increase in popularity and dominate media consumption, media will need to be optimized for these new formats. Vertical screen viewing is here to stay.