This ‘revelation’ from Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel is the driving force behind the latest digital trend marketers are having to contend with, or risk getting left behind; providing vertical video and image content.
To those of us who aren’t millennials, this may seem like exaggeration. But Troy Young, president of Hearst Digital, supports Spiegel’s thinking, saying: “Mobile phones are vertical devices… turning it sideways is a lot of work.” What’s more, Darren Tome, VP of product management at Mashable, believes that “phones are the dominant device for content consumption with the young, digital generation” so it’s vital that marketers heed the lessons shared by those platforms which are proving so successful with the younger generations; ensuring that content is created “in an aspect ratio that’s native and natural for mobile”.
The statistics show that there is some truth in these claims: on the Snapchat platform, vertical ads are viewed to the end nine times more frequently than horizontal ones, and this is on a platform which is significant in reaching millennials, boasting 35 million daily users aged 13-34 in the U.S. alone. What’s more, as mobile increasingly becomes the primary device for accessing the internet, having accounted for more than half of e-commerce transactions for some time now, it may not just be those marketers catering to millennials who need to invest in vertical content.
Snapchat isn’t the only platform to focus on vertical content. Meerkat and Periscope, both of which stream live video, are also configured for vertical content.
Acknowledging the trend and being keen to adopt vertical content, however, is only the first hurdle in the race to ‘go vertical’. Unless you are in the same position as Snapchat, Meerkat or Periscope’s content teams, which only have to provide content to suit their vertical display channels, you almost certainly will need to produce horizontal content as well. The majority of outlets are set up to display horizontal content, whether this is a brand website, most social media channels, or mainstream advertising channels. So in practice, to incorporate vertical content in to your strategy, you are most likely going to need to create two distinct pieces of content if you’re to continue sharing on existing channels while also investing in vertical channels. It’s not as simple as repurposing horizontal content for vertical distribution, nor is it easy to repurpose vertical for traditional horizontal distribution. Twice as much work often means twice as much budget.
Some brands and publishers are beginning to show vertical content within special vertical display boxes on their sites, for instance Mashable recently shared its first piece of cross-platform vertical content, on desktop, mobile and iOS, to some extent negating the need to duplicate content. We would have to question whether this could go too far though, as our wide screen televisions, laptops and desktops clearly benefit from wide angle filming; you can experience more from your content when it’s wide screen! Furthermore, TV advertising, cinema advertising, and horizontal billboard advertising are going to continue to require horizontal content.
It will be interesting to see how far vertical content reaches in ‘cross platform’ distribution. We would much prefer to see vertical content prioritised for mobile, but horizontal content retained everywhere else. It’s just a question of time and budget, versus optimal user experience which varies from platform to platform. We wonder which will win!