Whether you’re a seasoned content marketer or a complete novice in the field, you’re probably aware that video is important. The statistics speak for themselves: a survey of 570 people conducted by Wyzowl found that the average person watches more than an hour and a half of online video per day (with 15% watching more than three hours per day).
There is one growing video trend that many content marketers still aren’t particularly aware of, though: vertical video.
Designed to be viewed in portrait mode with a far taller, more narrow image than we are used to from TV and cinema, vertical videos are becoming more widespread due to the increased use of phones, which most users hold upright.
As smartphones have, in the last few years, become the hub of people’s media consumption and social media use (a 2017 study by comScore found that mobile actually accounts for 69% of all digital media use) - the vertical format for video has become far more prevalent, and thus a bigger consideration for content producers. Though the language of visual storytelling has historically been geared towards the larger and more communal screens of cinema and the television, the upright smartphone screen is now creating new avenues for visual creativity and for communicating to audiences.
Here are just some of the benefits:
One of the key benefits of vertical video is the simple (yet crucial) fact that people naturally hold their phones vertically when performing most tasks.
Obviously, the effort required to rotate your phone is not much - but when it comes to reducing the number of steps it takes for a casual scroller to become an engaged viewer, it’s worth minimising that effort and ensuring that your content stands out for its convenience as much as anything else.
Research conducted by journalist Zena Barakat found that many people don’t even rotate their phones when watching horizontally-oriented videos, which suggests that vertical video is definitely worth considering.
There are a variety of ways in which vertical video is able to engage more deeply with audiences. Though vertical video lacks the wider scope of a landscape image, it makes up for this by the fact that the viewer’s attention will instead be centred on a single focal point or individual.
The fact that this is how people use their phones to communicate with one another (whether through video calls, or through posts on social video platforms like Snapchat or Instagram Stories) also means that vertical video is an ideal way to establish a more authentically “one-to-one” relationship between a presenter and a viewer.
The vertical format has proven especially popular for live video, where the tighter frame can make the viewer feel like more of an active participant. Additionally though,the simple fact that you can comfortably hold a phone vertically in one hand makes it far easier for viewers to multi-task, reading and contributing comments in real time.
In America, sports networks like NFL Network and NBC’s Golf Channel have embraced these possibilities - allowing viewers a more immersive and intimate access to see athletes in performance and preparation.
Finally, the benefit of any new development in how media is produced and consumed - whether that be 360 filming, virtual reality, augmented reality - is simply that it offers a new set of circumstances and a new way of thinking about how you’re going to apply them; and vertical video is no exception.
A film crew for Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, shooting a documentary near the town of Otta, amongst towering mountains and trees, aimed to create a richly detailed film optimised for mobile viewing. In doing so, they found that filming for the vertical format produced an array of thrilling creative challenges and opportunities. Talking to NiemanLab, the project’s leader Kim Jansson said:
Vertical video opens up a multitude of avenues to content producers - offering them new ways to immerse audiences and show them new ways of looking at the world. But, the format can all-too easily end up looking awkward and amateurish, if applied unthinkingly. It’s vital to remember to use this format wisely, especially considering how it has only recently become viewed as a legitimate method of filmmaking.
As the smartphone is becoming taken more and more seriously both as a means of producing and watching media though, there has never been a better time to think about how you can experiment with and embrace vertical video.