News & Views

The Year of the Video

by Chloe Markowicz

If the rise of Tumblr and Pinterest, as well of Facebook's $1bn purchase of Instagram, made 2012 the year of the photo, then 2013 is undoubtedly the year of the video.

It's close to a decade since YouTube hit the web, allowing us to enjoy hours watching cute animals and giggling babies, yet only this year with the launch of Vine and Video on Instagram, have we actually seen a reinvention of social video. Not that several startups haven't tried to enter the social video space. Whatever happened to SocialCam or Tout, who got launch buzz yet failed to take off? Or Viddy, which was known as Instagram for video, until well, Instagram created its very own Instagram for video.

Twitter bought Vine in October, before it publicly launched. It then introduced the free mobile app, which lets people share six second looping clips, to the world in January.  Vine now counts more than 40 million users. Meanwhile, Instagram launched its video capability in June, allowing people to choose whether they wanted to take a photo or capture 15 seconds of video. Instagram's foray into video has paid off. The company announced in August that it had 150 million active users, a 15% increase in the two months after it launched Video on Instagram. 

One reason why Vine and Video on Instagram have left other social video startups in their dust is because they launched off the back of already popular social networks. Not only did they already have a captive audience, but they had the interest of the global media, eager to spread the word about what two successful tech companies were doing.

The other explanation is that when Vine and Instagram started messing around with short form video content the infrastructure and appetite for snackable video content already existed. These bitesize clips are perfectly suited for a world where we always have our mobiles on hand ready to spontaneously capture entertaining moments. Our addiction to technology means that we instantly gravitate towards our smartphone in those dead pockets of time when we're not doing anything else, waiting in line at store or on our daily commute, and that time is when we crave and create tiny pieces of content. And of course high smartphone adoption and speedy and reliable mobile connectivity helps support this behaviour.

So how do brands and marketers fit into the new video culture landscape? Well, just as last year they were keen to experiment with photo campaigns on Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, this year we've seen several brands launch either their own super-short videos (Lowe's and GE), or launch competitions getting people to submit their own (John Lewis). Sure, we haven't been blown away by most of the branded seconds-long videos we've seen, but we expect more creative applications to come. When Vine first came on the scene people experimented by taking dull videos of their office desks, and now a user like Brittany Furlan is capturing the attention 2.7 million followers with her humorous antics.  If you want to see the best of what people are doing on Vine justcheck it out here. The potential for brands to get creative is enormous, especially since branded Vines are four times more shared than branded online videos, according to Unruly Media.

So why else should brands and marketers get comfortable with short form video? Well, because Facebook's highly anticipated video ads are expected to be just 15 seconds. The company is trying to lure marketers away from TV so they spend more on online ads. In the US advertisers are expected to spend $66.4bn on TV ads versus $4.1bn on online video ads, according to eMarketer. Facebook hopes to make its ad business even more successful by selling online video space that can target specific types of users (similar to how TV ads work), and given that eMarketer predicts that spend on online video will rise by more than 40% this year, perhaps it stands a chance. Many marketers have already expressed doubt about Facebook's high pricing of its video ads as the word on the street is that Facebook will charge up to $2m a day to reach its full audience. But the success of the ads will really depend on how much they distract from or dampen the Facebook user experience, and since Facebook has yet again pushed the launch of its video ads from October to later this year, we'll have to wait and see. 

Chloe Markowicz is deputy editor of Contagious I/O