vertical video is here to stay

Two years ago I was passionate in my hatred for vertical video. The wasted screen real estate on desktop and other wide-format displays was annoying and uncomfortable. But after experiencing the consistent growth of mobile content consumption with platforms like Snapchat over the past two years my tune has changed. I am now confident when I say that vertical video here to stay and it’s going to be a major part of digital content moving forward.

When I say vertical video I am talking about videos recorded in a 9:16 format rather than 16:9. Actually, it’s not just that aspect ratio, but any ratio with a smaller width than height. Check out this diagram:

Notice that the block on the left resembles your smartphone, and the one on the right looks like your TV, your computer monitor, or your smartphone when rotated horizontally. Starting to see a trend?

Mobile Growth and Vertical Video

Prior to smartphones vertical video was a non-issue. Now that almost everyone has a smartphone capable of easily recording vertical video it has become a widespread phenomenon. Smartphone penetration, mobile data use and content consumption has exploded over the past 5 years, and I have no doubt that it will continue to grow. As people use their smartphones more, chances are they will capture more vertical video too.

mobile vs desktop users

There are also a number of extremely popular mobile-only platforms like Instagram. While you can now consume and engage with content on the Instagram desktop site, you must use the smartphone app to share pictures or video with your followers. Last fall Instagram relaxed their square-media requirements, and they now allow horizontal and vertical videos and photos. Yet another indication that vertical video is on the rise.

While we’re on the subject of mobile-only platforms, let’s talk about Snapchat.

Snapchat Loves Vertical Video

Snapchat is turning into an absolute video behemoth, and the platform forces users to take photos and videos in a vertical format. In fact, it doesn’t even recognize a rotated device to capture video horizontally.

Keep that in mind and consider that earlier this year Bloomberg reported that Snapchat has over 100 million active users who watch 7 billion videos a month. That’s a hell of a lot of vertical video being created and consumed.

To throw a little more fuel on the fire, millennials as a group are the largest consumers of digital video content and millennials love Snapchat. I know, because I am a millennial myself. As long as Snapchat keeps growing, vertical video production will too.

YouTube is Getting on Board

Unsurprisingly, YouTube recognizes the vertical video movement. Last July updated versions of the official iOS and Android apps were released which allow vertical videos to be played fullscreen for a better viewing experience.

YouTube Vertical Video Full Screen

YouTube now has over 1 billion users and they consume a ton of video content. Check out these stats, which I have summarized from YouTube’s Statistics page:

  • YouTube videos generate more than a billion video views each day.
  • On mobile, users watch an average of 40 minutes of YouTube each viewing session.
  • More than half of all YouTube views come from mobile devices.

Those mobile stats are incredible, and they speak to the growing trend of people prioritizing content consumption on mobile devices. It’s no wonder that YouTube wants to do everything they can to accommodate vertical videos.

Fashion Demands Vertical Media

The fashion industry records an estimated $1.3 trillion in yearly revenue. Talk about big business. Being that fashion is a completely visual industry, it makes sense that they would create exceptional amounts of digital media.

Remember I mentioned that Instagram now allows for vertical photos and videos? Well that’s huge for the fashion industry. Fashion lends itself to tall, elegantly framed videos that feature complete outfits, from hair to shoes. Balmain posted a number of vertical videos during last week’s Met Gala, one of which you can see below:

A video posted by BALMAIN (@balmain) on

The above vertical video is 483×603 pixels when viewed on a desktop browser.

See how well that video is able to frame the models’ bodies and show off their Met Gala gowns? It would be impossible to achieve the same result with traditional widescreen footage. The fashion industry and vertical video were made for one another and you can bet that the major fashion houses and even the smaller labels will be taking advantage of the format in the future.

Wrapping It Up

So does this mean that videos in the traditional widescreen format are going away? Absolutely not. Movies, major productions, television shows and other formats will continue to be produced in the 16:9 (or similar) aspect ratio because it is still the best way to capture truly cinematic scenes and imagery. Visual epics like Avatar or Interstellar just wouldn’t be the same in a vertical format.

However, vertical video is definitely here to stay. As a marketer and content producer I am working to accept and embrace the new format. People are using smartphones to consume more content every day and vertical video represents a unique perspective. That said, I leave you with two predictions:

  1. YouTube will modify their desktop player to more effectively play back vertical videos in the next 18 months.
  2. The first major motion picture to be shot vertically and specifically designed to be watched on smartphones will be released in the next two years.

What are your thoughts on vertical video? Hit me up on twitter and let’s chat/argue/insult one another about our opinions.