Human Behavior, not Snapchat, Drives Vertical Video Trend


Last month we got a call from the LA Times. Their Snapchat beat reporter had stumbled across one of our blog posts on Vertical Video and reached out to get a better understanding of Vervid. We talked for about 45 minutes as I caught him up to speed on the discussion around vertical video. A month later, this article published with the headline, “Snapchat Drives Trend Toward Vertical Videos.”

This past Sunday, a reporter from the New York Times called. We had a great conversation about the history of vertical video and why we’re doing what we’re doing at Vervid. We discussed human behaviors being the driving force behind the vertical video trend. The reporter seemed to not just understand, but totally agree with the fact that it’s the way we hold our devices that’s causing the shift toward vertical video.

Despite our chats, both reporters would lead you to believe it’s Snapchat that’s driving the trend toward Vertical Video. But it’s not. It’s not Periscope either. And — you guessed it — it’s not Vervid. It’s smartphones. It’s ergonomics. It’s the fact that we hold our phones vertically 94% of the time. We tend to naturally not turn our phones to shoot video because it requires us to change our behaviors. We live in the era of personal video, and we’re capturing video the same way we capture most of our photos — vertically. We just fit better into the frame that way.

But the majority of us aren’t using Snapchat as the place to document our lives through video. Doing so would be working against our efforts, since our creations would disappear. Instead, the majority of us are using our native cameras to record video (and we’re doing so vertically) because there’s a quick-access launcher on our lock screens. It’s our go-to for capturing quick moments that happen spontaneously.

The problem is, the video content we’re capturing with our native camera app while holding our phones vertically has nowhere great to go, since most video platforms are built with horizontal content at their core.  To add to the problem, there’s no great place to edit vertical video (Snapchat’s editing tools are extremely limited) and no place to publish it to that allows us to sensically archive those videos in high resolution and store them somewhere other than our camera rolls.

Whether it’s horizontal or vertical, video captured on our phones is extremely heavy and takes up a ton of space, so it’s problematic to have these meaningful, keepable moments trapped on our devices with nowhere great to store and share them out to.

According to our studies, the average user that shots video with one hand

  • a) shoots with their native camera app,
  • b) lets that content sit on their phones, never to be shared,
  • c) never edits those clips because there are no editors built for vertical video, and
  • d) if they do share outwardly, it’s to Facebook.

The issue with the latter behavior is that those videos remain unedited, so people are uploading 3- to 5-minutes videos when only 30 seconds is really worth watching. Or they’re uploading multiple videos because they simply don’t have a great way to stitch those moments together into a story. And since Facebook isn’t a great place to archive, users feel the need to keep a copy on their phones.

Vervid solves all of that. For the first time ever, users can import HD video that’s been shot in portrait mode into an editor that’s built for easy, one-handed use that makes video editing as easy as texting. They can stitch together related moments, share them with friends on Vervid, and then share out to Facebook and Twitter. We’re enabling the average user to tell more meaningful stories with the personal video content they’ve captured, and we’re making it easier than ever to archive those moments.

While we’re ecstatic to be mentioned alongside Snapchat and Periscope, we cringe every time a reporter assumes it’s these apps that are driving user behavior. It’s not. It’s human behavior around our handheld devices that’s driving the trend toward vertical video.

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Vervid is What YouTube Would Look Like if it Was Designed Today.

Doug Harris at Slate is giving YouTube a few pointers. His key message? Start adapting to Vertical Video, because it’s here to stay.

“Watch out YouTube,” Harris writes.

Vervid is what YouTube would look like if it was designed today.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the mass behavioral shift of our generation toward video shot in portrait mode. Equally and oppositely, there’s a huge pushback from videographers and video “purists” that see Vertical Video as an absurd, invalid aspect ratio.

As Harris points out, “The problem is the viewing experience when you’re not watching on a phone.”

So can YouTube find a way to elegantly integrate both vertical video and horizontal video, both on desktop and on mobile? Doug’s solution, shown visually through a few mock-ups, suggests that YouTube should display vertical videos in their native format (i.e., sans bars) in both the browsable gallery as well as in the full-sized preview.

No matter how much they redesign, however, Vertical Video will just never look great on a laptop.

Here’s a visual comparison of YouTube‘s desktop-first preview gallery with Vervid’s mobile-first preview gallery:


Courtesy of

(Image courtesy of


Vervid Vertical Video Slate YouTube

There’s a huge difference here. Because we’re dealing with portrait-shot video and ONLY portrait-shot video, we were able to build Vervid’s UI around a consistent, predictable form factor. The gallery scrolls side-to-side rather than up-and-down, which immediately makes sense when you get your thumbs on it.

YouTube, like Facebook, is full of visual compromises. Their content type is all over the place, and it’s hard to predict what people will upload.

But Instagram and Vine, on the other hand, are great examples of platforms that have embraced one form factor and normalized it to create a consistent viewing experience. They both serve up square content, and nobody complains because it’s been done really well (despite never being “full screen.”)

This is precisely why we invented Vervid. Focusing on users that want to view full-screen, immersive video the way they’re ALREADY holding their phones is providing an opportunity to engage with an audience that increasingly has its phones locked in portrait mode.

To add to this, mobile video consumption is set to outpace desktop video consumption very, very soon. And according to Cisco, 2/3 of the world’s mobile data traffic will come from video by 2017.

No matter how you look at it, there’s clearly an opportunity here lying in plain sight.

We’re spending more time on our phones than ever before, and watching more and more horizontal video with our phones on portrait lock. To ignore the opportunity of video shot by users while holding their phones upright, delivered back to other users in the same format, is to miss an incredible opportunity. It’s a behavioral shift not everyone’s ready to embrace, but it’s inevitable. In Harris’s words, “Deal with it.”

Scroll down past Harris’s article to the comments section and you’ll encounter a slew of people who are just not ready to “deal with it.” Captain Cuttle (an anonymous commenter) writes, “Vertical videos are a bigger threat to humanity than global warming, income inequality AND bird flu.” Really now. (Makes us wonder if portrait photography ever got the same hate.)

This inexplicable negativity is, believe it or not, a good thing for us at Vervid. It’s proof that NOW is the time to be innovating in the mobile video space. There’s friction, which is a clear indicator that a major shift is taking place.


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