About a month ago, we took a look at YouTube videos that were 30 minutes long or longer. And I concluded, “If your video content is truly compelling, then keep calm and go long.”
This week, let’s take a closer look at the shorter formats. Spoiler alert: Despite the temptation to pick a winner in the horse race between MixBit, Instagram, and Vine, I’m going to argue that the steeplechase in making short-form videos is barely out of the gate.
Now, where should we begin? Let’s borrow a line from Jack Webb, who is most famous for his role as Sergeant Joe Friday in the television series Dragnet. While “Just the facts, ma’am” is thought to be Dragnet's catchphrase, that precise phrase was never actually uttered by Joe Friday. The closest line was “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”
So, let’s start with the facts about these mobile video apps.
Mixbit is a new app that helps people create dynamic videos together. MixBit was created by Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, YouTube’s co-founders, and launched on Aug. 8, 2013. Videos are taken in multiple clips, or “bits,” as long as 16 seconds each. A video can include as many as 256 clips. Clips are stored as independent elements but play as one seamless video. Currently, MixBit is only available on the iPhone, although an Android app is coming soon.
Instagram was originally an online photo-sharing service that was acquired by Facebook on April 12, 2012, for approximately $1 billion in cash and stock. Video on Instagram was introduced on June 20, 2013, allowing its users to record videos lasting for up to 15 seconds, apply digital filters to them, and share them on a variety of social networking services, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. Instagram is available on iOS and Android devices.
Vine is a mobile app, which enables its users to create and post short video clips. Acquired by Twitter in October 2012, Vine was introduced January 24, 2013. Vines have a maximum clip length of six seconds and can be shared or embedded on social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook. Although Vine was initially available only for iOS devices, Vine for Android was released on June 3, 2013 for devices with Android version 4.0 or higher.
Who are the people most likely to watch and share short-form videos with these apps?
According to research on smartphone ownership conducted by the Pew Research Center, which was published on June 5, 2013:
- 56 percent of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind.
- Android and iPhone owners account for half of the cell phone user population.
- Higher income adults and those under age 35 lead the way when it comes to smartphone ownership.
According to research on tablet ownership conducted by the Pew Research Center, which was published on June 10, 2013:
- Tablet adoption has almost doubled over the past year.
- For the first time a third (34 percent) of American adults now own a tablet computer, including almost half (49 percent) of those in their late thirties and early forties and a majority (56 percent) of those in higher income households.
So, there is more than one demographic group that is the most likely to watch and share short-form videos with MixBit, Instagram, and Vine. This indicates that different apps may end up appealing to different market segments.
What types of content are these different market segments most likely to watch and share?
On Aug. 6, 2013, David Waterhouse posted “The Emerging Social Video Trends Of 2013 – Part 2” on the Unruly Media Blog. In his post, Waterhouse identified three emerging trends taking the short-form world by storm:
- Stop-Motion Revival: Vine’s intuitive controls and easily-digested length make it easier than ever to make your own stop-motion masterpiece.
- Tease Your Product: With a slightly more robust 15 seconds to play with, superior editing and a choice of stylish filters, Instagram is able to convey brand message in a controlled manner.
- How-To: Ever needed some quick instruction on a simple task? Vine and Instagram are made for this kind of video, and brands have been quickly latching on.
This also indicates that different apps may end up being better at creating different types of content. And this post was written two days before MixBit was launched. And as Hurley told Emily Chang on Bloomberg Television's “Bloomberg West” on Aug. 22, 2013, “No one’s doing what MixBit offers.”
This indicates that the mobile video horse race between MixBit, Instagram and Vine has just started, so it’s still too early to declare the winner. If the industry had tried to pick the winner of the desktop video horserace back in September 2005, it would have picked the first mover, Singingfish, or one of the fast followers: Yahoo! Video or Google Video. Instead, all of the leading video search engines lost to a video sharing site named YouTube, which didn’t come out of beta until December 2005.
Ladies and gentlemen: the story you have just heard is true. Only the times have been changed to protect the innocent.