June 14, 2017 by Sara Jabbari

Vertical or Horizontal Video on Mobile?

Traditionally, we watched video on horizontal, large screens. Today, video consumption has increasingly moved to our mobile phones, and this reality is signaling a shift in the way we consume video: today’s mobile video viewers are more engaged with vertical video than horizontal video. Born and championed by social media platforms, in particular Snapchat, vertical video presents an opportunity to publishers that adapt to this trend and bring the vertical viewing experience to their consumers.

Vertical Video

Vertically-oriented or “portrait-mode” video is video that is taller than it is wide. Vertical video takes up the entire screen on a phone, quickly focusing the user’s full attention onto the video. Smartphones were designed to be held vertically, with mobile owners holding their phones upright 94% of the time. This makes vertical video attractive because people want to consume content without having to rotate their phones 90 degrees. In fact, only 13% of people will switch their device horizontally to watch a video. Snapchat, which popularized vertical video and allows publishers and advertisers to tell their stories in full-screen vertical mode, has seen a huge amount of success. According to the social media app, advertisers are seeing completion rates of their vertical video ads that are 9x higher than their horizontal video ads, implying that users are more likely to stay engaged with video that is vertical. By putting the viewer in the center, the portrait frame is appealing to today’s selfie and connected generation.

Horizontal Video

Video content has traditionally been produced and optimized for the big screen, which is why most of the video we encounter is horizontally-oriented. Horizontal videos that are viewed vertically on phones are scaled down, leaving a relatively large amount of space around the actual video content. This format does not maximize full-screen real estate, however consumers still opt to watch video this way rather than rotating their phones to watch the full-screen, “landscape mode” video. Still, because horizontal video players are the standard and don't typically accommodate vertical video, horizontal video continues to be the norm.

Recognizing trends in video consumption habits, many publishers like the Daily Mail, The Washington Post, and Mashable are joining the vertical video revolution, shooting and investing more and more in portrait-oriented video. While we can expect social media platforms like Snapchat and Facebook to continue to embrace the vertical format, it is only a matter of time until publishing websites are too destinations for vertical video. If the future of video is mobile, publishers and advertisers alike need to know that repurposing video for mobile might imply considerations beyond a shift in device, but a switch in orientation.

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