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Vertical Video: Revolutionizing Content for the Smartphone Era

While vertical formats have historically been avoided by professional video creators, today, it’s become the default. Why?

Heidi Benton
Heidi Benton
Jun 19, 2024

With its 9:16 vertical aspect ratio, it is the best format for seamless smartphone viewing. And since almost 70 percent of the digital video content in the U.S. is watched on smartphones and most of the time, smartphone users hold their devices vertically, vertical formatting allows users to consume content without having to rotate their devices - thus, a better user experience overall.

Vertical video began to take hold as early as 2011 when Snapchat pioneered vertical video content. In 2015, Mary Meeker’s renowned Internet Trends Report noted a 25% growth curve. One year later, Facebook and Instagram embraced vertical video. Then, in 2017, TikTok entered the fray. In 2018, Instagram launched a vertical video application and then YouTube and Netflix did the same. In 2018, a study by Mediabrix found that vertically presented video ads were completed 90 percent of the time. By 2019, TikTok had reached 1 billion global downloads. And today, vertical video is the aforesaid default.

And who’s watching vertical video, i.e. social video on their phones, for the most part? According to data from the Pew Research Center, as of 2021, about 48% of U.S. adults say they get news from social media "often" or "sometimes". Younger adults even more so – 71% of those under 30 get news from social media. Prominent news websites like CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and The Guardian typically use social media to engage their readers, as do lifestyle and entertainment websites like BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Refinery29.

And, as social/mobile becomes even more ubiquitous, publishers are recognizing that vertical video has its own creative aesthetic, and despite some extra cost in time and money to edit or reformat, it’s well worth the trouble.

When thinking vertically, here are a few things to consider

Framing and Composition: If you’re shooting video, note that vertical space can be limiting when composing shots. Ensuring all essential elements are captured while maintaining visual appeal can be a balancing act.

Repurposing Horizontal Content: Converting horizontal videos to vertical format might lead to compromised visuals or cut-off content. Choosing custom content for vertical screens (or shooting specifically for vertical screens) is often a more effective approach.

Storytelling Adjustments: Adapting storytelling techniques for vertical videos requires a different perspective. Restructuring narratives to fit the vertical format seamlessly can be a creative challenge. Vertical is a great opportunity to break the repurposed-content habit.

If you’re concerned about how to handle mobile/vertical, explore our videos to learn more about VideoElephant’s vast library of already produced, premium, rights-cleared, vertical videos.

Heidi Benton
Heidi Benton
Content Business Dev Executive

Heidi, an American based in Ireland, blends her business proficiency and cross-cultural finesse to drive content acquisition strategies. With a Master's in International Business from UCD Smurfit, she's a valuable asset in establishing and nurturing global partnerships.

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