It’s official: Twitter is shutting down Vine and we can expect this to further inflate the snarky commenting around how Twitter is fundamentally lost as a business.
But if we go beyond jokes for a second, in a way this decision feels like it was long overdue. When Vine showed up (and was bought by Twitter) in 2012, the promise was huge. Independent creators finally had a space to express themselves through short videos. Twitter was finally making a huge bet into video and going beyond its self-defined limitations around character limits, text and links. If Twitter had changed social culture through short text messages, Vine would change creative culture through short videos made on the go.
Except it didn’t happen like that at all. As soon as Vine identified a niche and hit the spotlight, others jumped in to have a piece of that pie. By 2013, short videos were already part of other mainstream players’ plans: in that year alone, Instagram announced short video features and Facebook announced auto-play videos. On top of this, then-up-and-coming Snapchat declined a $3 billion buyout by Facebook – the beginning of its transformation from underdog to yet another platform to be reckoned.
All while Twitter showed no signs of ramping up Vine beyond its original purpose, since it was too busy filing for an IPO in 2013, tring to prove its worth in the stock market throughout 2014 and then entering the live stream war in early 2015 (remember Periscope and Meerkat?). Of course, Twitter wasn’t the only company pursuing battles across multiple fronts, but the fact is that that in late 2016 it’s still struggling to prove itself as a public company. Which you could argue is the result of years spreading itself too thinly while not showing the necessary user growth or revenue figures to prove its strategy.
The introduction of new players to Vine’s niche market also meant that it became a pretty aggressive space, pretty quickly. Facebook’s well-known focus on convincing publishers and influencers to invest more on native video has made users more used to consuming this type of content there. Snapchat has always been about photos and videos, but it quickly spread itself to being another go-to destination for publishers while helping spawn a new generation of internet stars like Shonduras, or giving more prominence to existing young stars like Logan Paul (who, by the way, started out on Vine). The more recent introduction of Instagram Stories just made it even easier to pursue this type of short, taken on the go, fairly un-edited videos without leaving a single app.
That’s maybe one of the broader points around this: the fact that Vine just became ‘another app’ to make short videos. The same Logan Paul, who started out on Vine, hasn’t published there since April 2016 – but if you follow him on Instagram or Snapchat, you’ll see videos of him pretty much every hour of the day. And as they say in investigative journalism, this makes sense if you just “follow the money”. For people like Paul, who use social platforms as monetisation tools, where their audiences are is where they choose to go. But equally, where they choose to go next is where invariably their audiences choose to follow.
At Above+Beyond, we’re firm believers in the principles of the audience age, which is to say that all of the work we do needs to be grounded on what audiences genuinely care about and where they actually choose to spend time. The challenge is that while there are more and more apps and services in the marketplace, our audience’s attention span is anything but infinite. In fact, we now know that most users spend 85% of their time using just five apps, which means that in the same way that influential people like Logan Paul need to be selective about where they express themselves, their followers can’t afford to split their attention across four different apps that do the exact same thing.
Vine might have gone as quickly as it exploded, but looking at the broader competitive landscape it didn’t move fast enough to keep that momentum. As soon as their niche was identified, the rest of the market not only stole a page from their book but actually rolled it out at scale amongst an already existing user base, ensuring that whatever the needs were for short mobile videos, they could be fulfilled in the apps people were all already using. In a way, Vine arrived a second early to this party – until it was six seconds too late.
Rob Estreitinho is a social strategist at Above+Beyond, The creative agency for the audience age.
The Drum spoke to Jason Nash, who amassed 2.7 million followers and more than 1.6 billion loops on Vine about the long, slow decline of the platform.