"You're doing it wrong."
But consider The Wall Street Journal's point of view. In September, its personal technology columnist advised smartphone users to switch to vertical viewing. "You and your phone should stand tall and never again doubt the truth," Joanna Stern wrote. "You're holding it right."
The WSJ isn't the first publisher to sing vertical video's praises; back in 2015, The Daily Mail announced its goal was to go vertical across the board because "users are more satisfied, and there's a higher completion rate." But vertical video has become an especially hot topic of late.
It's easy to see why. Studies have shown that consumers use their mobile devices vertically close to 30 percent of the time, and that number is on the rise. In recent months we've seen numerous publishers adopt vertical formats, including Hearst, which reports it has seen "really remarkable performance" from vertical video experiences on mobile in the past.
After testing out vertical video last year, BBC News added two vertical video modules to its app. "There's a FaceTime-like quality to the way it frames people," Ryan O'Connor, the company's creative director, told NiemanLab, "...it [allows us to] connect to a story in a different way while appealing to different audiences." O'Connor also noted that "Telling a story in this format makes it more personal."
Storytelling is a big part of why so many publishers and advertisers are now considering vertical video formats. As O'Conner pointed out, vertical video is perfect for capturing the human form. Brands can put a subject front and center on the screen and know that viewers will get the full impact of their message. That's particularly important when you consider brands around the world are increasingly using real people in their ad campaigns.
Besides being a better fit for showcasing people, vertical video is perfect for shots of vertical objects like tall buildings and other locations that lend themselves to an up-and-down point of view. Present your video horizontally, and the drama of your scene might be lost.
Another factor to keep in mind is performance. A vertical orientation may in fact be the more natural way to view videos on smartphones. When watching a video horizontally consumers generally use two hands to steady the screen, particularly with larger devices like the iPhone 7 Plus. If it feels more natural to watch videos vertically, there's a good chance vertical video ads will generate more views and higher completion rates.
There's already evidence that this is the case. Snapchat has shared that its vertical video ads are viewed through to the end 9 times more often than horizontal ads. As The Wall Street Journal put it, scrolling through a web page with a phone turned sideways is "about as natural as petting a great white shark." When you're already holding your phone vertically, it makes sense to keep it that way. That's why we all shot so many vertical videos in the first place.
As interest in vertical video continues to grow, so will opportunities to use it for advertising. Expect to see an increase in available inventory, along with more of a focus on industry standards and best practices for maximizing the vertical video opportunity in the months to come.
When it comes to mobile ads, vertical video might be just right.