Two weeks ago Twitter announced that it would be discontinuing its mobile app Vine, the six second looping video service that was founded in 2012 and was purchased by Twitter for a reported $30 million dollars that same year. Originally created so users could capture casual moments in their own lives and share them with friends and family, it was no surprise to co-founder Dom Hofmann who stated after the sale that ‘it immediately became clear that vine culture was going to shift towards creativity and entertainment’.
Ian Padgham a member of Twitter’s 2012 marketing team responsible for the purchase of Vine felt the six second video feature was the key and forced users to be creative in how they could tell a story. Padgham expressed his love for Vines simplicity and ease by stating ‘it’s kinda like Microsoft Paint. it used to be the worst app, but you couldn’t get distracted by the bells and whistles’.
In 2013, Vine began allowing users to record clips with their phones front facing cameras and usage of the app blew up. A community of young users sprung up around the service and within a short space of time the internet was bombarded with six second clips, the internet became home for a new social community with its own celebrities called Viners. Vine was growing rapidly and its ‘stars’ were becoming more and more popular by the day, physical comic Amanda Cermy earned more than 2.2 billion views while Logan Paul’s vines looped more than 4 billion times.
Although on the outside Vine was seen as a one of the more popular social media apps, on the inside it rarely looked stable. In 2014, two years after its purchase the three co-founders of Vine had all left or been let go by Twitter. Firstly, Dom Hofmann left to pursue other ventures and was later followed by Colin Kroll, while Rus Yusupov who was then Vine’s creative director was let go to save money. Jason Toff who took over from Yusupov in 2014, recently left Vine to work on Google’s virtual reality project. The executive conveyor belt in such a short amount of time certainly didn’t help matters with Vine, and a number of employees have expressed frustration with the lack of guidance and balance from higher ups within the company.
Four years on from the purchase, Twitter have begun to shut down the once dominating social app. The closure of Vine comes in conjunction with Twitter also cutting 9% of its global workforce in order to reduce costs. It is still early but rumours suggest that Vine’s closure is due to the apps limitations and the lack of monetization. Vine who boasted a commanding lead over other social video apps has failed to keep pace as competitors have steadily adapted and reinvented their platforms to entice new users, something that Vine has ignored which ultimately could have cost the app its relevance.
Snapchat and Instagram grew into hundreds of millions of daily users, Instagram introduced its fifteen second video clips in June 2013 something that Padgham was worried about, claiming ‘Instagram video was the beginning of the end’. Instagram were successful in courting a deeper user base and gathered a massive backing from celebrities e.g. Kim Kardashian. While Vine stuck to their six second videos, Instagram extended video time to sixty seconds, and managed to keep its platform from becoming virtually stale.
Twitter has been focusing a lot more on their live video ventures, for example they purchased Periscope in 2015. This new venture has put immense pressure on the small New York based Vine team that have struggled in recent months to recapture its user base or find new ways to make money. The difficulty lies with the one feature that is Vines unique selling point in its six second videos. Monetisation of Vines was an impossible task that there was no way around. The average YouTube advert lasts around 30 seconds with many adverts allowing users to skip after 5 seconds, a similar strategy for Vine couldn’t possibly work as remaining users wouldn’t want to watch a six second clip after being forced to watch an advertisement longer or similar to the time of the desired clip.
Vine had once longed to grow their audience base on the app, through a simple paid placement package an offering similar to the one that Twitter runs for promoted tweets and promoted accounts. Unfortunately, Vine never managed to come through with these packages, partly due to the resistance against monetisation. It is difficult to comprehend why a popular social app would be so hesitant around money. They maybe had felt their tentative position at the top of video-based social media would be curtailed if they tried to monetise the platform too soon.
The lack of monetisation and failure to evolve has left Vine without their most popular self made stars, who have pushed on to bigger and better things. Vine star Logan Paul has recently signed up to host the Streamy awards and produce a new YouTube Red show. For other Viners they haven’t been so lucky, last Autumn nearly twenty of Vines top fifty creators gathered in a conference room in Los Angeles to stage an intervention after the steady decline in views and followers. From what can be gathered the Viners in question wanted to help the platform that made them moderately famous, but only for a sweet sum of 1.2 million dollars each to produce new content.
The demand for money from Vines contributors seems to be the final nail in the coffin, the lack of leadership and direction from management, failure to innovate while competition was improving and the severe lack of monetisation have all led to the closure of Vine.
It’s a harsh reality that nothing lasts forever and the closure of Vine might in fact be an omen and warning for Twitter, who have been criticised in the past for lack of innovation and inability gain a wider user base. It’s clear the rapidly changing appetites of people in what and how they want to use social media means even the biggest and quickest rising platforms have to keep evolving, or they may face the same end as Vine.
Conor McGovern | Tech Editor