This is our first article in a three-part series on Vertical Video. Don’t forget to check out the second article, “Will Video Ad Production Change Now that Vertical Video is on the Rise?” and the final article, “Smart AdServer Launches One-of-a-kind Go-To Vertical Video Format“.

How many people are watching videos on mobile devices?

If it seems like everyone is always on their Android or iPhone, you’re right — there are now officially over 4.8 billion mobile phone users in the world. Dual usage of desktop and mobile is rising, but the latter is leading the way: in the U.S., users are spending 30% of their time on vertical screens, as opposed to 5% in 2010.

More and more people are using these screens for video viewing. Ooyala studied activity on its network and found that 41% of all its online video content is watched on mobiles or tablets.

That figure may be higher than the industry average, but even the significantly lower figure of 15% tooted by Business Insider is nothing to snuff at!

Millennials and mobile

It’s common knowledge that Millennials are leading the way when it comes to smartphone usage; 21% of teenagers and adults under 25 years old are mobile-only, and Survey Sampling International (SSI) found that 13- to 18-year-olds in the US spent 4+ hours using a mobile device to access the internet each weekday. Older Millennials are also attached — almost 50% of 19- to 22-year-olds spent at least 4 hours accessing the web on their cell phones. Their activity of preference is no surprise: these users spend on average 104 minutes on social media platforms every weekday. Weekend statistics were, of course, even more impressive.

How are people viewing video ads?

Spending time on devices that are naturally held in the vertical position is one thing, but what does that have to do with video advertisements, which are traditionally viewed horizontally? Well, a lot. As Troy Young, president of Hearst Digital explained to AdWeek, any disruption before consuming an ad unnecessarily discourages users. “Mobile phones are vertical devices,” he explained. “Turning it sideways is a lot of work.”

I think we all know that it’s not a lot of work, but the point is that people just aren’t doing it, and that becomes obvious when we take a closer look at the case of Snapchat. (If you’re over 30 and need a Snapchat primer, this New York Times piece is perfect for you.) The app, which allows users to post short videos that are automatically deleted once they have been viewed or have expired, is a particular favorite of Millennials. But they’re not only posting and watching videos, they’re watching advertisements. A lot of advertisements. Discover, Snapchat’s network of media channels, plays daily content highlights for big names like ESPN and Cosmopolitan. Snapchat has found that the advertisements broadcast on these channels have up to nine times more completed views than the platform’s horizontal video ads. Those are the kind of numbers that make both publishers and marketers pay attention.

Case in point: Periscope and Meekrat built their livestreaming apps around the concept of Vertical Video viewing and posting. The two platforms now support horizontal video, but they have kept the 9:16 vertical format a priority.

The future

Social media networks that support vertical video are one thing, but what does that mean for the rest of the industry? As long as people are using smartphones, it’s simple.

That means opportunity.

Coming soon: The Smart Approach to Vertical Video