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Vine Offers Snack-Sized Videos for Distracted Viewers

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You will be distracted before you finish this article.
I would wager that you can’t make it through 700 words without a phone beeping, person talking, or visual distraction. The odds are definitely stacked in my favor. We live in a world where everything is designed to fight for your attention. The average length of an online video hovers around the 6-minute mark, but the average viewer on YouTube only makes it through 85% of a video before dropping off. And if the latest hot social app Vine is any measurement of the future, our attention span for content is shortening at a rapid pace. The warning signs that we are losing the battle for catching eyeballs and keeping them is nothing new. Twitter’s 140-character limit has been thwarting would-be Shakespeares since 2006. But Vine and other apps like it appear to be ushering in a new era of super-short, snack-sized content. If companies are going to survive in this new slimmed-down era, we must look at what these new tools are and how we can use them to thrive.
For those new to the leafy green growing social web app, Vine is an iOS-only app that allows you to share a 6-second long video with audio. These square format videos (Instagram, anyone?) are then looped perpetually, similar to an animated GIF but now with audio goodness. Tap the screen and release; it records a few frames then stops. Touch the screen and hold; it records until you let go or hit the 6-second time limit. Add a caption, location, and then share to Vine, Twitter, or Facebook. It’s a simple, clean approach to sharing short clips that already has attracted a massive following (although being launched by Twitter might have had something to do with that).
So what can you do with this newfangled, short-attention-span theater? Several brands have embraced the technology right out of the gate. It was only a few years ago that companies were reluctant to join social networks, and convincing a brand they needed to be on Twitter or Facebook was a chore. But seeing the potential to connect with early adopters has driven big brands to jump onto new apps and social platforms with ease. Taco Bell announced its Cool Ranch Doritos Taco on Vine with a stop-motion video. The chips pour out of the bag and circle around the new taco before revealing the #CoolRanchDLT hashtag and the launch date. Rolling Stone revealed its new magazine cover with stop-motion Post-it notes being pulled off to show Lena Dunham. And even Trident Gum got into the mix with an endless loop of gum flowing out of a Trident White pack. But for all the brands embracing Vine, there are those that have set up accounts with nothing posted yet. Both NASCAR and Sharpie have set up Vine profiles, but as of mid-February, they had not posted anything. Apparently, they have been distracted as well.
And that leads up to the question: Why? If we know that our audience is fickle and distracted, why do companies need to embrace new technology? The answer is simple: Go to where the people are. And as long as there are new apps and tools being launched every day, the spoils will go to those who can keep up. Should your company, product, or service be on Vine? That’s a question only you can answer. But if you seek the early adopter crowd, you need to worry about Vine and, more importantly, what will come after it.
The spicy idea here is to empower someone to be your social anthropologist and, at the very least, keep tabs on what the latest tools are and how they will affect your business. Remember that distracted viewers will probably continue to grow in numbers, and viewing length will continue to shorten. Vine is just the beginning of the ultra-short content revolution.
So how did you do? If you honestly made it through this entire article without a single distraction, congratulations -- you won the bet. Send me an email with your address and I’ll send you something cool. Unless I get distracted.
This article appears in the April/May 2013 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Gone in 6 Seconds."

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