YouTube has become – via its unparalleled popularity – a useful indicator of how today’s audiences engage with all manner of video content. And so, the recent statistic that 40% of the material watched from the site was via mobile devices demonstrates just how rapidly and radically things are changing.
Mobile for millennials
Smartphones are now owned by 81% of Millennials surveyed, and data plans have had to evolve and expand to allow for their more intensive everyday usage. Anyone who commutes to work in 2019 can attest that books, newspapers and actually talking to your fellow passengers have been eclipsed in short order by smartphone screens and earphones. Missing your stop has never been such a rich and immersive experience.
Of course, this only happened to YouTube in particular because Google (who owns the platform) realised some years ago this was the likely direction consumption was heading. As such, they’ve spent enormous time and energy optimising the site to be used just as easily out in the world as behind a desk. A wider choice of aspect ratios, streaming quality and social media links all helped consolidate the platform’s position, even as the means of consumption changed around it.
What’s special about video for mobile?
When the trend was confirmed, Google dug deeper into the data to see how the watching experience changes when the screen’s the size of your hand and you’re most likely in public. They recorded in detail the viewing habits of a group of 18-34 year olds. Battling for their attention were: TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones.
Surprisingly, in terms of basic popularity, smartphones came top, with 98% of respondents accessing video via their mobile. TV placed second, with 81% – computers managed 56% and tablets showed their niche status with 19% (though it should be remembered this survey is a few years old).
However, the most interesting takeaway was how viewers interacted with each medium. It’s long been known that a challenge for contemporary TV programming is holding its audience’s attention. The smartphone (or laptop, or tablet) can regularly tempt the gaze away from the action, with alert or message pings – which means that just 28% of participants reported uninterrupted TV viewing. This may not be such a problem for a chat show – but can be disastrous for those relying on narrative detail to hook their audience. And this applies at least as much to advertisers as it does makers of TV drama – especially since they have such a small window to get their message across.
But the news that mobile video went uninterrupted 53% of the time shows how resistant to distraction the intimate fit of handheld screen and headphones can be. And this, in turn, stresses just how important a medium to really connect with your audience it is.
How to optimise video for mobile audiences
As well as its superior ability to focus the attention of its users, the very mobility of mobile platforms must be remembered. Again, Google’s study found 34% of mobile video use was outside the home.
A good content creator considers their message, but also their audience, and thus – how that message will be delivered. Knowing that mobile viewers tend to concentrate, in many cases, precisely because they’re in public, video creators should think about the unique possibilities of the mobile platform.
Of course, laptops, tablets and even smart TVs have incorporated ease of sharing into their features – but mobile is way ahead. For starters, the way mobile apps have become intuitive to so many users means that content is often shared with a single click. But, even more importantly – most of us share links shortly after viewing them ourselves. It’s a burst of enthusiasm, a way to instantly react – to demand a second opinion, even. As such, the platform that accompanies us most of our day – rather than just the evenings (when we’re winding down) is king.
The lack of interruptions to mobile viewing has already been noted. Likewise, the reason – mobile video is often a means of blocking out a mundane train carriage or a means of filling a wait for the same. This is motivated escapism. And while few mobile screens match the quality of a TV, the screen is physically closer to the face. Likewise, it might lack the ambience of home cinema, but earphones are much more personal – making good sound design a must. Think about how many voice-only podcasts manage to absorb their listeners, and how voice-acting, sound effects and music could push your video content to new levels of immersion, inspiration and engagement.
The exciting thing, going forward, is the new ideas mobile video production teams will bring to what’s a unique and forward-looking medium. Think about all the features that today’s smartphones are loaded with – cameras, maps, GPS. And manufacturers will continue to add yet more features – from projectors to more widely-integrated Augmented and Virtual Reality, foldable screens and more.
Video for mobile is currently the most popular choice of viewing visual content. The ability of mobile allows sharing, immersion and interaction, something that viewing content from a TV doesn’t offer. It is also convenient and allows you to access any online content on-the-go, rather than having to sit stationary.
To find out how we can help your business create quality branded video content and, in turn, optimise your video for mobile audiences, get in touch with us today.