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The rise and fall of Vine

Vine was a short form video hosting service that allowed users to share six-second-long video clips. In October of 2012 and within just six months of its creation, Twitter spent $30 million to acquire the platform. At first, it seemed like the combination of Twitter and Vine was a match made in heaven. Later, it turned out to be the beginning of the fall of Vine.

Twitter/Vine combination initially worked well

After officially launching on January 24th, 2013 Vine’s growth was rapid. By April it was the most downloaded free app on the iOS app store and the most used video sharing app in the world. Celebrities and businesses began using the app. Daft Punk released its track list for its new album via the app, and Justin Bieber featured in videos. The app spawned celebrities of its own such Logan Paul, Amanda Cerny, and Andrew Bachelor.

By 2016, with 200 million online users, Vine was having an incredible impact on millennials and Gen Z. Entire movements and worldwide dance moves were created using the app. Popular users were so successful they were quitting their jobs to Vine full time. The party wouldn’t last.

After 6 months cracks began to appear

Trouble began for Vine in June of 2013 when Instagram decided it was going to take a slice of the video-sharing pie. The photo-sharing app began allowing users to record, post and share videos. The video time limit was 15 seconds, not six as with Vine. In March of 2016, Instagram extended the time limit to a full minute. Vine retaliated by allowing certain users to post videos up to 140 seconds.

Instagram was not the only competition for Vine, as users started to post their videos on Snapchat and YouTube too. The simplicity of Vine had been a strength at its inception. However, in light of the new competition, the app was seen as too limiting.

Over the course of three years, few improvements and alterations were made to the app. Other than syncing to music and a Kids option there were few updates to Vine’s software from 2013 to 2016. The number of registered users stayed at 200 million but saw little growth during this time.

Additionally, advertisers were seeing much more benefit from targeting the users on other platforms. Snapchat offered a more direct route to users and Facebook’s algorithm provided better reach. Vine had the quantity of users, but couldn’t deliver the quality from an advertising standpoint.

These problems did not go unnoticed by Vine’s creators.

The secret meeting that changed Vine forever

While platforms like YouTube had revenue sharing options for its creators, Vine did not. Creators, therefore, had to find other ways to make money. Eventually, many of the top creators grew tired of making content for the app and getting little in return.

In October 2016, 18 of the top 50 Vine creators attended a meeting at 1600 Vine Street in Los Angeles to try and find a solution. The meeting was also attended by Karyn Spencer, the Creative Development Lead for Vine, and numerous other company representatives. The meeting did not go well.

The stars of Vine committed to producing three new pieces a week for the app if each creator in the room was paid $1.2 million. There were numerous other requests, such as the ability to add links to their posts and more engagement from the staff. The creators also said that if their demands were not met all 18 of the creators would walk away from Vine completely.

Surprisingly Twitter, Vine’s owner, at least considered acquiescing to these demands.  However, Twitter had financial problems of its own and saw no reason to begin paying its creators. After just an hour of discussion, it was clear Vine would never agree to the creator proposal.

Once the deal was rejected, nearly every major Viner stopped posting original content on the app. Most turned their focus to other platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. Within a month, Twitter announced it would be cutting 9% of its staff and almost all Vine workers were part of these cuts.

Soon after, Twitter blocked video uploads to the app. The video-sharing app was effectively dead and was officially shut down a year later in January 2017.

What we can learn from Vine

When Twitter first purchased Vine it seemed like the perfect match. The combination of 140-character tweets and 6-second videos seemed like a natural fit. Vine certainly enhanced Twitter’s strengths, but it also emphasized its weaknesses.  Vine and Twitter both had large user bases, but both suffered from a  lack of flexibility and struggled to appeal to advertisers. With no advertising revenue, Vine couldn’t offer a way for creators to make money. Moreover, when Vine mishandled creator relations, competitors were able to offer them everything Vine could not and much more.

One year after the official closure of Vine, consumers, and influencers are using other platforms. Most of its creators have moved to YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram. However, it is less clear if these rival video platforms have learned from Twitter and Vine’s mistakes. For example, YouTube stumbled badly with creators in 2017. Only time will tell if these three video sharing platforms have learned from the story of Vine.

Why it matters

Sometimes a seemingly perfect fit between two companies may only serve to emphasize each other’s weaknesses.

Twitter and Vine is a perfect example. Both struggled with monetization, and the combination served only to exacerbate the problem.

Vine’s cavalier attitude toward unpaid creators drove them to competitor platforms and sounded the death-knell for service.


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