How Vice 2020 tried to discover a voice in vertical movies
Heading into 2020, the Vice Media Group had numerous 16: 9 documentaries, articles, and columns on their network of digital properties, and even a linear television presence. What didn't exist, however, was a strategy for mobile-first-vertical video.
"One of the missing pieces was generating power for mobile devices," Vice vice digital officer Cory Haik told TV editor Jason Lynch at Adweek's Elevate: Publishing virtual summit Tuesday. “I call these stories, and I think we all call these stories – this kind of mixed media, vertical video, sometimes text on screen. What we do know is that audiences are consuming them en masse, and Vice did not yet have a team or production system in place to produce these on a large scale. "
Haik, the former Mic editor who joined Vice in May 2019, wanted to change that and worked with an in-house “innovation team” to crack the code. (Disclosure: This editor previously worked at Mic and overlapped with Haik for less than a year before Mic shutdown in 2018.)
"What Vice hadn't quite set up yet was something specifically geared towards mobile formats. So we put a plan together to incorporate that into a formal third edition at Vice and give it a seat at the table," said Haik .
The last 10 months have broken new ground in almost every industry, but have also underpinned the importance of the medium. Vertical videos have only become more important for publishers and content creators of all kinds since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, which triggered the rise in mobile video consumption on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. Not all efforts in this area have been successful: mobile video startup Quibi claimed that "quick bites" of high production value programming were the future of Hollywood; It wasn't for them and the startup officially closed this month.
At Vice, the teams find that the original programming often requires a different approach to production. "We're not looking for an anchor behind a desk or a host who is necessarily standing in front of something in the same way," said Haik. "We're looking for the subject of this video to speak directly to the person holding the phone. It's a very different way of approaching storytelling than a classic producer who is on site."
This approach extends to Vice's other programming, which is being distributed across new platforms. Even documentaries shot for a traditional show may require significant editing.
"They take some of the content we produce for YouTube and do what we call sweating on some of our platforms," said Haik. "So don't just re-cut it." But you know you are entering a new opening or sequencing designed for mobile consumption. "