Technology Column

Millennials killed Vine

/ The Daily Orange

Everyone says that Vine died because Twitter failed to properly fund it or that it couldn’t find a place for Vine in its brand. Here’s why it really died: We all got bored of it.

We can all reflect with tributes to our favorite videos and the best memes from the platform, but a bet could be wagered that most of the people expressing sadness about the app’s discontinuation haven’t touched it in months.

The issue with building an entire platform around short attention spans is that it ignores what lies beyond that stereotype of younger consumers. Though native internet users may have less patience with one piece of entertainment, they’ll also happily stay engaged with a platform if there’s a variety of activities within it.

One of the biggest reasons Vine lost users’ attention is because other platforms stole it. Everyone else has figured out that you can’t hold attention spans without any variety in material.

When Vine first came out, it was supposed to be an alternative to YouTube and traditional television, with a six-second looping format as a new way to consume video content. It clearly targeted Generations Y and Z, appealing to trends of historically-low attention spans, dropping television consumption and the plateauing popularity of YouTube. Vine was poised to be the next platform of choice for these fleeing users — and then it kind of just fell flat.

Alyssa Bereznak, a staff writer at The Ringer who wrote a heartfelt tribute saying Vine was “gone too soon,” said that it was essentially dead in the water after its peak in 2013. The app tried signing its biggest viral stars to exclusive deals, but that didn’t work either.

“Vine had no hope to earn a wider audience, unless it really made a play for mainstream, relatable content,” Bereznak said in a Twitter direct message. “Vine couldn’t decide if it was going to go the way of YouTube, which pays its stars, or a general social network like Facebook. In my opinion, they should’ve invested in their talent more.”

In the wake of Vine’s viral success, its competitors stepped up their game.

Snapchat launched its Stories feature, giving users the ability to post photos or videos in one to ten seconds on a public space. Stories branched off into an advertising and news distribution platform. This allowed publishers and marketers to tap into the app’s wide user base and help make some profit for Snapchat along the way. Snapchat has seen unprecedented growth as its evolved, passing Twitter in active users this past June with 150 million snapping daily, according to analysts at Bloomberg.

Instagram is probably the closest direct parallel to Vine’s functionality, though. Just by opening the app, a user could access the latest photos from friends, celebrities, or companies they follow, later evolving into video as well. Unlike Twitter’s failed experiment, though, Instagram was the short-form video platform to take off, reaching a mark of 500 million active monthly users in June, according to Facebook’s figures cited by USA Today.

Unlike the other two apps, Vine never got past its own gimmick. It gave no compelling reason to retain users as they flocked to the similar options provided by Snapchat and Instagram. In a time where the social mobile app was becoming more of a cultural force than ever, Vine failed to capitalize on its potential and give users a reason to keep coming back.

Twitter itself is struggling with a similar problem of monetization. So it’s bizarre that the company, through all its experience and past mistakes, never made a real effort to transform Vine into the money-making machine it could have been.

“Twitter is kind of a sh*t show right now. They didn’t seem to have the resources to make Vine great,” Bereznak said. “Sadly, nothing this good on the internet can stay.”

The company still made the right decision in killing off Vine. Its popularity steadily tailed off as people got bored, found new digital toys to get distracted with and simply lost interest in putting time into it. Maybe Twitter got bored with its limitations, too.

With all those factors at play, the collective of social internet users simply forgot about Vine. We all knew it still existed, we all still knew what it was, but we didn’t use it. In a world where the media’s two biggest commodities are a source of content and attention, when users stop posting content on a network, attention will fall too. And that’s where we start to forget why we invested so much time in these digital platforms in the first place.

Brett Weiser-Schlesinger is junior newspaper and online journalism major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at bweisers@syr.edu.

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