If you haven’t heard of Vine, you need to get with the times – the six-second video app, owned by Twitter and dubbed ‘the Instagram of Video’, shot to the top of the free charts in Apple’s app store shortly after release, and it’s set to come to Android soon.
Although Vine was only released in January, it’s already made an impact in the world of citizen journalism, and it’s easy to see why – its ease of use, length constraints and accessibility make it the perfect platform for people to capture their own news, ready to share it with their friends and family on social media.
In fact, Vine users have already made a start – in February, a Turkish journalist used the app to document the aftermath of a suicide bombing outside the U.S. embassy, barely a week after the app was launched.
More recently, Vine user Doug Lorman shared a clip of the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Timeliness played a part – the video was shared thirty minutes after the explosion, and was quickly disseminated online with over 100 RTs on Twitter alone.
For many, this short clip was their first exposure to the tragedy, and it was particularly powerful because of Vine’s inherent limitations. The constant looping of the six-second tragedy, while hypnotic, is also slightly macabre and voyeuristic, but it does a lot to drive the message home.
But it’s not just hard news that suits Vine’s short format – Daft Punk used the app to announce the tracklisting on their forthcoming ‘Random Access Memories’ album. The Vine, which was released by Columbia Records, received almost 2,000 RTs and a further 1,500 shares, and is one of the runaway successes that Vine has so far experienced.
Of course, a social networking tool being touted as a game-changer for journalism is hardly new. Instagram has previously been hailed as a game changer for photojournalists, and who can forget the press that Twitter received during the London riots of 2011?
Like with all social tools, the networks themselves are impartial – the real groundswell, the huge shift in the way that we share and consume information, comes from the users, from the people who capture and disseminate information.
But having said that, Vine has captured the public’s imagination in a way that competitors like Viddy, Cinemagram and Socialcam could never manage. Why? Perhaps it’s the fact that Vine is backed by Twitter, a company that we already trust. Or maybe it’s the ease-of-use – there’s something magical about Vine’s ‘tap the screen’ mechanism. It’s too early to tell whether Vine has the sticking power of Instagram, Twitter and the like, but the early signs are good.
The big question for Vine is, “Can the trend continue?” It’s a question that nobody can honestly answer, but if the network continues to grow and our desire for information remains the same, then there’s no reason why we won’t all be sharing Vines when we’re caught in the middle of a major event.
At its simplest level, Vine is the perfect tool to replace the short and shaky YouTube videos that you often see, captured on a spectator’s smartphone. Better still, it allows you to show the scene from multiple angles and create a much more condensed, emotive and effective video that has far greater viral potential.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a rise in the number of major news outlets using amateur video footage in their reports – how long can we expect to wait before we see Vines on CNN, or the BBC, or Fox News? My guess is not very long.