By Alex Altman
Last fall, 18 of Vine’s top 50 content creators gathered at the company’s Los Angeles headquarters with a brazen proposal. For $21.6 million and Vine’s promise to roll out several product changes, each influencer would create 12 videos per month — and presumably pledge their undying loyalty to the app.
It was a stunning proposal that underscored just how far Vine had fallen. Just a few years ago, Vine was the fastest growing video-sharing app in the world — a social media titan with 200 million monthly active users and the financial backing of its parent company, Twitter. Now, it was being propositioned by a gaggle of Internet stars whose rise to fame was fueled by the app it was now trying to bilk.
Naturally, Vine declined the offer, which in fairness was truly insane. (Did I mention that Vine videos are only six seconds long?) And yet, you can’t blame the influencers for having the temerity to ask. Vine was hanging on by a thread and people tend to do crazy things whey they know the end is near.
In October 2016, that day of reckoning had arrived. Just four years after its star-studded debut, word broke that the app would be shuttered. The abrupt announcement sent shockwaves through the Internet. But to industry insiders, it was far from a surprise.
For the last couple years, Vine had been steadily losing ground to chief rivals SnapChat, Facebook and Instagram. And that was before each of those companies unveiled unique innovations (Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, SnapChat Spectacles) that made them even bigger players in the video space.
While its competitors rolled out one ingenious feature after another, Vine was asleep at the wheel. In four years, it failed to add a single game-changing addition to the platform. Once hailed as one of the most visionary apps on the market, Vine had lost not only its creative chops, but also its appetite to compete.
Which brings us back to that meeting in Los Angeles. Vine leaders had known for years that influencers were their meal ticket. Their videos brought in traffic from across the Internet and attracted countless new users. Essentially, their videos were free advertising for the app.
While top Vine users were paid generously for shout-outs and revines (i.e. retweets), they weren’t compensated for videos they made on their own accord. So it wasn’t a coincidence that, according to Marketly, more than half of Vine’s top users had completely ditched the platform by 2016 for sites like YouTube, which pay popular content creators for their work.
“Three and a half years is a long time to have us posting on your platform for free,” one of the influencers told Forbes, recalling a conversation that took place during the meeting. “We’ve had a lot of our top creators find a lot of successes on YouTube, a lot of success on Facebook right now.”
Now, Vine is a cautionary tale — an entertaining story with an abrupt conclusion.
A sad, but fitting ending.