This week saw the introduction of portrait (or vertical) video in the BBC News app, available on Android and iOS. James Metcalfe is Executive Product Manager for BBC News apps and Connected TV and gives more information on this new feature.

Portrait video will enable you to swipe through a curated list of ‘videos of the day’, getting latest news in an easy-to-consume and engaging format. For the first time you will be able to watch full screen video created just for mobile.

With more and more of our News audience coming to us exclusively via mobile devices, we are continually looking for new ways to make our video journalism available to that mobile-only audience. The apps team has been collaborating closely with our editorial and video production colleagues across the BBC to look at everything from the way we shoot and edit news video through to the user experience in the app.

We have been testing this vertical video service with ‘beta’ audiences for a few months, but with today’s app update roll out we expect to learn even more about what our smartphone audience is looking for.

So why have we focused on video in the app? Video viewing on mobile and on our apps has been increasing dramatically. Last year when we released the new version of the app, weekly video views increased by more than 200% when compared to the old version in the previous year. Our apps users now watch 48% of all of the video published by BBC News online and a quarter of those who watch video are watching more than five clips per week.

Despite the increase in video views we know, through audience feedback, there were several reasons people were not watching our video on mobiles: Most of our video has traditionally required sound, which can be a problem when viewing in public and much of the video was embedded in small screens making it hard to watch without rotating the phone. In addition, much of our video offer has so far consisted of longer TV pieces that aren’t ideal if you’re after a quick update and short of time.

Our new vertical video addresses all those issues. It will be shorter than films used elsewhere on the BBC and tell news stories in a succinct and snappy way. In addition, all of our vertical videos are subtitled and can be used without the sound on.

We have been testing this update and the videos with different groups of people for a number of months and the response has been largely positive. We really appreciate the feedback of the thousands of users who have been involved so far and we will continue to improve this feature and many others in the apps over the coming months.

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