In 2016, three young friends, who liked to travel together, observed that people were not only taking photos with their smartphones; they were also shooting videos, for posting on social media, but lacked good video editing tools in their phones. Sensing the market needed such a product, the trio launched the first edition of their VUE Vlog app in June that year.
VUE Vlog immediately made it to the list of recommended apps by Apple’s App Store in 120 countries. Today, with 100m registered users, VUE Vlog is no longer just a video editing tool. It is also a video community where users can watch, comment on and like videos, plus follow video creators, or vloggers. VUE Vlog says it has the largest vlogger community in China.
Its CEO Kuang Fei believes that "the amount of effort users now put into editing photos would, in future, be put into editing their videos.” When they do, VUE Vlog wants to be the go-to app that people use to edit and follow their friends and favorite vloggers. In short, it wants to be China’s Instagram for vloggers.
Life-logging made simple
When Kuang Fei and his friends launched the startup, not many apps focused on short-video editing. Soon afterward, TikTok and its Chinese version, Douyin, were launched. Today, the two apps have several hundred million MAUs using the apps to post mostly funny videos, and videos of users imitating trending dances.
VUE Vlog, on the other hand, positions itself differently in the short-video market, focusing on life-logging instead. Unlike TikTok, VUE Vlog’s displays videos in a 16:9 widescreen ratio, so they do not take up the whole screen, leaving enough room for users to leave comments, follow or even tip a creator.
“We think people are the core of our community. Our product will always lead you to the person who created the content,” said Kuang.
The focus on life-logging has shaped the app’s design, its priority being ease of use. Editing tools have been kept simple. The app has no fancy stunts, no beauty filters or AR enhancements; only a skin smoothing filter.
“Stunts make videos look similar. Unless there is a new stunt everyday, people will get bored. We think video content is more important,” said Kuang, who wants VUE Vlog to help users create videos like “writing a diary.”
To help new users avoid spending too much time on editing, one of VUE Vlog’s default modes automatically shoots four 10-second video segments that can be easily stitched together to make a video. Templates in the app help users generate content by, for example, automatically creating a video from the user’s photos and other information, complete with filters and matching music.
When it was launched, VUE Vlog invited graphic designers from the movie industry who designed 25 filters, but only 11 were used. Today VUE Vlog has only 20 basic filters to prevent users from being drowned in a sea of filters. It also provides subtitles, stickers, and a dubbing function for users who are not comfortable with providing live commentary while shooting.
Riding the vlog trend
According to its own data, about 70-80% of Chinese vloggers have an account at VUE Vlog. A vlog is about 5–10 minutes longer than videos on TikTok, which are between 15 and 60 seconds long, but shorter than traditional long videos. There are a number of definitions of vlogs, but Kuang believes that a strong personal angle, life-logging and the depth of information and thoughts that a vlog contains distinguishes it from other short videos.
Vlogging is a global phenomenon that began as early as two decades ago in the US. In China, vlogging became popular in 2018 when many stars, including musician and actress Ouyang NaNa, started vlogging to promote themselves. With YouTube being inaccessible in China, VUE Vlog is trying to be the go-to vlog app in China.
Kuang is confident that more users would be attracted to VUE Vlog as they actively watch or follow vlogs. He hopes to turn some of them into vloggers. VUE Vlog is already posting videos to teach users how to shoot a vlog.
Currently, VUE Vlog’s business model is to charge users a subscription fee to unlock extra features like filters and music. Unlike YouTube, where creators can make money by displaying ads before and during their videos, VUE Vlog only allows vloggers to accept tips from users.
However, with its large user base, including many vloggers, VUE Vlog is in talks to solicit advertising from brands such as the British Tourist Authority and Air New Zealand to generate revenue for its vloggers. It is also exploring other ways to monetize, including cooperation with e-commerce platforms.
VUE Vlog is in a burgeoning market. Statistics show that vlog followers in China grew from 126m in 2018 to 249m in 2019 and vlogging is poised to become even more popular with the prevalence of 5G, better cameras and larger memory in smartphones.
Whether VUE Vlog will win over creators from bigger players like Weibo and video hosting website Bilibili will depend on how will it lets creators monetize from advertising or plugging products on its platform.