The length of an average online video is growing. I know it might be bad news, but it seems like every time you drop in on an entertainment, business or e-commerce site, the videos you see are getting longer. What will be done about it? The answer is clear: nothing. Online viewers are more tolerant of longer videos today, and the rest of us are being dragged along kicking and screaming.
A better question is: Why is this happening? Somehow, in this world of rotating banner ads, implusive checking of mobile devices and social sites, and almost immediate scans and deletions of inbound email, we’re able to sit for longer periods to watch an online video. Whether for business, shopping, or entertainment, we’re watching longer videos for several reasons, some up to the producers, some up to the viewers, and some because of technology.
Video Has A History
There was a time when online video had to be two minutes, or else people would flee any website video in droves. Those of us who make videos understood that we had to keep it short. A lot of this was due to our experience with television ads, which long ago settled on an average length of 30 seconds. It was hard to make a point in that amount of time, but television advertisers were driven by a creative desire to make the biggest splash in that amount of time by spending a huge amount of dollars. Similarly, entertainment production was solely in the realm of those who had massive production budgets for programs running 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or feature-length films.
Once we had the Internet, a lot of people could get into video production without the giant budgets or experience (or creativity), but were hampered the the expectations of viewers that had carried over from TV. Since the average online video is now 6.5 minutes long, it’s clear that is finally changing.
It’s A New Video World
Let’s look at why videos are getting longer, and what this means for you:
- Hosting platform limitations are definitely a primary driver of online video length. When YouTube limited the length of a video to 10 minutes, it was to deter users from uploading full-length television programs. Today that limit is 15 minutes, but it is really up to 12 hours if users meet specific YouTube guidelines. Vimeo sets file size limits of 5GB, allowing full-length movies in HD. Video platforms such as Brightcove, Ooyala, Kaltura and Amazon all have limits of 2GB or greater, long enough for an entire program or extended business video.
- The advent of faster home Internet connections have given rise to set-top boxes and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, meaning that viewers are now can stream video from set-top boxes or watch full-length programs on their PCs. This has primed people to expect more from other online videos as well.
- Web design advancements like HTML5, iFrames, libraries, and improved tools for titling, descriptions and tagging have also made it easier for site developers to create sites that are designed for showcasing online videos. How this translates to longer video length is that viewers are better able to find videos that are relevant for their needs, ensuring that less time is spent searching, and more time can be devoted to watching. Removing the speed bumps involved in search has allowed viewers to be more certain that they’ve found the right video.
- Another factor is the demographic shift toward longer online videos. Younger viewers are used to watching most or all of their programming online, threatening the business model for television as we know it. There are two ways to look at this shift. One is that overall, this may represent a shorter attention span per episode; but the other consideration is that the total time spent watching, as young viewers click around, share videos, and multitask while watching several videos in a row, may actually rise.
- The level of entertainment is also a factor. While music videos, movies, and episodic programs can be longer, the standard boring business video should either be punched up to be more entertaining, or stay short. It turns out that half of viewers tune out around 2 minutes, but dropoff is consistent between 2 and 10 minutes. This means that viewers who are interested in your business will give you the time you need to make your case.
With these trends in online video length, it’s clear that if you want to introduce your brand to a wide audience, you should keep it quick; but if you want to let viewers in on how you serve customers or how your product works, tell them at the beginning what your business is about, what you hope to show them, and then show them. If you can keep it interesting, don’t be shy about taking the time you need to cover your topic.