That is the eternal question. What is the best practice for the length of a web video?
There are two consensus aspects to the answer.
- The shorter the better.
- It depends.
Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter all the time, so the quicker you tell your story, the more effective your communication will be. This is common sense.
The trickier part comes when you put that rule into practice. Where is the line between just right and too long? Your content plays a huge role. If your content is interesting, people will watch.
And if your content is boring or irrelevant, even 15 seconds is too long. Frequently, some of YouTube’s daily Top Ten most-viewed videos run nine or more minutes with the average at about four and a half minutes.
For more specific guidelines, Wistia, a video platform company, conducted studies that addressed viewer engagement which provided some clear-cut insights. Their 2012 report produced the data below which shows that engagement tends to drop off relatively quickly for all lengths, and shorter videos do in fact hold higher percentages of viewership past the halfway point and for complete viewership. This is not at all surprising.
They followed up that study in 2016 and showed there isn’t a discernible difference between one and two-minute videos, but videos over two minutes in length experience a steep drop in engagement.
The chart below from eMarketer indicates that for 15-30 second Facebook videos, 42 percent of viewers stopped watching a quarter of the way into the content. What strikes me about the data in this chart is that no matter the length, even less than 15 seconds, viewers make quick decisions to bail out, not finding the content worth watching. A takeaway is that it’s important to get key messages out in the beginning of your video, preferably in the first quarter.
Another way to look at the eMarketer data is to note how the length affects viewership of 50% or more of a given video.
<15 seconds: 36% watched more than 50%
15-30 seconds: 41% watched more than 50%
30-60 seconds: 57% watched more than 50%
1-2 minutes: 50% watched more than 50%
>2 minutes: 59% watched more than 50%
It’s interesting to note that on the metric of watching 50% or more there doesn’t seem to be a significant difference between videos of 30 to 60 seconds in length versus one to two minutes or even two minutes or longer.
In reviewing a number of articles and blogs, there is a consensus among authorities that the topic or type of content should play a role in determining the optimal length range. Here’s a sampling:
Corporate Overview Videos – 1 to 2 minutes.
Online Promotional Ads – 15 and 30 seconds
Broadcast Promotional Ads – 15, 30 and 60 seconds
Product or Service Promotions – 60 to 90 seconds.
Customer testimonials – 1 to 2 minutes
Recruiting Videos – 1 to 3 minutes
Content Marketing – 1 to 5 minutes (or longer)
Viral Videos – 60 to 90 seconds.
Video Case Studies – 2 to 4 minutes.
Crowd-Funding Videos – 90 seconds to 2 minutes.
Training Videos – 2 to 30 minutes
In the end, there is no hard and fast rule for video length that fits every situation except that you should strive to make your content as concise as possible to achieve the highest engagement. Understanding that a major chunk of your audience won’t make it to the end of the video, you should front-load your video with the key messages.
Lastly, understanding your audience and the type of content you have can give you approximate guidelines for optimum length.