Insight: The importance of video duration

We were asked by a longstanding client about the importance of video duration when it comes to engagement.

It’s an interesting topic, and one that forms a consideration of every brief we see. It’s also a vast one, backed by a plethora of research, focus groups and psychology, so clearly I’m only going to scratch the surface.

The one thing I do want to highlight is the misconception of short attention spans, in that there’s often a preconception that people have short attention spans and they therefore need to be fed short, snappy content that grabs them from the outset.

This preconception often becomes firmer with clients the younger the audience; Generation Z, Millennials, et al.

However, in our experience, this simply isn’t the case, and even headline industry trends over the last few years can be quite telling:

  • Network and streaming services alike have consistently increased the run-times of episodes for flagship shows; The Crown, for example, ranges from 56 to 61 minutes
  • Netflix have also invested heavily in long-form content, releasing 80 original films in 2018
  • Vine, the short-form video service acquired by Twitter for $30m, was discontinued in October 2016, openly blaming Instagram
  • Despite this, Instagram launched IGTV, its long-form video offering in June 2018
  • Instagram Stories – which, whilst limiting each to clip to 15s, often sees longer content spliced – has over 300m+ active daily users
  • Instagram’s Android users in the US spend more than 53min per day using Instagram, double the 28min prior to the launch of Stories
  • Bodyguard, BBC’s most watched show of 2018, has a minimum runtime of 56mins, up from the 47min of Downton Abbey, for example

What this tells us, and from experience, is that people’s attention spans aren’t short as a rule. However, they are when the content isn’t interesting, relevant or engaging.

Runtimes form part of the brief and concept stage, but the post stage also has a huge part to play. Sometimes an edit that’s 60s long can feel lengthy, and other times a 3min edit can feel like it needs more.

The variables involved here are countless; from the nuances of a contributor’s delivery, to how and when music changes gears, to what’s actually being spoken about and the precise details of what’s being shown.

There’s a reason our editor is one of the best storytellers in the house.

Because of this, we would always advise clients to be open-minded with regards to runtimes, even if for a social platform.

To the right audience, even long-form content will perform well if it’s interesting, relevant and engaging.

By Russell
General + Video Production

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