What’s the right length for video?

Warning: the following statistics are not for the faint-hearted.

  • 50 per cent of people drop off halfway through every video!

  • If you don’t engage in the first 10 seconds, your video will fail!

  • 20 per cent of people fall asleep, or even die, if your video is longer than 90 seconds!

Okay, one of those facts may not be true.

In marketing, we love science: rules and logic, data, equations and metrics. We use these rules to help us make choices, prioritise, minimise risk and maximise return.

The creation of video assets in content marketing is no exception. It’s just so variable. We want there to be rules to follow. Many clients ask us: “What’s the right length for a video?” And in online video there is indeed a bit of an obsession with the ‘correct’ length – if you make it the perfect length it will work, but if it’s too long, no matter how good it is, it won’t work. Some people even maintain that the optimum length for an online video is no more than 2.5 minutes – shorter if you can manage it.

This film, shot in one room (from the ceiling) is seven minutes long, and it’s utterly gripping. It’s proof that video couldn’t care less about your rules.

'Me & You’, from director Jack Tew and producer Sorcha Anglim, tells the story of an entire romance, shot in one room, from one angle.

Although there are trends and benchmarks, there is no magic formula that will tell you how long the videos you create need to be.

A video is a way of telling a story, explaining a process, entertaining an audience. And its length will depend on a number of factors:

  • What are you trying to achieve with this video? How long will it take to do it well?

  • Who is your audience? How much time do they have? How and when are they likely to be watching this content?

  • What kind of content is it? How entertaining and engaging is it?

Have you ever had an experience like this?

You’re about to watch a new film – one you’ve really been looking forward to seeing. So you’re at the cinema, in your seat, shoveling your mega-sized popcorn and sipping on your Diet Coke and you’ve got that fluttery feeling – this is going to be so good! And it is… for the first two hours. But somewhere along the way, even though the acting is superb, the story is well told and the nudity is tasteful, it begins to wane. Nothing has changed per the quality of the film, it’s just… less good. And you really need to wee.

Later, deconstructing the film with your buddy, you concur it was just a bit too long. And that made it less good. This is what you want to avoid with content. It should not be so long that it becomes ‘less good’. How’s that for science?

Sometimes, running a little on the long side is nothing to fear. If your audience loves the content you are sharing, they will want more of it. Just not too much. Sometimes, as a producer you have ‘kill your babies’ and cut out some of the bits you love, just to make it the right length.

On the short side, just a short trawl through Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook proves that video doesn’t need to be long to tell a story and make an impact. But can we love video which is too short? The rise and demise of Vine by Twitter, may be a clue. Although lord knows why, with gems like this.

A clever creator I have worked with, Mark Welker from Commoner, once told me he produces videos that are “as long as they need to be”. This simple thought stuck with me, and I now use it as a guideline for all content we create.

In fact, it’s the same with blogs… hope I haven’t lost you.

Christie Poulos