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It’s too often I hear these phrases lately:
- Nobody reads anything anymore.
- A video longer than 2:00 is too long — people won’t watch it.
- Pabst Blue Ribbon isn’t good beer, it’s hipster water.

All these statements are generalizations informed more by the level of interest the speaker has in the subject matter of the blog post or video — or their interest in the science of beer palettes — than universal truth. Therefore, all these statements are also completely unfounded.

So the answer to the question in the title is: It depends.

Let’s get closer to a definitive answer. If I’m starting the process of buying a car, the ideal video for me may be a :30 sizzle reel of a VW GTI in full rally gear flying down a dusty road, or a stock model out performing a Corvette on a skid-pad test. (It really happened.) But if I’ve narrowed down my search to the GTI or the Ford Focus SXT, the ideal information might be a detailed post — a 10-minute watch — comparing every detail of the two down to the dashboard backlighting color.

So what should we make of this? Different points in the buyer’s journey prompt people to spend more or less time with content. It’s almost certain the second video is too long for me if I’m just starting the buying process. It’s almost equally as certain the first is too short if I’m looking for the final detailed information that is going to get me to trade my hard-earned cash for a car. (As a side note, I ended up not going with either; I opted for the GLI instead. And it was a good choice.)

Let’s introduce a bit of real data to this conversation. Visible Measures, among others, do studies on how long people watch online videos. And on the surface, the numbers might be frightening and cause you to think 2:00 is too long:
- For 20% of viewers it takes 10 seconds or less to abandon a video.
- By 30 seconds, as many as one-third of viewers have moved on.
- At the 1-minute mark, 44% have left.
- Almost 60% are gone at the 2-minute mark.

I implore you to not get hung up on the face value of those numbers. The drop-off has less to do with attention spans and more to do with “bad” content bringing down the average…or the right content hitting the wrong people at the wrong time. This will save you from applying a sweeping assumption to your content strategy. All your videos don’t need to be 2:00 or less…or, worse, thirty seconds or less.

Instead, I hope this information gets you thinking more specifically about who you’re making your video for — where that person is in the buyer’s journey. What will reinforce that they’ve found the exact 10 minutes of research they were looking for? And how will you present the perfect :30 spot to the people who identify themselves as not quite ready for that type of commitment yet?

Focus on engagement, not views.

And our last step deeper (for this post) is about targeting. Back to the car-buying example…where am I likely to encounter these videos across the different stages of buying? I might simply be trolling Google or YouTube (or Pinterest or other) looking for input early on. I might be focused on Edmunds, Consumer Reports, Jalopnik or Autoblog later in my journey.

So you can extrapolate that as a brand (VW), I might want to create (or cultivate) both types of content and seed them in very different places…with different keywords…and different calls to action. It’s as much about targeting content as it is a target audience.

In other words: Context is king. Content is the kingdom.

Some numbers are undeniable; video is becoming more important to the content marketing mix. Other numbers—like the length of your video or how many people make it to the end—are still relative.


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Comments
  1. Engagement is critical.

    The think blaming a video’s bounce rate on its duration is a bit of a red herring.

    If properly engaged with the content, viewers will continue to watch regardless of runtime.

    Also: PBR is so mainstream now. Hipsters have moved on to local, organic basement brews.

    • Precisely, Brandon!

      When it comes to videos, you really can’t take one stat for your North Star of success. Especially a stat like bounce rate. Without cross-referencing that viewing time with demographic and psychographic information as well as conversion data, it’s fairly pointless.

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. I think many videos run astray when they try to do too many things and don’t stay focused on the communication goal. When a clear outcome is set, a proper length is achieved when the video is as short as possible while still being able achieve your objective.

    I’m personally a big fan of the 2-minute mark, but I use it as a guide not a rule.

  1. Alltid samma fråga RT@CenterLine: Is your 2:00 video too long? Or too short? http://t.co/vQPh1RmyKx (It depends.)

    Translation: Always the same question.

  2. RT @caitvsmith: Think about where viewers are in the buyer’s journey. Don’t just aim for an “ideal” length. http://t.co/DxaZhMQzZy #video #contentmarketing

  3. Is PBR hipster water? Is two minutes too long for a video? Both are up for debate here: http://t.co/njQiQMd7YE

  4. RT @johnvlane: Is PBR hipster water? Is two minutes too long for a video? Both are up for debate here: http://t.co/njQiQMd7YE

  5. RT @johnvlane: Is PBR hipster water? Is two minutes too long for a video? Both are up for debate here: http://t.co/njQiQMd7YE

  6. “@johnvlane: Is PBR hipster water? Is two minutes too long for a video? Both are up for debate here: http://t.co/CmLKOOFgKY” YES to the 1st

  7. “The drop-off has less to do with attention spans and more to do with “bad” content” http://t.co/7AVCthfCmm @centerline

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