The right length for an internet video depends on several factors, of which the main ones are the goals, content, and the target audience. File size and bandwidth limitations are also relevant, because the video needs to stream smoothly and quickly.
Research for online shopping channels has shown that viewers will watch shorter web videos all the way through, but those longer than 90 seconds show a fall in viewers. It seems that most viewers also dislike very short videos – less than 20 seconds – as they don’t give enough information. The research indicated that the ideal length for an online video is around 40 seconds.
This research was for product advertising videos – information videos hold attention for longer. If the online video is interesting enough, people will watch it.
Think carefully about the reason for having the video. It might be to promote a product, explain a service, describe a process or show how to carry out maintenance. State at the start what you want the video to achieve, and keep this in mind throughout the production process.
It’s worth spending time thinking about what the video will say and do. Remember that viewers are often busy, and when they’re searching for information they want it delivered quickly. If they’re bored or distracted, they’ll switch off. Make sure the content is relevant, and this will largely dictate the video’s length.
What kind of viewers do you want? Most customers are busy people, and if they are looking for something that you offer, they need to find out about it quickly.
File size and bandwidth
Longer, higher-definition videos, particularly those with professional production values and heavy graphics, inevitably have bigger file sizes. These usually require special hosting, which can add to the cost. For example, on YouTube, the maximum file size is 2GB.
It’s possible to get round this problem by segmenting videos into shorter clips which load faster. They also give the audience the chance to choose when to watch each ‘episode’, or to view the section that’s of most interest to them.
Digital technology has changed, and continues to change, very quickly. Faster computers, high-definition monitors and more bandwidth make it easier and more attractive to watch longer, full-screen online videos. This will affect the optimum length of a video – although this should always be dictated primarily by the purpose and content.