When deciding how long the duration of an online video should be, the advice is often keep it short, keep it sweet. We've all seen the confusing stat that internet users now have shorter attention spans than goldfish (Why pick on goldfish? I thought they had short memories?). But this is changing. Long form video content is becoming more popular, and with changing viewing habits, it's set to become a more widely used tactic.
Our 80 minute documentary, How to Win the Loser's Game, has been available on Sensible Investing TV since November last year. The aim of the video is to provide ordinary investors with the information they need - and to challenge the investing industry to offer consumers a fairer deal.
The format of the film goes against the accepted wisdom that video content needs to be short. Countless blogs and articles have been written about how attention spans are getting shorter, and that people will only watch videos lasting between two to three minutes.
This may be appropriate in some cases, but our experience shows this isn't always true. For this project, we split the film into ten parts, which we serialised over ten weeks.
The response has been positive. So far the parts have generated just under 68,000 views from around the world. It has been featured in the Financial Times Adviser and the Huffington Post. It's sparked debate, both online and offline, and has been included in financial podcasts. There are also plans to translate it into German and other languages. So, despite being 80 minutes, the documentary has found an engaged, responsive audience.
Research backs up the idea that the demand for long form video content is growing. Changing viewing habits are behind this trend. The number of people watching video on smartphones and tablets is increasing, which impacts where people watch online video and for how long. Audiences "are able to watch something or download video that they watch on a train or a plane or a bus" explains Jonathan Wilner, Ooyala's Vice President, Product. “We are seeing video consumption [grow faster] across the board. And that jives with people’s experience in that people watch video in a lot of places where they used to read a book.” As the advert for the Samsung GALAXY Note 4 shows below, people are settling down with their mobile devices with bigger screens and HD displays, spending time with one particular video, film or article.
So the key takeaway is, if you have a strong idea and an interesting, engaging story to tell, people are more than willing to sit, watch and listen to what you have to say for longer periods of time. But use this approach sparingly. In many instances, a two to three minute video will be exactly what you need. Audiences don’t want to spend ages watching a homepage video or a case study.
But if you’re looking to educate, perhaps to provide a context for your idea, or explore a complex issue, then don’t treat your audience like they’re goldfish. Long form video content could be your best bet.