Video Duration: Does It Matter?

Typical Video Duration
Typical Video/Streaming Duration

This is perhaps the most hotly debated and frequently asked question for online video producers. How long should the video be?

Most people, based on their personal experiences with varying video quality on the Web, think it should be as short as possible. I’ve heard opinions ranging from “under one minute” to “5-6 minutes” to “absolutely no more than 10 minutes.”

Surprisingly perhaps, some research (see the chart here from a recent Aberdeen study) suggests the typical viewer is actually quite tolerant, with the largest group (30%) comfortable viewing in the 5 to 15 minutes range.

This doesn’t mean, however, your videos should be that long. As always, the correct duration or length will be determined by the strength of your content and the viewers’ interest in it.

In many respects, this is like the age-old debate over whether advertising copy should be short or long. Direct marketing guru Bob Stone and others proved a long time ago that, paradoxically, lengthy ad copy could hold a reader’s interest as well or better than short copy if it was well written. Tom Reid, a mentor of mine in days’ past, used to tell folks who argued for short copy that he could write a 300-page book they wouldn’t be able to put down… their own life story, he would add.

All that said, tell your story in as little time as possible. Be brutal in editing it down and keep the messaging simple (remember the old reporter’s adage: “I would have written a shorter story if I had more time.”). For most videos, in my view, 5 to 10 minutes sounds about right.

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