As long as it takes, is the short answer, but it is more complicated than that. Some Internet sensations like Gary Vaernerchuck of TV Wine library does videos of 10-30 minutes of lengths—long by conventional Internet standards. And yet he is widely viewed and wildly successful. And there are millions of 30 second videos on YouTube that have 5 views or fewer. So being short isn’t the answer to everything.
When you are planning a YouTube video, your first concern should not be length of the video. Your primary concern should be having an interesting message that other people will find relevant and useful, entertaining or enlightening. If you focus on that, length will usually take care of itself.
However, there are a few things to take into consideration. At the moment, many people do prefer quick bites of video at a morning or lunch time break. So why give them a half an hour video if you know they will stop after 3 minutes?
The rule of thumb I try to follow when creating internet videos is this: stick to one idea, one topic and one main point, and say it as briefly as possible without leaving out all of your good stuff. Personally, I find than most of my daily news commentary videos are between 60 to 90 seconds with some occasionally going to 2 or even three minutes.
The good news about Internet video is that it’s very easy to find out what length is right for your viewers. When you post your video to YouTube there is an analytics insight section that tells you exactly how long people watch each video. If you are making 10 minutes vides and 95% of your audience is bailing out after 90 seconds. Then I’d suggest you start making 90 second videos.
Also remember that you don’t have to shoot for exact, precise times like 30 or 60 seconds. Those exact times mattered in traditional linear broadcast venues where everything is scheduled and programmed around a set grid. But social media and internet video isn’t like that, so take a little more time or a little less time if that’s what you need. If you’ve got a great message, you might be able to say everything you need to in 9 seconds. But if you’ve produced a world-class documentary that’s 3 hours long, you might be able to get a huge internet audience for that too.
Another option is to break up our videos into part 1, part 2, etc. This way people can take bite sizes without ever feeling impatient. There is a certain psychology involved with your viewers. If you make your videos consistently interesting and consistently short, then you always are leaving them wanting more. However, if your viewers are consistently dumping out of your videos before they finish, you are conditioning them to turn you off and to make judgments that you may be boring them. All things being equal, it’s better not to do that, so err on the side of being just long enough to be really interesting and not one second linger.
Like a lot of things on the internet and new media, the answer to how long should your video be is “it just depends.” I realize that sounds wishy washy, but it is a reality.
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