We live in the exciting times of digital innovations.

Recently, a wave of articles touting the merits of short form videos has been making the rounds on the internet. They may look a little like this:

“The next wave in storytelling is short-form video”

“Short form, big impact”

“Short form videos and innovative content are fuelling mobile video advertising growth”

This makes short form videos sound promising, right? Except that they give the illusion that short form videos are gaining popularity, at the expense of long form videos. But this is not the case. Long form videos still have their worth.

So, where should advertisers be putting their money? We investigate.

Arguments for short form videos

1. Rise of social video apps

How long is a short form video? Google puts it at under 10 minutes (anything over is considered long-form4)

No wonder, then, it’s been said that the future of video lies in short form video. The boom in short form videos is fuelled, in part, by the increasing popularity of social video apps. On popular social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories, a fixed time-limit means that videos uploaded there are, by default, short form videos.

Videos posted on ephemeral video platform like Instagram Stories and Snapchat encourage spontaneity and candidness. Perfect for reaching out to millennials!

2. “Shortening attention span”

In our attention economy, less is more. In line with the prevailing assumption that attention spans have been shortening, businesses have been creating more and more compact videos, or breaking up longer videos into shorter, snackable segments. A study by Vidyard found that in 2016, more than half of the videos created by businesses clocked in at 2 minutes or less.

Despite the purported reduction of our attention span, did you know that our propensity for distractions is nothing new? The Oxford English Dictionary cites a 1710 entry from Tatler as its first reference to this word. Inattention has also been identified as the source of criminal habits by an 18th century philosopher by the name of James Beattie.

While inattention can certainly be identified as a vice, it can also be understood as a symptom in our evolutionary journey with digital technology.


While inattention can certainly be identified as a vice, it can also be understood as a symptom in our evolutionary journey with digital technology.

On the bright side, studies show that we are now able to process digital information at a much higher rate than before. This means that, theoretically, we’re able to take in more information within the same time frame. Which is good news for marketers!

One of the reasons for the success of Buzzfeed’s success, is that its bite-size videos fit perfectly with impatient millennials.

3. Prevailing trends

According to a 2016 study by AOL, short form videos have enjoyed a tremendous boom in popularity, with the viewing of such videos increasing by more than 50% over the last 12 months in the UK. The amount of time people spend watching videos have increased across the board, with 18-24 year olds clocking in an average of 26 minutes for each viewing session7.

There’s also a surprise finding in this study. While video streaming sites and social media are undoubtedly two of the most popular platforms for watching short form videos, news websites represent the third most popular platform. This just goes to show that the preference for bite-size content has not only encroached on entertainment, but also on fact-based reporting, which one might expect to be detailed, in-depth, and long. Perhaps this is a call for marketers to look beyond social and streaming websites to engage their audiences.

Most of us, if given a bit of idle time, would go straight to our phones. And within these small pockets of phone time, viewing of short form videos are becoming an increasingly prominent activity.

Arguments for long form videos

1. Unpredictable algorithm changes

The digital world is always moving quickly by us. While this brings about continuous innovations, it also means that things go in and out of fashion quickly.

One example of this is internet algorithms. Facebook’s algorithms, for instance, used to favor video content over images and text. But somewhere along the way, Facebook decided to give preference to live videos, and then longer videos with higher completion rates.

Why is this the case? Maybe Facebook is getting saturated with short form video content. Or maybe the boom in content has simply outpaced what we’re capable of consuming within our finite time.

So the crucial question to ask here is this: “Do you want to jump onto the bandwagon of the latest trends, or focus on producing quality content that lasts?”

The answer, as is often the case, probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. While keeping in touch with current trends is no doubt important for gaining currency, banking one’s entire marketing strategy upon what’s in vogue now, without long-term foresight, is probably not a smart move.

Socialmediaexaminer.com

While some claim to have demystified Facebook’s algorithms, the fact remains that they are ultimately controlled by Facebook, who have the power to change their algorithms as they wish.

2. Rise of the live video

Live videos are not exactly a new kid on the block. The current prominence of the live video streaming landscape belies a rather tumultuous history. Some of us may remember Meerkat, the live streaming app that went from overnight sensation to internal combustion in little over a year, when faced with head-on competition from social media giants Twitter (with its Periscope app) and Facebook (and its built-in live-streaming function).

That was 2016. It’s 2017 now. Will live videos continue to retain their it factor? That’s for time to tell. But with Facebook’s aggressive promotion of live streaming on its platforms, it’s probably safe to bet on the continuing prominence of the format.

Live video makes video storytelling easier and cheaper. While many businesses are still struggling to figure out how to use them to their advantage, it nevertheless remains that, with just a bit of creativity,businesses can make most of their essential videos in the live format.

Turner Broadcasting’s Super Deluxe uses off-colour humor and real world interactivity to get people to watch live.

3. Long form videos drive engagement

Previously, we talked about how the short form videos are on the upward trend, in terms of both production numbers and consumption rates.

But video marketing is not just about the number of clicks on the play button. In the latest report by TwentyThree, a video marketing automation platform, it was found that while 80% of videos are under 5 minutes, they drive less than a third of overall video engagement. Meanwhile, only 8% of the videos in the data set were more than 15 minutes, but these videos were responsible for driving 50% of total engagement.

What does this mean for businesses? If you really want to interest your viewers, then you might want to go beyond creating short videos that offer little more than cheap titillation.

Twentythree.net

While we’re all accustomed to seeing short videos in our social media feeds, it’s the long videos that are driving engagement.

Context, context, context

So, as to the perennial question – which is better? The answer lies in answering two fundamental questions: (a) what kind of business are you? And (b) what are you trying to achieve?

Short and long form videos are two very different ball games. While functionally similar, they are different in ways that are crucial to your targeting strategy.

On the one hand, short form videos are perfect for social media. On ephemeral video platforms, less is more. Be candid and spontaneous there. On feed environments like Facebook, cut straight to the point and aim to attract people’s attention straight from the get-go. It’s also a good strategy to optimize short form videos for mobile platforms, since the viewing of most short form videos will be taking place from there.

On the other hand, long form videos are better for content that carry greater authority. These content may include your corporate video and your explainer videos. But, as previously stated, the increasing prevalence of live streaming may be changing the landscape fundamentally, from big budget video productions to diy self-recorded videos.

The platform on which your videos are meant to be viewed matters too. In the same study conducted by TwentyThree, Facebook users are only prepared to watch a video for around 20 seconds. On a company’s website, the same user is prepared to watch an average of 4 minutes of video.

The implications are clear: If you’re looking to engage casual users on social media, you’d want to produce short, tight and catchy video marketing content. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to engage ‘warm’ customers, then longer videos that convey fuller and deeper narratives would be a better option.

Ultimately, quality is key

At the end of the day, videos are made for human consumption, not an algorithm machine. If the only criterion for good video content is how much reach and how many views it’s capable of driving, then the idea of ‘good’ will forever be hinged to the whims of algorithm engineers.

While the length of your marketing video is certainly worth considering, other fundamental factors like that of audience, platform, audience, and above all, the quality of the video itself, merit greater attention. Quality video content that adds value to your audience’s lives will always win out. Whether the video is long or short? Well, that pales in comparison to more pressing considerations.

Long or short doesn’t matter so much as whether it packs a punch!

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