Online video isn’t long enough

A couple of years back, there was much talk about the increased use of online video, thanks to the launch of YouTube. Then along came video on the iPod and the BBC launched its iPlayer. The online video revolution, we were told, was upon us; soon, we were “reliably” informed by all those gurus, that we’d stop watching the TV and that the Internet was going to be the place where we would watch video. Some even predicted the end of broadcasting.

Well, unless I’m in some parallel universe, broadcasters are doing OK; true they might be down in advertising revenue, but on the whole, viewing figures are holding up. People haven’t rushed headlong to watch video online.

New research confirms this. A study by the consultancy firm Frank. N. Magid shows that only 7% of people watch fewer DVDs, for instance, because they watch online video instead. Six out of ten people still prefer broadcast media to online media, according to the study.

Why might this be? Online video tends to be very short – often only a couple of minutes. Flash technology limited video to 10 minutes anyway, as did YouTube. The result was we were all told (by those gurus again) that people don’t want to watch long videos online – they prefer short ones.

But that’s the same approach as saying that people on a desert island prefer to drink coconut milk – if it’s the only milk they can get, of course they prefer it. Online, video has only ever been short, so there is tons of evidence that people only watch short videos online.

However, think about our experience of broadcast media – it’s centred around 30 minutes, 50 minutes, 60 minutes and 120 minutes slots. Long, long, long. Deep down we expect video to be long – at least 30 minutes. No wonder we don’t like watching video online – it’s too short; it doesn’t match our expectations of what video should be, hence we shy away from it.

So, what should you do? Start producing long videos for your web site – not short ones. The notion that people have short attention spans is nonsense – otherwise they wouldn’t be watching hour-long programmes on TV. If the content is good and gripping they will watch. The danger with short video is that the largely amateur programme makers don’t have to make good content because it doesn’t last long enough for people to really notice that much.

But you can’t get away with this for long – eventually people will realise that the bulk of what YouTube dishes up is garbage. Your web site can stand out if you produce good, quality LONG video.

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