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What’s the Ideal Length for Web Video?

One of my mantras around web video recently has been that people are more likely to watch three 2-minute videos than sit through one 6-minute video.

One of my favorite things about Fast Company’s 30-Second MBA series is that the videos are less than a minute long. If they were four or five minutes long, I’m not sure I’d watch them.

And as I think about some of the worst web videos and webinars I’ve sat through, they were always too long.

Is Shorter Really Better?

That said, there have been a few occasions where I’ve happily watched videos that are much longer than that than this mythical one to two minute mark.

Episodes of the Put This On web series are around eight to 12 minutes in length, and I’m always disappointed when they end. TED Talks are anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes in length. Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen is an hour well spent, as is Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero.

So what's the magic number? Is there one?

As I get more involved in video work at EMC, this is an important question. Some videos are hits. Some are duds. And there doesn’t seem to be a strong correlation or trend that I’ve been able to identify yet.

I wonder how factors like content, context and length converge to capture or lose people’s attention.

If I’m deeply engrossed in the material, I don’t want the video to end. I want more. But I’d imagine I would at some point also over saturate myself. I ravenously consumed all of Garr’s blog posts on Presentation Zen for about a year. Then I got tired of it and just stopped.

Any insights you can share?