Home > Uncategorized > How long is too long?

How long is too long?

February 13th, 2006

How long should an Internet video be?

Two answers:

1. If the content is compelling enough for a viewer and he or she is properly "prepped" for the experience and there is no other source for the same information, there’s practically no time limit.

2. On the other hand, without these conditions, after three minutes Internet video viewership falls off a cliff. 

I’ve gotten four rock solid confirmations of this number, two from folks who track Internet video viewership closely and two from ‘alternate’ sources, one of whom says the real number may be closer to two minutes.

First, the two ‘normal’ sources previously feautured
in the Letter:

1. Inmanstories.com, producers of turnhere.com

2. Rocketboom.com

It’s possible to track video and see exactly where viewers bail out and both these Internet video publishers do.

You’ll rarely see either of them exceeed the three minute limit and John McWeeny of "Stories" (Inman Stories) told me 3 minutes is the maximum for one of their programs.

My unexpected sources?

The British TV program "Coronation Street" which I believe is the world’s longest running TV serial. 

I recently watched an episode with a stopwatch in hand. Not one scene was longer than three minutes. Not one. Few were longer than 2.5 minutes.

My second source: Antonio White, a true blue multimedia pioneer whose work preceeds the web – and even CD-ROMs.

In the mid 1990s long before video on the Internet was possible, Antonio created a hybrid system that involved distributing video CDs (and even floppy disks, that’s how far his work goes back) that pointed people to his clients’ web sites.

What did he discover?

If the video intro was longer than two minutes, the number of  people who clicked through to the web site declined precipitously

Why three minutes – or two minutes according to Antonio?  I’m sure the answer will be nailed down some day by neuroscientists, but in the meantime…

Rule of thumb: If you want the maximum number of people
to watch your video all the way through to the end, three minutes is the absolute limit for how long your programshould be. 

Now for the monkey wrench…

If you’re selling something, you don’t necessarily care
about getting the maximum number of viewers to watch all the way through to the end.

What you want is the maximum number of viewers who DO something which is always less than 100% no matter how good your video (or sales letter) is.

By tailoring your sales video to three minutes or less, you may be maximizing the percentage of people who hang in to the end, but failing to convey all the info needed to trigger the actions you want.

One solution:

If you need more than two or three minutes to tell your story, create it in at least two parts.

Part One for the people in a hurry and Part Two for viewers who have the time and motivation to dig in.

More on this soon. It’s a big topic.




Invite your friends to subscribe to the
System Internet Video Marketing
Newsletter (and Blog) by going here:


Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. Ed
    February 16th, 2006 at 01:45 | #1

    Awesome observation.
    However, I find myself viwing more than one short video if I find the production or the topic valuable.
    So, in essence, our attention span is perhaps limited to the video but not to the series.
    After watching the $40,000 eBay auction video for Rocketboom, I found myself viewing 10 other videos on their site.

  2. February 16th, 2006 at 10:51 | #2

    Now what would happen if Rocket Boom had a half hour program and you had to watch it from your desktop?
    You might say: “OK, this is good, but enough already” and tune out after five or ten minutes.
    It’s like having food piled on your plate when you are alread full. Not a pleasant experience.
    On the other hand, the two-three minute format is like a tasty snack that leaves you wanting more.
    What’s interesting to me is that this bite-sized approach turns you into a viewer who is deciding very specifically what to watch.
    Contrast this with the classic couch potato viewer who is looking for something “good enough” and then zoning out was it washes over him.
    Also, consider this. On the web three mintues of undivided attention is a ton of time to deliver a message.

Comments are closed.