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How long is too long for Internet Video?

How long is too long for Internet Video?

| On 19, Dec 2012

As a video creator in 2012, it’s important to understand how online video works. My work doesn’t feature cats (Caramel is completely uncooperative) nor bathing suits, so you can understand the challenge. Luckily, it’s possible to very quickly understand audience reaction to what you’ve created.

So, I’m very interested in the stats provided by my video hosting services. I’ve recently produced and posted two videos. One about movie rentals on streaming media players and the other specifically about the Sony Internet Player with Google TV. I posted them on Vimeo, and at my friend Peter’s suggestion, also on YouTube on December 8th.

Streaming Media on YouTube

Streaming Media on Vimeo

Sony Internet Player on YouTube

Sony Internet Player on Vimeo

In general, far more viewers find the video on YouTube than on Vimeo. The analytics provided by Youtube and Vimeo are different. As far as I can see, on Vimeo you can see the number of page loads as well as video plays – a number that Youtube doesn’t provide. On Youtube you can see how much of the video is played – a stat that Vimeo doesn’t provide.

Vimeo shows the number of loads of the page, and the number of plays.
Why do nearly 90% of viewers who get to the page fail to play the video?

It turns out that on Vimeo, looking at the ratio of loads to plays, about ten times as many viewers arrive on the page as actually view the video. I’m struggling to explain that, but I am going to rewrite the description, which was frankly a little dull, to be a little more exciting.

On Youtube, I can see how long a viewer stays with a video. In general (and I have a selection of videos across a number of topics in my channel) viewers watch about two minutes of a video, watching about 27%. This seems to fit the overall recommendation that shorter is better and that most viewers have short interest/attention spans – particularly in the absence of cats.

But these new videos aren’t following the same pattern. Of the two, the Streaming Media Players video (13 views in ten days) is clearly less appealing. It’s 3:38 in length. The average view duration is 49 seconds. Over 50% of viewers don’t get past the 22 second mark, while I’m introducing the players. Only ten percent make it to the end. This is obviously not a big hit by any measure.

The stats for the Sony Player video. It’s 7:33, and 42% of viewers watch to the end.
And I thought that viewers wanted short clips!

However, the Sony Internet Player is 7:33 long, and has 238 views in the last ten days. I expected a longer video to be both less interesting and to hold viewer’s attention for a shorter period of time. In this (very specific) case, the average view duration is 4:29, and 50% of viewers get to 6:30. Forty-two percent watch all the way to the end.

What does this tell me? Make more longer videos? Pack it full of detail? I don’t need to be on camera? (You don’t have to answer the last question!)

I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments and suggestions.


  1. My 2¢, Maarten:

    Lots of research points to the way people form their impressions of a website in seconds, if not fractions of a second. I’d suggest it’s no different for video.
    – within a couple of seeconds, the streaming media video ‘feels’ like a (well-produced, but) general interest piece I might watch on a traditional TV show – because of that I quickly ‘felt’ like it was probably going to be 5-10 minutes or more (without looking to the time display in the control bar), and it ‘feels’ like it’s going to be a primer for the uninitiated, with little detail. I’m educated on the topic, so I’m out.
    – within a couple of seconds, the sony internet player video gets straight to the topic, bypassing the traditional, lighthearted, TV-style intro. It’s about a product that has received almost no press, and I imagine those who’ve heard about/are considering it are looking for a straight up review, of which there are few. Personally, it just so happens I’m starting to fancy a change from my alternative media player (boxee box), so a review on another non-mainstream one was of particular interest.

    To me, the difference is a classic long-tail argument: People will get their primer on streaming media devices from a magazine in the doctor’s office, or on some short piece on Good Morning America. What they won’t get from those sources is a detailed, straight-up review on an unpopular, niche product.

    Also, I realize I make assumptions about how long a video ‘feels’ like it is going to be, without/before looking at the display in the control bar.

    Lastly, I don’t know about you, I love Vimeo, but find myself there for two reasons only: artsy stuff, and ‘arts-ily’ filmed extreme sports videos 😉

    Good work, Maarten, keep it up.

    • andjules: i really appreciate the time you took to read the post, view the videos and post your comment. Those are good thoughts and suggestions – I’ll use them to improve the next round of videos. Maarten

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