Marketing companies have stated for years that attention spans, already shorter than a goldfish’s, are getting even shorter. However, the recent trend in monetized YouTube content towards long-form videos seems to fly in the face of that statistic. Content creators of all stripes have posted videos in excess of ten, twenty, even thirty minutes, and seem to get more views and engagement than ever.
So, if you’re using YouTube as part of your marketing strategy, what’s the optimal YouTube video length? Is it better to opt for bite-sized content or longer, video essay formats? Here’s what you need to know.
- 1 Why Ten Minutes Used to Be the Maximum
- 2 Understanding the Recent Trend
- 3 What Channels Benefit from Long-Form Content
- 4 What’s the Optimal YouTube Video Length?
- 5 Let’s Review
Why Ten Minutes Used to Be the Maximum
When the website first started, the max YouTube video length used to be ten minutes. Unless you had a specific type of account, known as a Director’s account, you couldn’t upload anything longer than that. That is, until December of 2010 when YouTube finally updated its policy to allow content creators to upload videos of any length up to twelve hours.
This opened the door for longer content, but many YouTubers hesitated to take advantage of it. At the time, marketing data suggested that shorter content was better for your revenue.
Understanding the Recent Trend
In recent years, however, YouTube videos have become longer than ever. What gives? Why do people watching videos from their phones suddenly want video essays and not the latest TikToks?
The answer lies in ad revenue. For content creators who monetize their channel, videos shorter than ten minutes can only have an ad roll at the beginning. Anything longer than ten minutes allows for a beginning and middle ad roll, increasing the interaction on the video and the YouTuber’s ad-based revenue.
Technically, once a creator passes that ten-minute mark, they can add as many ads as they want. However, viewers don’t enjoy having their content interrupted every two minutes by an advertisement lasting thirty seconds or more.
What Channels Benefit from Long-Form Content
What sorts of YouTube channels benefit from having longer videos? Whether you’re creating content to advertise your business or as your primary source of income, here are the channels that best benefit from having long-form content:
Video Essay Channels
Whether you write video essays as a media critic or make political statements, long-form content works well for you. Video essays have been a staple of the platform since its inception, but since ad revenue became a common practice, people have written and produced more of these than ever.
Reaction channels benefit from padding their length with the content the creator is reacting to. This allows them to easily hit the ten-minute threshold for mid-roll ads.
While most would argue that it’s best to keep how-tos brief and to the point, for more complex topics, videos longer than ten minutes might help you convey your point. Check this out if you want to see how to enable longer videos on your instructional channel!
Review channels, like reaction channels, can pad their length by adding bits and pieces of the reviewed content to act as a cited source. However, if you review media, you have to be careful not to use too much of the reviewed content, or you might get struck by one of YouTube’s infamous copyright bots.
This seems the most obvious fit for longer content, as the average YouTube video length for a stream can often exceed two or three hours. When these streams go to VOD or video on demand format, they become monetizable via ad revenue. Streaming channels will often include an ad per hour or so of content.
What’s the Optimal YouTube Video Length?
With all that background out of the way, you might still wonder, what’s the optimal YouTube video length? The true answer to this question is that it depends on your niche and the content you create.
If You Review and React
For review and reaction channels on shorter content, the ideal YouTube video length tends to be about double the length of the original content. This means that, for a music video lasting around four minutes, you’ll want your reaction video to max out at ten minutes long.
The rules change slightly when you do reactions to content over twenty minutes in length. There, most reaction video lengths will be equivalent to, if not slightly shorter than, the episode itself.
If You Educate, Inform, or Opine
If your channel’s focus is video essays, how-tos, or other educational content, brevity is the name of the game. If you can convey your points in a five-minute video, don’t pad it to reach that ten-minute threshold. Viewers can see through such fluffy practices.
If your points are complex and require an hour or more to elaborate, have at it. But if you can summarize it in ten minutes, do that instead.
If You Game
There are two schools of thought when it comes to gaming channels. Some keep their full YouTube or Twitch streams as one VOD, allowing viewers to catch up to what they missed in one shot if they missed the stream. However, others, like those who play and edit Let’s Plays, prefer to cut their content into bite-sized chunks of thirty minutes to an hour.
There, the best length for YouTube videos is a matter of personal preference and where you see your audience engage the most. So, watch your demographics, and see what video length optimizes your engagement.
Figuring out the perfect YouTube video length for your channel depends on what type of channel you run. However, whatever your niche, it’s best to use minimum content to convey maximum information. If that rises above the ten-minute threshold for mid-roll ad revenue, fantastic! If not, as long as you’ve kept your viewers engaged, you’ll see returns on your investment.
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