When I am talking with business owners, I am often asked how much I charge for producing a web video. In order to answer this I ask how long do they want the video to be and if they want dancing unicorns. You know, the usual stuff. Generally, they say 2­-3 minutes and no. Is 2-3 minutes too long for a web video? I tell them it generally is and here’s why.

These days people have an increasingly shorter attention span (thank you Twitter) and 2­-3 minutes isn’t effective in getting more views. I did some research and found, thanks to labnol.org, this chart based on a study done by Wistia.com.

How long is too long

The results? Shorter videos get more views, generally. People are more likely to keep watching your video if it is shorter. Basically you want a video that is short and to the point. Now a video can be short, but if you don’t state the purpose within the first few seconds, you will have a hard time keeping an audience. Now another very interesting result of the chart is this. If you make a video that is 3-5 minutes long you will have roughly the same percentage of viewers (provided the content is good) as a 2-3 minute video. Why you ask?

My unproven theory is a gut reaction I have when watching a video. 2-3 minutes can portray a good bit of info but 3-5 minutes can give more info, but it doesn’t seem to be much longer when watching. Can I prove my theory? No, not at this time.

So the takeaway from this is:

  • Shorter is better in most cases
  • Get to the point/front load your information
  • Content is king

Want the full scoop on the results? Here is the full article by Wistia.com


  1. chriswwolters

    As editor in chief I often had to fight smugglers of time. They always plead for 30″ more because the item needed. My statement was: There’s no item that can’t be cut shorter. Generally I agree with your bullets. I can only add: you can even make growing grass into an interesting item, as long as you can add some sort of suspense. Further more: customers have no distance to their business. You’ll have to convince them that it is not an exact science, but that you’ve got the different angle that can be decisive for the impact.

    • Mike Lee

      Suspense, absolutely! Well stated. I’ve written tv need stories for 50 years, and I’m not claiming a perfect batting average, but my best feed back has always been about pieces that contain suspense. You obviously have to write it differently for every piece but one of several techniques is to make sure the viewer wants to know what will happen not only at the end, but in the next 10 seconds.

  2. colladodani

    Of course, you’re talking about external videos, marketing and videos intended to be viral. What about training videos o videos explaining policies etc? Well, I have the same feeling. No matter how complex or text-heavy the content is, a long video is not going to work anymore. You said so, attention span. So, why not turning a long video into a collection of short episodes, all of them being part of a series? If i wanna produce a video about safety and security and I calculate the content to need 10 minutes to be explained, can I divide it into 10 1min episodes? Yes I most probably can. That’s a great solution for Millenials to accept corporate videos these days. Little by little. Let’s avoid indigestion!

    • Corey Cheney

      You are correct, I am talking about marketing videos, etc. For training and safety videos I have no real rule for length as the information is arguably the most important aspect. Breaking it up into episodes is great, but keep in mind that safety or training videos are more likely to be watched all the way through as a requirement for a group of employees. So for training and safety videos, I would make them as entertaining as possible, without downplaying the importance of the information. I think at the end of the day we should strive to keep it short, to the point and entertaining. Cheers!

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