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The debate between short-form, long-form video

18 May 2015 · By Greg Bobolo

Though there is a place for long-form video content online, short-form video represents the hottest growth category in digital media, with an exceedingly high penetration rate for those in the 12- to 44-year-old demographic.

There’s no turning back.

Consumers are spending less and less time on personal computers and televisions, listening to radios, and reading newspapers, and more and more time on mobile devices consuming short-form video content.

Short-form video is chipping away at the traditional long-form content on television, a medium that still absorbs an estimated 360 billion hours of viewing time annually. That means traditional long-form still has a long way to fall – and fall it will.

The numbers are compelling: This year adults in the United States are spending on average 5.5 hours watching video every day, according to new figures from eMarketer. Digital video viewing across all devices is driving growth.

In 2011, time spent with video on digital devices, which includes PCs, mobile devices, and other connected technology like over-the-top (OTT) and game consoles, totaled 21 minutes daily. This year, U.S. adults will consume roughly 1.25 hours of video each day on their digital devices.

At same time, viewership of video programming on televisions – meaning linear long-form in the 30- to 60-minute time slot, and 90-plus minutes for full-length theatrical releases – is expected to hit 4.25 hours, a drop from 4.5 hours 2011.

The decline of traditional long-form content and the rise of short-from will continue.

The definition of short-form is still a moving target. Some say anything less than 10 minutes fits the format. For the purposes of sports video and Millennial consumption, I define short-form as less than five minutes.

Clearly there’s a place for long-form in the digital realm, but it’s generally the domain of subscription-based providers like Netflix, HBO, and Hulu.

Short-form is the undisputed format of choice for Millennials and represents the hottest growth category in digital media. The appetite for short-form video is off the charts, with penetration in the 12- to 44-year-old demographic ranging from 88% to 96%.

The result is fierce competition, evidenced by YouTube’s free fall in revenue growth from 95% in 2011 to 39% this year and a forecasted 6.2% in 2017. As demand increases, the short-from ecosystem will diversify. For example, former Amazon executive and Hulu CEO Jason Kilar has launched a short-form subscription channel, further challenging the long-form/traditional programming model.

There’s no doubt we live in a busy digital world, however, is it possible for short-form content to be too short for meaningful viewer engagement? Not really, as long as it’s well targeted and the content is high quality.

Advertisers are embracing short-form. There has been a 38% year-over-year increase in expenditure in advanced targeted marketing, indicating how far we’ve come from the days when a marketing strategy was like throwing money in front of a fan and hoping it lands somewhere effective.

One recent study found that videos shorter than 21 seconds perform in the top 25% for completion rates. That’s food for thought when it comes to brand marketing.

Though traditional media will continue to decline, our experience shows that content creators still tend to underestimate viewership for short-form video.

NASCAR is a perfect example. In 2013, when SendtoNews acquired worldwide distribution rights for video highlights, NASCAR was getting 100,000 views per month. This past January, it received more than 25 million views, and, in one week during Daytona 500, there were more than 10 million views.

These are astonishing numbers.

It boils down to making the content contextually relevant, putting it in the right place on your digital property, and promoting it in a way that’s respective of the brand – in this case, the fact that NASCAR is the most popular sport in America from an audience standpoint. That should scale exponentially online with video highlights. Viewers love short-form, and, increasingly, so do advertisers.

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