We’ve all heard the infamous study: Technology has reduced human attention spans to 9 seconds – the same as a goldfish. So taking that into account, how long should your marketing video be? It was the big question when I worked in TV, and it’s still the big question now that I work at Richmond Corporate Video. And my answer is still the same: It should be as long as your content will support – to tell your story and achieve your goals. Not a second longer, but not a second shorter, either.

It May Sound Simple, But It’s The Truth

If your video is a kid falling off a zip-line, a quick SnapChat video is fine. If you’re discussing a complicated issue – like whether schools are killing creativity – it should be MUCH longer. Which is why Ken Robinson’s 20-minute TEDTalk has been seen by millions of people. TEDTalks are so successful, because they are interesting. Yes, people are happy to watch good content. Even in an era when attention spans are shorter than ever. Even on a device with a time counter clicking in the corner.

It Takes Time to Tell Great Stories

Back 8 years ago, we worried about stories that went longer than a couple minutes – or heaven forbid, five full minutes. Then we got access to minute-by-minute ratings, and discovered that good stories – really good stories – hold their audience until the very end. If the story is worth it, and the storytelling is done right, the audience will keep watching.

I won several Telly Awards at HCPS with 30 minute features on high school coaches, and again last year for a highlight video - that ran 3:34. And that’s the problem with the conventional wisdom – you hear it all the time – that shorter videos are better videos. It’s built on an honest misinterpretation of some very good numbers.

What About The Stats?

According to a comprehensive study by Wistia (a video hosting site), the average person watches 82% of videos that are between 0 and 30 seconds, but that number drops to just over 60% for 3-4 minute videos.

So your video should be short, right? Not always.

Wistia’s numbers are averages. They treat a 30-second commercial the same as a 5-minute video blog. And we aren’t talking about average stories. We’re talking about stories that have a chance to be memorable – if you treat them right.

Fortunately, there are numbers to support my point. Big numbers. At the end of 2014, mashable.com (a news site for the "connected generation") posted the top 10 videos of 2014 "as measured by views, shares, comments, likes and more." The average length of those ten videos was 3 minutes and 57 seconds. Yes, 3:57! So much for “shorter is better.”

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