The attention span of online video watchers continues to expand, as viewers have come to expect more than clips of kids and dogs doing the dumbest things on YouTube.
The mainstreaming of TV on computers via Hulu and a few other outlets has acclimated many people to watching premium content at traditional lengths, such as those of sitcoms and feature films. Producers of online video programming are taking advantage of the added time.
“A few years ago, three minutes ‘watching’ your computer felt like a novelty; now, it’s as familiar as your television set,” one web producer tells the New York Times.
The Monday media section of the Times examines the shift, which is news to pretty much no one with an interest in streaming video. Still, the story “Rise of Web Video, Beyond 2-Minute Clips” pulls together some interesting quotes and observations.
Here are some of the highlights of the Times’ story on online video lengths:
- People are getting more comfortable, for better or for worse, bringing a computer to bed with them,” says Dina Kaplan, the co-founder of Blip.tv. … “On the Web, producers have this delicious freedom to produce content as long as it should be. They’re starting to take advantage of that.”
- Tom Konkle of the Web series “Safety Geeks” says the tradition of short Web videos reflected limits in Internet speed and server space. The online video experience has grown along with advances in computers and bandwidth capabilities.
- “More than anything else, the longer viewing spans may speak to the maturation of the medium itself,” the Times reported, noting that early kinetoscopes were about 30 seconds long, reflecting both the technology limits and expectations of audience’s attention spans.
- Jon Gibs, a vice president for analytics for Nielsen, said online video “(historically) has been very much a clip-based experience online. We believe we are moving into a transition period where more of that viewership is going toward long-form video.”
I’d add that the documented increase in video durations also reflect that the streaming audience is filling with teens and preteens who grew up with online video — and are far more likely to appreciate and consume longform entertainment on computers than older viewers accustomed to big-screen TVs.
That audience behavior — of convenience over presentation — brings to mind younger listeners’ widespread acceptance of inferior but highly portable audio formats such as MP3.