Understanding online video attention spans

What is the most common video attention span for people

This has to be one of the hottest topics out there when it comes to producing any type of video. I really think this has a lot to do with the type of online video you wish to produce. For example, people may be more ready to sit through an interview on an interesting topic. Likewise, people may watch a longer tutorial video explaining how to use a product or service. On the downside, all too often I have seen promotional videos created by businesses which are too long and do not have a tight script. Oftentimes a business that has hired and paid good money to a production company to produce a promotional video may think they are getting more value for money if the video is longer. Unfortunately, this will often have the opposite effect. A short and snappy promotional video pitching a story in 90 seconds will most often be more effective than a 5 minutes production.

Monitoring your own videos will ultimately give you all the evidence you need to see who, and for how long, your target audience is watching your videos. You will be able to work out if visitors are at least watching 75% of your video content. If it turns out that a visitors video attention span is a small percentage, it’s time to check your online video strategy. Below are some tips which will help make your videos more engaging.

Advice on improving video viewing rates

Mix up your videos ASL (Average Shot Length)

One thing to consider when creating any online video should be the average shot length (ASL). ASL is the time spent on a single shot appearing in a video and is effectively used in film and television to create pace. For example, your video may be 2 minutes in length, but made up of 8 different shots averaging 15 seconds each. I would recommend experimenting with different shot lengths to help keep your audience interested. If your online video’s focus only has one subject, remember that you can break up the video using visual aids such as charts, pictures and graphs so the camera isn’t always focused on the subject. Understanding how ASL effects video attention span is key to the success of any online content.

Video 1– Presenter discusses global warming. We only see different shots of the presenter with a mix of close up and wide shots.

Video 2 – Presenter discusses global warming. Actual shots of melting icebergs along with pictures are shown rather than the focus solely on the presenter.

Feedback is a must – Get familiar with your video’s analytics

Ultimately, you will need an accurate analytical tool to measure video attention span. It will provide the best feedback on how much of your online video is being watched. YouTube and Vimeo both have a set of very powerful analytics which should not be ignored.  Pay particular attention to the ‘ Average View Duration ‘ of your video which is the estimated average of minutes watched per view for the selected content, date range and region.

YouTube provides loads of useful analytics to further understand the popularity of your video. If you go to your YouTube accounts dashboard you will find an option to view your videos analytics.  Alternatively, you can click on this YouTube analytics link (you’ll see information on your account once logged in).

Recommended duration lengths for video lengths

Below are some guidelines to follow based on 5 common video types on the web. Ultimately keeping a close an analytics tool will give you the best guidance on what’s working for you.

Pitch video

If you were to meet a potential customer face to face, how would you convince them that your business is better than the competition? A pitch is first about your business and why people should buy into it. The video should explain what makes your business unique. Also, the pitch video should explain how your business intends on solving the key problems that exist in the marketplace.

Recommendation – Keep it around 90 seconds or less. If you think that’s short, check out the hugely successful ‘ Dollar Shave Club ‘ video on YouTube which is around 94 seconds. While this video came out many years ago, it went viral shortly after launch.


Video tutorials are a great way of explaining how a product or service is used. For example, many software companies use tutorials to explain complicated functionality. Just type in ‘ How to … ‘ followed by your subject of interest into YouTube and and you will find many videos.

Recommendation – Take as long as it takes to do the tutorial, but try not to repeat yourself. This is one video type which I feel can defy normal rules. If someone generally wants an answer to something they will be more inclined to watch the content until they find the answer. If you are worried that your video is long, consider breaking it up into video chapters.


Testimonial videos showing how others perceive your business can be very effective marketing tools adding substantial credibility. If a new customer is thinking of purchasing a product or service from your business, seeing a video testimonial on your website could be key to sales.

Recommendation – Similar to a testimonial video I would recommend keeping the video less than 45 seconds. This will force you to get straight to the point in explaining why the visitor will benefit from the free product or service.


Video interviews can be powerful tools if your business is trying to spread an idea or generate interest in a product. They can also be useful in explaining more complex topics. Interview videos are also great at generating credibility if a KPI (Key Person of Influence) is involved in the filming.

Recommendation – Similar to a tutorials, these videos can be longer in length. The subject material and types of questions will all be factors. If you’ve recorded a long interview and are worried about the length, remove the other content using an editing program to make it more snappy.

Best of luck with your online video making