Engaging CultureMedia Production

Online Attention Span Is Short

Reader Mark Beall noted that the NBC station in Cleveland reports that since online is becoming more and more a part of our daily lives in the media business, it might be helpful to keep in mind some basic research to make your efforts most beneficial. In short, brevity is best!  Especially producers who create online video should read this.

Online video distribution/measurement service Tube Mogul studied the issue of follow thorough, measuring what percentage of videos clicked on are actually watched until the end. A sample of 188,055 videos on 6 top sites (YouTube was not one of them) found that 10.39% of viewers clicked away after just 10 seconds and that over half of the audience left after one minute.

The longer the video, the quicker erosion; all but 16.62% of the audience left the building by the end of a 3-minute clip. Tube Mogul notes that the research indicates that overlay ads should also be placed as early as possible within the video stream.

Audience Attention Span

Video length    % of Audience who watched the entire video
10 sec.                   89.61%
20 sec.                   80.41%
30 sec.                   66.16%
60 sec.                   46.44%
2 min.                   23.71%
3 min.                   16.62%
5 min.                    9.42%

Source: Tube Mogul & Cynposis

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  1. Wow!!! I’m blown away by these stats. This will totally change the way I produce online videos. Thanks for sharing, Phil!

    Allen Paul Weaver III
    Author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

  2. Good to know… but be careful.  As everyone knows, sometimes research itself is trying to sell something.  I took a look at the blog you reference here and found that the author is referencing stats sourced from Tube Mogul & Cynposis.  To be fair,the author points out that YouTube was NOT included in the research data (which seems a little odd to me).

    This gets me to thinking… does this rule apply to podcasts?  Likewise, it seems that folks who intend to come watch a video (like they might at YouTube) would be willing to stay longer. In fact, they may have come with a Coke and some popcorn. Our website (http://www.ageofthestoryteller.org) has some video on it and we are experiencing better numbers than this study would suggest.  Presently, we have an average visit length of over 5 minutes. Many of our videos are over 3 minutes in length.  

    It would seem that these research numbers may be more about direct marketing campaigns.  I would love to see the same study with YouTube factored in.

    Either way, in the event that folks are trying to draw in an audience (advertise), this is critical information.  For those who already have a devoted audience, I should hope their audience would expect more than 10 seconds of content.

    My two cents! 

  3. That’s a good point Luke about the audience. I began to wonder if short videos have a place – to help build an audience – then videos can become longer according to the subject matter and people would be willing to watch all the way through.

    Some will surely watch no matter what, but how do we draw those with a shorter attention span and take them on a journey? But it’s good to keep reminded about the time. Sometimes we can take two minutes to say what could be adequately said in 60 seconds. 🙂

    And it would be good to know why Youtube wasn’t included.

    Allen Paul Weaver III
    Author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

  4. I think this is an interesting study. But I also question why YouTube was not included. I wonder if the study is based on random hits or where the people trying to find a specific video. Most people will watch a longer video if it is something they are looking for. I think one of the reasons most videos were abandoned after 30 sec. is it was not something the people were looking for.

    It also shows we had better present enough information in the first few seconds to grab them or they will never dig deeper into the video.


  5. It would be my guess that YouTube wasn't included because the nature of that platform is what I'd call "non-intentional" videos.  In other words, it's for people making entertainment videos without a specific purpose.  This poll was focused on producers of intentional online videos – content with a specific purpose – such as advertising, branded entertainment, fundraising, promotional, direct response, etc.  

  6. YouTube does have plenty of randomness. That would certainly make research difficult. However, given the viral nature of YouTube and the ease with which one can host, embed, and spread content (for free I might add), I would have to say that YouTube is far from being a place solely for “non-intentional” videos. YouTube is as viable an option for advertising as anywhere else right now and there is a wealth of promotional content that bears that out.


    For sure, these numbers are golden when it comes to selling a product. Capture your target in short, focused bursts. As for communicating to an audience of devotees, I think the rules change a bit.

  7. I didn’t say “solely,” I said it’s the nature of the platform… 🙂 Sure lots of companies are using it, but the vast majority of the content is (as George Lucas said) about videos of kittens running across a freeway. Exciting? Certainly. High level? Hardly.

  8. Thanks, Phil, for both posting useful information and being available to engage us all with thoughtful discourse as the ideas grow. Very cool and very much appreciated.

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