Short-form Versus Long-Form YouTube: Who Will Win the Race?

When YouTube content creators decide to make a film, sometimes they ponder whether their idea would work better as a 2-minute snippet or a 30-minute feature.

The short-form camp argues that their side will win because viewers watch so many videos in a single month that they are more likely to watch shorter videos as opposed to those that are longer. Kerrin Sheldon of Fast Company argues in the article “Why Short Form Is The Future Of Marketing” that “Most likely, those 22 hours were broken into many short-form videos, each being watched for just a few minutes at a time. The market is moving more toward catering to the Facebook generation’s attention span–quick videos that are aimed to inspire, provoke, or excite. Likewise, the viewing experience on tablets devices such as the iPad make short-form content even more enjoyable.”

He is right about ensuring that videos should cater to the Facebook generation’s ever-decreasing attention span; some of the most popular channels on YouTube like Smosh and MysteryGuitarMan have videos that are not only short and sweet but garner millions of views and subscribers.

However, experts who think that long-form content is the future argue that narratives and context will win over audiences as opposed to the short and choppy approach that many YouTube creators like. David Segura said to Forbes magazine, “We’ve accumulated an enormous amount of data related to viewer behavior on the Internet. What we’ve seen is that viewers are more likely to engage and watch through longer-form content than previously expected. When stories and narratives are more fully fleshed out, viewers are more likely to love video content and even share that content with their friends.”

Even though the web has been tailored for shorter attention spans, there is an audience that appreciates more entertaining stories and thought-provoking content on YouTube that can’t be expressed in a 5-minute clip. Short films from creators like Wong Fu Productions and web series fill that need for fleshed-out stories and narratives.

Judging from what these experts have said, I’ve made my decision. While there is room for long-form content, and it will garner a sizeable audience on YouTube, it is short-form content that will dominate in the future on the account that as attention spans decline, the need to attract more viewers with punchy and short videos will only get stronger as time progresses. However, with a glut of short-form content growing stronger in the future, the battle for the most-subscribed or most-viewed channel on YouTube will become more volatile due to changing tastes.


Will long-form or short-form video win out in the future? Which do you like better?