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Friday, November 10, 2006

Breaking the One-Minute Barrier

Among the many provocative conversations I had at the Web 2.0 Summit yesterday, the most provocative was with podcaster/journo/maniac Steve Gillmor. One topic we wound up discussing was the one-minute barrier: why have most people stopped watching Web videos before they hit the one-minute mark?

Here's what I think:

- Most are bad, and not worth watching for very long.

- Most Web videos are poorly-described. You don't know what you're gonna get until you actually click play.

- It's impossible for a Web site/blog to link you to a precise spot in a long video, so if you don't get quickly to the part you want, you get frustrated and abandon it. (One company trying to solve this precise-linking problem is Motionbox.)

But the biggest reason, simply, is that watching more than a minute of video just doesn't fit very well into most people's established Internet usage.

Think about how you surf: you spend 30 seconds scanning a page like MyYahoo or or the NY Times, or wherever you start the day. You click off to a number of articles, and perhaps read a few paragraphs from each one. Unless you are writing a blog entry, or composing an e-mail, or maybe filling out a long form, it is pretty darn unusual to spend two or three or four minutes on a single Web page. (The average time that a user spends on a page of CinemaTech is just about one minute -- and that data surely skews a bit long, because of the way visit duration is measured, and because you and I both know there's not much deep thinkin' here.)

Watching a video longer than a minute doesn't fit in very well -- there's always another browser window open, calling to us, or a new e-mail or instant message arriving.

I don't think the one-minute rule is absolute; the OK GO music videos are about three minutes, the new `Extreme Mentos and Diet Coke' video is the same, and `Evolution of Dance' runs six.

But that leads us to another point... video sites like YouTube only tell us the number of times someone has started playing a video -- not the number of times they've watched it all the way through. I don't expect the info about how many viewers abandon a video mid-way through would be interesting to the general public... but it sure would be valuable to people creating videos. At what point do you start losing viewers? That'd be phenomenally helpful in re-editing a piece of content.

One other issue Steve and I touched on: where will people watch videos longer than one-minute?

My expectation is that as you surf on your PC, you'll tag longer videos that you plan to watch later, and be able to send them to your cell phone, your video iPod, or your television set.

Your thoughts?


  • Most people watch web video at work. You can't squeeze in anything longer than a minute or so at work before you get caught or become uncomfortable spending that much time at work watching web videos.

    By Blogger RDS, at 2:31 PM  

  • I thought I was another surfer stuck with a 1-minute Internet attention span too. And then I saw this link for Nanook of the North, the original 79 minute silent documentary first released in 1922. I'd heard of the film and I was curious, but having watched other "classic" silent films before and found many to be unwatchably boring. So how long could I watch it on the Internet. Well, to my surprise, I was transfixed. Without a single break, I watched the whole damn thing. I couldn't stop. So for me, it demonstrated that our Internet attention-spans are not fixed at 1 minute. A film that's good enough, and being in the right mood, well that's all it took. I forgot I was watching a movie only 4" wide too. Now, if videos are being consumed mainly at work, well you won't watch all of Nanook and microwaving a ballpoint pen is probably more suitable. But I believe there's room for longer content.

    By Blogger Helena Handbasket, at 2:49 PM  

  • Actually I think the general public would be VERY interested in knowing how many people watched the video all the way through. From personal experience I know that MANY people send out video links without even having finished watching them.

    I think including the "watched to the end" factor would, in fact, be more valuable that how many stars you give it because at the very least, you watched it to the end, so it must have been interesting enough.

    I totally agree with both rds and helena as well (except for that I don't forget I'm watching a 4" wide screen)

    (On a suddenly related albiet tangential note...I also do not believe the holy grail will be to have your videos put onto your TV set, I think just nice looking videos that play full screen on your computer will really be where the interest an future will be at. Pumping it to your TV sounds like one more )unwanted step.

    By Blogger Mark Allen, at 8:11 PM  

  • #1 with a bullet. the average quality of online video is complete crap. that's the delimiter for any other metric. if it was good enough, people would find a way to watch it at work.

    i also agree with mark - the holy grail isn't the tv set, it's better laptop viewing.

    By Blogger deepstructure, at 11:02 PM  

  • Is it really worth watching only a minute of video?

    By Blogger Guy Barry, at 5:52 AM  

  • By Blogger Franz Kraus, at 12:03 PM  

  • Scott, bullseye! We need new ways to look at online videos beyond the traditional Internet metrics.

    I've written about this particular issue at length on my blog, most recently on this article:

    Feel free to visit and look around the "Ratings" category.


    Carlos Granier-Phelps.

    By Blogger CGP, at 12:11 AM  

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  • By Blogger Lorraine, at 2:08 AM  

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