Last week we talked about the differences between “footlong” or “longform” videos and short, “bite-sized” videos. The quick takeaway is that longer videos, while more expensive and resource heavy upfront, target a special kind of viewer – the kind that stays. So how do you create the type of video that will make people stick around and watch? As a refresher, here are some quick facts we went over last week (now with even more graphs!):

1. Longer Videos Give More Opportunities For Ad Placement

According to FreeWheel’s Q3 2012 Monetization Report, this is a verifiable factoid. Gotta love the numbers here — we’re looking at a difference of as much as 8 ads per 20+ minute videos to ½ an ad for videos under 5 minutes.

video ads by length

Of course…more ad opportunities wouldn’t matter one bit if people weren’t actually watching longer videos. Fortunately, they are:

video ad by completion rate

No, you’re not reading the chart wrong – people are actually watching ads more in longer videos and less in shorter videos, even when the ads are the same length. But when you think about this, it makes total sense. The viewers who watch a longer video to completion are also the same viewers who will watch advertisements to completion.

2. Longer Videos Make Up Over 54% Of The Online Video Pie

According to Ooyala’s Q1 2013 survey, longform videos greater than 10 minutes make up over 54% of all online video viewed.

ooyala longform video

If you include anything over 5 minutes as “longform”, that number jumps up to something like 65-70%. Basically, we all spend a ton of time watching longer videos, but may not realize it since we also spend so much time looking at Vines of grumpy cats and twerking.

Five Creative Ideas For Squeezing As Much Goodness Out Of Your Longform Video As Possible

Okay, now that we’ve successfully gone over longform videos and what they can do for you, let’s talk about your video production and what you can do for your viewers. Here’s 5 ways to make compulsively watchable “footlong” videos (with examples):

1. Split Up Your Video Into Smaller Videos

Why can’t you make a whopper of a footlong video and then just split it up into a hundred portions? That’s what this guy did. Graham Hunt thought of “100 Tips for Buying in Spain”, and then made 100 videos, each around 30-40 seconds long.

Graham understands his topic might be somewhat dry, but instead of making a rapid-fire montage video with 100 tips, he gives each tip plenty of time in the limelight. Because, #1) splitting up a longer video gives viewers the freedom to choose what they want to watch (which eliminates about 99% of the risk involved with longer videos right away), and #2)splitting up a longer video gives him many more opportunities for ad placement.

2. Find an Engaging Talking Head/Speaker Who CARES

Case in point – Trent Dyrsmid. Trent has made a number of videos tutorials over 10 minutes in length that are basically just him talking to a camera. But these videos are compulsively watchable because he has an engaging personality, he paces himself (in other words, this isn’t a 30-second promo and he knows it), and because he genuinely cares.

Really, think about what you just watched. You just watched a guy with a Sharpie and a dry erase board talk about green dots and red dots, despite the low production value of his video. At the same time, this isn’t surprising because Youtube celebrities have been vlogging like this for years. Vlogs are always long and low-production but enjoy high engagement. And it’s certainly not because of the script – most of the time vlogs are unscripted and speakers go off an outline. Vlogs are engaging because speakers always care about what they’re talking about – and we, as humans, are hardwired to respond to genuine enthusiasm. It’s infectious.

3. Up Production Value, But Not Too Much

But there’s still something to be said about a well-produced video. Check out this 4-minute offering by Jay Adelson, co-founder of Digg.

It’s slightly more sophisticated than Trent’s video, but not overly well-produced. Which brings up a great question – just how much production value should a longer video have in order to be even  more engaging? According to Psychster, viewer engagement certainly does scale with production value, but only up to a certain point – past that it’s just diminishing returns. Good to know, since one of the biggest reasons to back away from a longer video project is the projected higher cost.

viewer engagement video

 As you can see (and read from the caption), viewer engagement scales with production value up to value 5, increasing by as much as 57%, before losing steam. Production values 6 and 7 are even more “well-produced”, yet seem to inexplicably lose viewers. Psychster explains it appropriately enough by taking a page out of the psych handbook and observing that diminishing returns are inevitable because there is an optimal level of human stimuli. We’re going to back up a little and just say – why look a gift horse in the mouth? You only end up saving more if you make footlong videos with low to medium production value. Cheers all around!

4. Use The Time To Show People Exactly How To Use Your Product

You’ve always wanted to make the perfect product demo video, but you’ve watched way too many infomercials to truly believe that long product demos are a good thing. If that sounds like you, stop worrying and learn to love longform. Especially if your product (or more likely, platform) is very sophisticated, nuanced, and plain confusing. Google certainly understands the importance of a thorough product demo. That’s why they made a 10-minute demo to showcase Google Glass:

This is so much better than a 30-second promo featuring Google Glass because promo videos don’t do such a product any real justice. Longform videos are inherently better than short videos when it comes to covering a complex topic or subject. This should be obvious, but it really isn’t because “viral” video is so, overwhelmingly short. Video marketers are always chasing after the next viral video, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that sometimes, you just need to make things longer.

5. Embrace The Mojo of Presentation

Going off that Google Glass presentation, have you ever thought about why TED Talks are always done before an audience? Why don’t they just do what Larry King did and interview an awesome person one-on-one, instead?

The answer is simple: speaking in front of a live audience is performatory. It’s totally different from an on-camera presentation before an imaginary audience. TED gets this, and they want all of their presenters, no matter how introverted or extroverted, to get up and talk to an audience so they can film it and show it to all of us watching on Youtube. That extra, added layer of performance gives the presentation something special – it becomes a dialogue, a story.

Of course, not all longform videos are presentations, so it’s helpful to take a page out of the vlogging guidebook. PewDiePie, the most viewed podcaster on Youtube as of September 17th, 2013, is a Swedish video game commentator who regularly makes videos with as many as 5 other commentators, because he gets that presenter + participants = story. And story means engagement.