Last week, FreeWheel released its Video Monetization Report for the fourth quarter of 2014. One of the latest trends they observed in the digital television industry is this shocker: “Long-form content is poised to increase share as digital-first publishers make original content a strategic priority.”

Now, back in November 2012, I asked, “What's the Ideal Length for a YouTube Marketing Video?” In February 2013, I enquired, “How Long Should a Video Be?” And in July 2013, I advised ReelSEO readers, “If Your Video Content Is Truly Compelling, Keep Calm and Go Long.” So, you may think I’m a nut on this topic. But, before you decide to avoid making eye contact the next time you see me at some industry event, perhaps I should try to explain why FreeWheel’s observation – as well as my own point of view – appears so crazy to most internet marketers and video content producers.

Different Video Content Across Different Platforms

Once upon a time in the online video and internet marketing industries, many observers acted like “The Blind Men and the Elephant” in the Hindu fable. In the fable, each blind man reaches out and touches the elephant’s side, tusk, trunk, knee, ear, or tail and concludes that the elephant is very like a wall, spear, snake, tree, fan, or rope.

Industry observers are getting better at seeing the “whole” elephant, or at least acknowledging that different segments of the online video market have different characteristics. But they still struggle to explain how online video on YouTube is similar or different to other platforms like Facebook Video, Vine, Instagram Video, Twitch, Vimeo, and AOL, as well as sites like and

But just because it is hard to do, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. So, over the weekend, I took a closer look at the latest Video Monetization Report from FreeWheel to see if there are any lessons that online video marketers can learn – even if they aren’t working in the digital TV market.

Short-form, Mid-form, & Long-form Video Content

It helps to know that FreeWheel was acquired by Comcast a year ago and most of FreeWheel’s clients are among the largest players in the television industry. FreeWheel calls them “programmers” and these companies include ABC, DIRECTV, ESPN, NBCUniversal, BSkyB, Turner Broadcasting System, and Viacom. But FreeWheel also has a few clients like AOL that it calls “digital pure-play publishers.” So, FreeWheel’s Video Monetization Report does more than reach out and touch the elephant’s tail and conclude that the elephant is very like a rope.

Nevertheless, you can tell from the way FreeWheel segments the digital TV market that it represents a different point of view. Their Video Monetization Report slices and dices the industry’s “premium digital video inventory” into a “diverse context mix” that includes just three buckets:

  • Short-form (0-5 minutes long), which includes video clips, music videos, and made for web content.
  • Mid-form (5-20 minutes long), which includes web series, extended clips, and interviews.
  • Long-form (over 20 minutes long), which includes linear TV shows, live streams, feature films, and sporting events.
ALSO ►  The Best Branded Videos Across Vine and Instagram: January 2015

Segmenting your content mix by length may make sense if your primary job is programming half-hour long TV shows and two-hour long feature films into a broadcast, cable, or satellite television schedule. But in the world of online video, you can take as long as you need to make a point.

For example, “Worn Wear: a Film About the Stories We Wear | Presented by Patagonia” is 27 minutes, 52 seconds long. If you advised Patagonia to chop up their long-form content into several short-form pieces, I wouldn’t blame them if they told you to take a hike.

Why? Because there’s nothing wrong with long-form content. In fact, content creators on YouTube routinely make playlists that are over 20 minutes long out of multiple video clips that are often less than 5 minutes long. So, into which bucket would you put playlists?

Long-form Content: 52% of Programmer Video Ad Views Q4 2014

FreeWheel chart 1So, let’s go back to FreeWheel’s latest Video Monetization Report and examine what it says about “Content.” On Page 3, it says, “This quarter, we saw a 43% increase in video ad views on long-form content year-over-year [see chart 3 opposite].

This strong growth continues a trend we have observed over multiple quarters as viewers replicate the TV experience in the new digital living room and outside the home. At the other end of the spectrum, Publishers successfully packaged bite-sized clips for digital platforms with video ad views growing 19% on short-form and mid-form content.”

On Page 4, the report adds, “Long-form content accounted for 52% of Programmer video ad views this quarter [see chart 4 below]. While Digital Pure-Play volume is still very much driven by video clips and music videos (short-form videos accounted for 85% of their video ad views), long-form content is poised to increase share as digital-first Publishers make original content a strategic priority.

ad views by content duration

Brands Shouldn't Be Afraid to Create Long-form Videos

So, why are most internet marketers and video content producers afraid to create long-form content? Some argue that viewers have short attention spans. Well, FreeWheel found that they’ll watch first-run shows and sports streaming for longer than 20 minutes. In other words, viewers will watch long-form content if it is unique, relevant, useful, compelling, entertaining or informative. And, with 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, why would anyone claim that viewers will watch short-form content all the way to the end if it is ordinary, irrelevant, useless, dull, boring, or bland?

That’s the elephant in the room. And that’s why FreeWheel’s latest Video Monetization Report is worth reading even if you aren’t working in the digital TV market. You’ll learn that long-form video content is poised to increase its market share. You can download the Freewheel report in exchange for a few details here.