Optimum Length for Online Content

Attention spans online are much shorter than in face to face communication.  So if you are creating digital content for online audiences such as podcasts or videos, then what is the optimum length to keep your audience engaged?

IDG connect recently surveyed 400  people, asking them;

What is the maximum desired length in pages, viewing minutes or usage time to use for the following marketing content types?

The results are somewhat surprising but act as a good guide to ensure you don’t become a waffler.

Marketing Content Types Length Unit
Podcast (Listening Time) 16 minutes
Interactive Worksheet (Usage Time) 14 minutes
Presentation (Viewing Time) 14 minutes
Product/Service Review (Page Length) 13 pages
Demonstration (Viewing Time) 11 minutes
On-Line Audio Clip (Listening Time) 11 minutes
On-Line Video (Viewing Time) 10 minutes
Calculator (Usage Time) 9 minutes
Research Survey Results (Page Length) 9 pages
Tutorial (Viewing Time) 8 minutes
Webcast (Viewing Time) 7 minutes
White Paper (Page Length) 7 pages

At first glance the results surprised me somewhat.

  • In all instances we are talking less than 16 minutes.  Culturally this is a big shift for many people who are used to setting 1 hour meetings, or presenting at events that go for between 40 minutes and 1 hour.  They then fill the time, rather than think about the audiences attention span.  So as we move to more online consumption it’s important to remember that it should no longer be anywhere near a 40-60 minute presentation, but closer to 10 minutes.  My advice – get to the point.


  • Podcasts have the longest listening time, which is odd considering there are no verbal cues, but it’s likely to be the highest due to the way it’s being consumed (in the car, on foot on the way to work, or on public transport perhaps).


  • However, on-line audio clips have longer viewing times than on-line video.  That is a real surprise to me, and my assumption here is people are probably listening while they do something else, compared to a video where they disengage when they stop watching.


  • A live webcast has the lowest viewing time, which is most likely due to the timing of the event needing to be optimum, vs allowing people to watch it in their own time.  Offer both in my opinion, as you can allow interaction in a live webcast.


This is really interesting food for thought, so be sure to adhere to the principles outlined above.  As a performer I was always told it’s much better for a gig to be shorter, and have the audience wanting more, than to drag it out.  Encore, encore.


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