Long vs. short. The YouTube video conundrum everyone’s confused about.

Long vs. short. The YouTube video conundrum everyone’s confused about.

What is the ideal length of a YouTube video? How can I optimize my YouTube video length? What’s better long or short-form video content? These are the questions content creators find themselves asking time and time…and time again!

So, why is it that the answer to these questions is so damn elusive?

 Well, more likely than not, it’s because there isn’t a strict better or worse in this scenario. Video length is just one of many, many contributing factors that entwine together to produce a winning formula on YouTube.  When you get this balance right, that’s when the magic happens.

In this article, we’re going to be dissecting the pros and cons of long-form versus short-form content, as well as taking a closer look at the new-kid-on-the-block – YouTube shorts. We’ll discuss how each of these content formats works, how, and when we should be using them for optimum results!

The overture is over. Let’s get started!

Short form videos

In general, any video under ten minutes long is a short-form video. Short-form videos on YouTube are great for offering audiences quick, easy-to-digest, bursts of information. As such, short-form, lends itself to a very particular type of content and a very particular way of communicating.

The key here is engagement and excitement. Short-form content should be direct, immersive, and straight to the point. When done well, this format is an excellent way to reach out to new audiences with branded content, highlight something topical, or engage audiences with helpful how-to content. And these are but a few examples of what can be done.

Many creators find that short-form content is a great way to lead viewers towards your channel’s longer-form content. We’ve all got pretty short attention spans these days, so most of us aren’t going to want to invest in lengthy content from creators we’re not quite sure about yet. These shorter videos engage new viewers and hook them in, acting as teasers for everything that’s to come. A great way to highlight your value – a bit like your very own sales pitch.

Short-form video pros

  • Quick to produce, requiring less time and fewer resources
  • Helps reach out to wider audiences
  • Highly shareable

Short-form video cons

  • No room for detail
  • Not suitable for all topics or styles

Long form videos

Long-form videos are a YouTube staple. More and more YouTubers and creators have adopted this content framework for their channels. Why? Because if you can get your audiences engaged enough to watch longer videos, that increases watch time. And guess what? The longer people watch the higher you’ll rank on YouTube.

It’s simple logic.

Aside from their strategic value, long-form video is…well… just better for some types of content. For example, if you need to explain a more complex or niche topic. Or perhaps you’re trying to draw in audiences with meaningful, personal, or emotional content.

Whether you’re trying to sell your company as an industry leader or sell yourself as a YouTube personality, sometimes duration is exactly what you need to get the message across to your audience. After all, there’s no point rushing perfection, right?

Long-form video pros

  • Gives you time to provide detailed information
  • Don right, it can make a bigger impact than short-form content
  • Provides time to add CTAs to drive action and spark conversation
  • Keeps viewers watching longer (great for YouTube rankings)

Long-form video cons

  • Requires more time and resources to produce quality long-form content
  • Targets existing audience more than driving audience outreach
  • Videos can flop if core messaging isn’t clear

 If you want to produce long-form content but just don’t have the time to edit all of that material, then it’s time to consider outsourcing. And no, you don’t have to go all out and hire a freelancer or in-house editing staff.  With VidChops you can outsource your video editing as and when you need to and get your time back to focus on the much more important things in your business.

YouTube Shorts

YouTube shorts are the new-kid-on the YouTube format block. You can think of YouTube shorts as the Tik Tok of the Tube. YouTube shorts appear on the ‘Short Videos and Stories’ shelf that appears on watch pages in the YouTube mobile app. Shorts are no more than 60 seconds in length. So, this isn’t just short-form content, it’s super duper short-form content.

The lowdown on YouTube Shorts

  • Uses a TikTok-style play format that automatically takes you from one video to the next
  • No rewinding or fast forwarding
  • Users can scroll to the next video
  • No custom thumbnails like other YouTube videos (just random freeze frames)
  • Includes comment, like, and share functions
  • Has the potential to generate a LOT of views

YouTube Shorts pros

  • Quick and easy to create (even with limited resources)
  • Great way to interact and engage with your YouTube community
  • Potential to generate a very large volume of views

YouTube Shorts cons

  • YouTube shorts cannot yet be monetized
  • Poses heavy time limitations (can you get your message across in just 60 seconds?)
  • Can be difficult to convert Shorts watchers into channel subscribers

Factors to consider when choosing your content format

Both short-form and long-form content have their place on YouTube. I hate to say it, but it really does just depend on what outcome you are trying to achieve.

Forget about all the studies claiming to have reached enlightenment.

Many of these studies simply contradict each other.

And there’s a simple reason why.

Nurturing an engaged audience on YouTube is a delicate dance between a myriad of different factors – not just length!

Factors such as….

  • The type of channel you’re running. After all, there’s a pretty darn big difference between a software-review channel and a travel vlog channel.
  • Your audience demographic. Gen Z TickTokers might flock towards your YouTube shorts but if your channel is targeting boomers then longer-form content might be more up their alley.
  • You (or the video host)! What type of content do you do best? In order to engage your audience, you have to shine the brightest!

The final verdict

What’s it to be then?

 Well…it really depends on where your channel’s at and what your specific aims and objectives are for your channel. The key to success on YouTube is engagement. In reality, it doesn’t matter how long your videos are as long as you are keeping your audience as captivated as ever. However long you choose to make your video content, just make sure it’s not the dreaded B-word. Boring!

For example, if your channel is still in its infancy you might prefer to start with short-form video content of about four or five minutes in duration. That way you can start building your audience without overwhelming them with detailed, longer-form content from the get-go. 

Once you’ve started solidifying a more regular and loyal audience following, then you can start incorporating longer video content onto your channel. Your audience already knows you and likes what you’re offering, so they’ll be more likely to commit to a video of 10 minutes plus.

And what about YouTube Shorts?

Well, with your audience in place it’s time to start growing!

Using Shorts is a great way to start diversifying and broadening your audience outreach with exciting, engaging, quick-fire content!

Finally, consider your channel objectives.

If monetization is your top priority, then Shorts, aren’t the answer. Long-form videos are the optimal revenue source. This is primarily because more ads can be placed in videos that are upwards of eight minutes in length.

With long-form content, you can place ads before, during, and after your content for maximum monetization potential. In a 20-minute video, for example, a content creator can choose to add three mid-roll ads (although this is likely to perturb audiences so try to keep it to two at most).

Long or short?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the ultimate YouTube question. Nobody seems to know what the optimum duration for a YouTube video is. And that’s probably because there just isn’t one!

 Short-form videos are better for building audience engagement, long-form videos are better for establishing authority on the platform, and Shorts are view-generators par excellence. 

Depending on where you’re at in your YouTube journey, and what you aim to achieve, a combination of these three content formats is likely to serve you best.

As long as your content is engaging and high-quality, you’ll be sure to keep your viewers satisfied and coming back for more amazing content.

VidChops makes it easy to access professional video editing services without having the hassle or expense of hiring an in-house editor or freelancer. Simply record your video, upload the footage, and receive an expertly edited video ready to download. It really is that easy!


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