February 14, 2024

How long should a YouTube video be? Advice from YouTubers

There's constant debate over how long a YouTube video should be. We asked leading YouTubers for their take on this age-old question.
February 14, 2024

How long should a YouTube video be? Advice from YouTubers

There's constant debate over how long a YouTube video should be. We asked leading YouTubers for their take on this age-old question.
February 14, 2024
Alec Opperman
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Length can be one of the most confusing factors for creators, whether they’re new or established. Should you go long and focus on pacing, or should you bow to what the algorithm wants? Does YouTube prefer 6 minute videos to 12 minute videos? Is TikTok highlighting longer content now? The debate never seems to end.

If you’re a YouTube creator looking to make stuff for TikTok or Shorts, or a short-form creator looking to branch out into longer-form YouTube content, this whole conversation can be daunting. 

To cut through the confusion, we wanted to cover some of the common questions and concerns from creators.

How long should a YouTube video be? What about TikTok?

On YouTube, Most people tend to prefer watching videos within the 8–15 minute range,” YouTuber Aprilynne Alter told us, noting that videos in this area can feel like less of a commitment for someone clicking on something on a whim. But ultimately, she said, it depends. 

There is no magic number, especially as viewing habits change.

“As more and more people are replacing TV with YouTube, and even watching YouTube on television, longer videos (30+ minutes) are increasingly seeing success,” Aprilynne said.

On TikTok, tastes seem to be changing. In 2021, for instance, viewer preference shifted from 11–17-second videos to 24–31-second videos, according to Buffer. TikTok also seems interested in rolling out longer and longer videos—they’re even testing a new 30-minute maximum.

“I think creating content at a length that is authentic to you with a clear yet concise message is most important,” said fitness creator Olivia Catania.

Screenshot of Olivia Catania
Olivia Catania posts a healthy mix of longer-form and short-form content on her YouTube channel.

Should I make my videos longer on YouTube?

Maybe!

For YouTubers, especially those making content under 15 minutes, it can be tempting to make existing formats longer. Many also try different formats that are naturally longer—like video podcasts. But should you?

“Examine your audience and their viewing behaviors,” Aprilynne suggested. “Do they also watch long-form videos? And more importantly, do they also watch long-form videos in the same niche as you're currently creating?”

My advice: Make it longer if they’ll watch it. 

If you’re putting out 10-minute videos where your average view duration is 2 minutes, there’s not much reason to believe viewers will stick around for 20—or 60—minutes. But if your viewers are watching a decent percentage of your content, it’s worth experimenting with longer videos to see if they’ll stick around for the journey.

YouTube as a platform values viewer retention and longer watch times. Put simply, they want to serve people videos that will keep them engaged on YouTube.

But on TikTok, longer videos may feel like a burden to viewers used to rapid-fire consumption. At the same time, the app is shifting its monetization policy and only compensating creators for videos that are 1 minute or longer. The company seems deeply invested in pushing longer videos, but it’s impossible to say whether that trend will continue. 

TikTok Creativity Program Beta FAQ page
TikTok's new monetization program requires videos to be 1 minute or longer to be eligible for monetization.

How do I decide if I should make the jump from long-form to short-form (and vice versa)?

This is often a question of resources and priorities. Long-form video, like on YouTube, can offer better monetization through ads than shorter content can. That’s just pure math: a 10-minute video has more opportunities for ad placement. But TikTok also can offer a much larger viewership for (potentially) less effort, and the kind of influencer deals that are lucrative for many creators.

Existing on multiple platforms does help diversify your risk if you only have one main audience on one platform.  If there’s a massive change to one algorithm, it might not affect your following on the other. Or if one platform manages to implode, you have another complementary audience.

🪺 More on diversifying your audience: TikTok ban? Here’s how creators should prepare

What are the mistakes people make when making the jump?

Aprilynne had one warning for long-form YouTubers venturing into Shorts. 

“I know a number of examples of YouTubers who built an original audience through long-form content,” she said, who “then forayed into short-form content based on trends that went viral and tremendously grew their subscriber count. But because the short-form content wasn't exactly aligned with their long-form content, the new Shorts viewers didn't care about their long-form videos, and the performance of their long-form videos suffered.”

Screenshot of Aprilynne Alter video
Aprilynne Alter posted a video about the downsides of YouTube Shorts.

Another mistake, according to Olivia, is not understanding the difference in context between platforms. A long-form, vlog-style YouTube video about healthy habits probably won’t do well on TikTok—instead, it might become a short-form video where the creator is using the notes app as background with bullet points.

How can I creatively strategize between short-form and long-form?

Short-form and long-form are very different formats in 2024. The kind of visual grammar acceptable on vertical short-form (messy green-screens, screenshot backgrounds, etc.) don’t often translate to longer-form content.

Many creators have seen success uploading short vertical clips on TikTok or Shorts of their much longer podcasts or videos, especially when those clips are self-contained: compelling anecdotes, news stories, or quick talking points are perfect fodder for short-form platforms. 

Good clips will often have their own hook to draw their viewer in, and a satisfying conclusion that isn’t contingent on watching the rest of the podcast or video. Teasers where people are asked to finish a story on a separate platform are less likely to succeed.

But this won’t necessarily work for every type of content. Look at what others in your niche are doing. Sometimes, going shorter means mixing up your format.

If you’re looking to double dip on a single topic, Olivia recommends breaking up the video with music-laden montages, voiceover, and scene changes for long-form. “With short form,” she said, “I make more effort to keep the video very punchy, more fast paced, editing out any filler words or breaths, and consolidate my message.”

Conclusion

Ultimately, "how long should a YouTube video be?" is the wrong question. People often try to “algorithm hack” instead of focusing on what makes compelling content. While the precise recommended length of a TikTok or YouTube video might be helpful in conceptualizing your content, there is no magic number that will replace good editorial judgment.

Algorithms on these platforms are always changing, and creators who do manage to find shortcuts to widespread viewership are usually the ones who collapse in the wake of these changes.

Alec Opperman
Alec is a producer and writer. He is the former head of the YouTube channel Wisecrack and a Vidcon Featured Creator.
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How long should a YouTube video be? Advice from YouTubers

Length can be one of the most confusing factors for creators, whether they’re new or established. Should you go long and focus on pacing, or should you bow to what the algorithm wants? Does YouTube prefer 6 minute videos to 12 minute videos? Is TikTok highlighting longer content now? The debate never seems to end.

If you’re a YouTube creator looking to make stuff for TikTok or Shorts, or a short-form creator looking to branch out into longer-form YouTube content, this whole conversation can be daunting. 

To cut through the confusion, we wanted to cover some of the common questions and concerns from creators.

How long should a YouTube video be? What about TikTok?

On YouTube, Most people tend to prefer watching videos within the 8–15 minute range,” YouTuber Aprilynne Alter told us, noting that videos in this area can feel like less of a commitment for someone clicking on something on a whim. But ultimately, she said, it depends. 

There is no magic number, especially as viewing habits change.

“As more and more people are replacing TV with YouTube, and even watching YouTube on television, longer videos (30+ minutes) are increasingly seeing success,” Aprilynne said.

On TikTok, tastes seem to be changing. In 2021, for instance, viewer preference shifted from 11–17-second videos to 24–31-second videos, according to Buffer. TikTok also seems interested in rolling out longer and longer videos—they’re even testing a new 30-minute maximum.

“I think creating content at a length that is authentic to you with a clear yet concise message is most important,” said fitness creator Olivia Catania.

Screenshot of Olivia Catania
Olivia Catania posts a healthy mix of longer-form and short-form content on her YouTube channel.

Should I make my videos longer on YouTube?

Maybe!

For YouTubers, especially those making content under 15 minutes, it can be tempting to make existing formats longer. Many also try different formats that are naturally longer—like video podcasts. But should you?

“Examine your audience and their viewing behaviors,” Aprilynne suggested. “Do they also watch long-form videos? And more importantly, do they also watch long-form videos in the same niche as you're currently creating?”

My advice: Make it longer if they’ll watch it. 

If you’re putting out 10-minute videos where your average view duration is 2 minutes, there’s not much reason to believe viewers will stick around for 20—or 60—minutes. But if your viewers are watching a decent percentage of your content, it’s worth experimenting with longer videos to see if they’ll stick around for the journey.

YouTube as a platform values viewer retention and longer watch times. Put simply, they want to serve people videos that will keep them engaged on YouTube.

But on TikTok, longer videos may feel like a burden to viewers used to rapid-fire consumption. At the same time, the app is shifting its monetization policy and only compensating creators for videos that are 1 minute or longer. The company seems deeply invested in pushing longer videos, but it’s impossible to say whether that trend will continue. 

TikTok Creativity Program Beta FAQ page
TikTok's new monetization program requires videos to be 1 minute or longer to be eligible for monetization.

How do I decide if I should make the jump from long-form to short-form (and vice versa)?

This is often a question of resources and priorities. Long-form video, like on YouTube, can offer better monetization through ads than shorter content can. That’s just pure math: a 10-minute video has more opportunities for ad placement. But TikTok also can offer a much larger viewership for (potentially) less effort, and the kind of influencer deals that are lucrative for many creators.

Existing on multiple platforms does help diversify your risk if you only have one main audience on one platform.  If there’s a massive change to one algorithm, it might not affect your following on the other. Or if one platform manages to implode, you have another complementary audience.

🪺 More on diversifying your audience: TikTok ban? Here’s how creators should prepare

What are the mistakes people make when making the jump?

Aprilynne had one warning for long-form YouTubers venturing into Shorts. 

“I know a number of examples of YouTubers who built an original audience through long-form content,” she said, who “then forayed into short-form content based on trends that went viral and tremendously grew their subscriber count. But because the short-form content wasn't exactly aligned with their long-form content, the new Shorts viewers didn't care about their long-form videos, and the performance of their long-form videos suffered.”

Screenshot of Aprilynne Alter video
Aprilynne Alter posted a video about the downsides of YouTube Shorts.

Another mistake, according to Olivia, is not understanding the difference in context between platforms. A long-form, vlog-style YouTube video about healthy habits probably won’t do well on TikTok—instead, it might become a short-form video where the creator is using the notes app as background with bullet points.

How can I creatively strategize between short-form and long-form?

Short-form and long-form are very different formats in 2024. The kind of visual grammar acceptable on vertical short-form (messy green-screens, screenshot backgrounds, etc.) don’t often translate to longer-form content.

Many creators have seen success uploading short vertical clips on TikTok or Shorts of their much longer podcasts or videos, especially when those clips are self-contained: compelling anecdotes, news stories, or quick talking points are perfect fodder for short-form platforms. 

Good clips will often have their own hook to draw their viewer in, and a satisfying conclusion that isn’t contingent on watching the rest of the podcast or video. Teasers where people are asked to finish a story on a separate platform are less likely to succeed.

But this won’t necessarily work for every type of content. Look at what others in your niche are doing. Sometimes, going shorter means mixing up your format.

If you’re looking to double dip on a single topic, Olivia recommends breaking up the video with music-laden montages, voiceover, and scene changes for long-form. “With short form,” she said, “I make more effort to keep the video very punchy, more fast paced, editing out any filler words or breaths, and consolidate my message.”

Conclusion

Ultimately, "how long should a YouTube video be?" is the wrong question. People often try to “algorithm hack” instead of focusing on what makes compelling content. While the precise recommended length of a TikTok or YouTube video might be helpful in conceptualizing your content, there is no magic number that will replace good editorial judgment.

Algorithms on these platforms are always changing, and creators who do manage to find shortcuts to widespread viewership are usually the ones who collapse in the wake of these changes.

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