TikTok Fights Attention Deficit, Chases Ads with Longer Vids

Having ridden the short-form video wave to popularity, TikTok now faces a quandary: advertisers want longer-form content in which to place their messaging, while users say they don’t even have sufficient attention span for minute-long videos. Last year, a TikTok survey indicated 50 percent of its users find clips of more than a minute stressful, and about a third of them zip through 60-second clips at double-speed. “It’s not because I don’t have time, but because I can’t concentrate,” one twentysomething user reportedly explained in a survey response. Despite that feedback, TikTok began experimenting through the second half of 2021 with videos of five minutes and 10 minutes.

“Ultimately, if five-minute videos help TikTok push their average watch time up by even a few seconds, traditional advertisers may feel they have more freedom, and tech is always looking for as much revenue as possible,” Karyn Spencer, a former Vine employee said in a Wired article that tells TikTok users the platform will be programming longer videos “whether you like it or not.”

Vine was a short-form video startup purchased in 2012 by Twitter, which shuttered the app in January 2017.

“To sustainably grow its revenue,” Wired writes, TikTok ”needs longer videos, which gain more attention, and allow them to sell more ads.” The irony is that while TikTok tries to acclimate its base to longer-form content, its competitors are chasing the short-form model that propelled it to success.

In 2020, Snapchat launched Spotlight and Instagram launched Reels, which Facebook added for U.S. users last year and rolled out internationally this week. Pinterest debuted its quickie Idea Pins in 2021, the same year YouTube rolled out Shorts (with clips of 60-seconds or less accounting for 12 percent of 2021 YouTube viewing, according to Wired).

“While most social media watchers are fixated on the concept that TikTok is the place for short form video, its trajectory indicates that is an outdated perception,” Wired writes, detailing that in 2020 “videos lasting between 11 and 17 seconds worked best on TikTok,” with the numbers doubling to “between 21 and 34 seconds” by November 2021.

By 2022, creator guidelines obtained by the tech magazine said “around one in four of the ‘highest performing’ videos on TikTok fall into that sweet spot.”

As part of its apparent sighting of the longer-form writing on the wall, TikTok in November introduced the TikTok TV app globally, hinting at a future in which its users spend time repeat-viewing its clips on larger screens in a manner that approximate series television patterns.