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Long-form content is not dead

"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated!" So says the Mark Twain quote, or misquote (if you’re interested in being really specific).

And, like beloved American author Samuel Clemens, a key form of content has been declared dead in advance of the facts. What we're talking about is long-form content.

Conventional wisdom suggests that people want short, easy-to-consume content, and on the surface that’s true – we live in a 140-character world, with Snapchats and Vines and other fast-twitch ways to consume multimedia content. But taking a closer look reveals a different story – that “snackable” content should be balanced with long-form, multi-touch campaigns. And there’s statistical data to prove it.

According to comScore, the average Internet video length in December 2013 was 4.2 minutes, compared to 5.4 minutes in December 2012. Yet the most shared Super Bowl ads have doubled in length in the last year, up from 42 seconds to 89 seconds, and are far longer than the traditional 30-second Super Bowl TV ad.

ON24’s own webinar data backs up this trend. Among the findings in our recent Webinar Benchmarks Report is that there is a steady year-over-year increase in the average viewing time for live webinars. In 2013, average webcast viewing time increased to 56 minutes, up from 38 minutes in 2010. And when one considers that most webinars are hour-long affairs, this data shows that audiences are staying engaged for almost the entirety of a webcast.

In other words, this data counters the common assumption that viewers have short attention spans and are hungry only for short-form, or “snackable,” content.


Engagement, just like a story from Mark Twain.

Today, marketers are captivating their audiences with webcasts that are rich, interactive storytelling events. They are designed to deliver valuable, actionable content, combining features such as presentations, Q&As, chat, video and social sharing. The combination of these elements means that engagement and interest stay high, leading to increased viewing time.

In addition, the new era of virtual communications gives marketers the ability to track viewer behavior and demographics – enabling the use of analytics to fine-tune content for greater effectiveness and ROI. And, as production becomes easier and less costly, creativity, innovation and experimentation become more affordable. This provides content creators and marketers with the opportunity to experiment and reach viable sales prospects – at very low risk.

So, we encourage you to become a storyteller, just like Mark Twain! Remember that he wrote “Tom Sawyer” AND short stories – and so should you. Balance “snackable” brevity with longer-form pieces – and remember that the better story you tell, the more engaged your audience will be.

Tricia Heinrich is the senior director of strategic communications at ON24, provider of cloud-based webcasting and virtual communications solutions.

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