The way people consume video has changed over the years. In the early era of broadcast television, viewers had three channels to choose from. They could only watch programs on a television set on specific days and times. Cable television gave viewers more programs to choose from, but still viewers could only watch programs when the networks played them.

VHS allowed people to watch and re-watch programming whenever they wanted to, again and again and again. These were typically feature films rented from a local video store or, sometimes, home movies. Video hobbyists and professionals could distribute the videos produced on tape as well, bridging the quality between broadcast and home video. DVD followed quickly, but still, viewers could only watch in their living room on a television connected to a compatible player.

Today viewers consume video primarily on computers, mobile devices and television monitors connected to the Internet. But the technology of media capture, distribution and playback is not the only thing that has changed; the way people interact with video has changed as well. As the number of accessible videos has skyrocketed, the human attention span has simultaneously plummeted. There are literally millions of videos available to viewers at any moment in time. Viewers watch almost five billion videos on YouTube alone every single day. That’s a lot of video viewing.

However, few people who start watching a video on YouTube will actually finish said video. With so many options, viewers are quick to lose interest. They can just as easily click onto the next video — and the next video and the next video — rather than endure one that fails to deliver answers or entertainment. Perhaps some of these half-watched videos are yours. As content creators, we want people to watch our videos all the way through, or better yet, watch them more than once.

As content creators, we want people to watch our videos all the way through, or better yet, watch them more than once.

How might we make videos that are not only more watchable, but more rewatchable? First, we must always produce with our viewer and the viewing context in mind. We need to remain mindful of attention spans, particularly for media consumed on mobile devices or via social media platforms. The rule of thumb is to be brief, be bright and be gone.

Being brief means keeping it as short as possible. This sounds easy but it is actually much harder to make a short video than a long one. To increase rewatchability we need to continually challenge ourselves to trim the fat from our productions. This is a discipline that is hard, but worthwhile.

Being bright starts with hooking viewers quickly with a strong and compelling first 10 seconds. There is no time to waste with lengthy preambles. Get to the point straight out of the gate. Grab their attention with something profound, funny or powerful immediately to ensure they don’t click away too soon. Being bright also means delivering content that clearly answers their questions, delights the viewer or challenges them to consider interesting viewpoints.

Be gone is all about knowing when to fade to black and roll the proverbial credits. Too many videos drag on long after the main point has been made and the video could have been over. This feels insulting to the viewer and can cost you additional views and watch time. When we satisfy the interest of the viewer and end the video, we put into practice the art of leaving them wanting more — and hopefully watching again or sharing the video with their friends. 

We need to work hard and be intentional to make sure that we create videos that are short and sweet rather than long and bland. Get to the point, grab their attention and get out before your viewers click away.

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