Short-form is not killing long-form video

Has TikTok influenced the way we watch video? The platform is heavily populated with short-length, vertical videos that are easily shot, edited and uploaded with a phone. It’s a hit with highly mobile and highly tech-centric Gen-Zers. Instagram responded with “Reels” in August 2020 and YouTube formally introduced their “Shorts” in July 2021. Variety reported that YouTube’s Shorts garnered 5 trillion views by Jan 2022. If you couple this with reports of declining attention spans, you might think the world wants more short-form videos. So, does this mean that long-form video is dead? Far from it.

First, let’s understand how content creators are using Reels and Shorts. While there is a large space for playful TikTok content, creatives quickly discovered that they could take advantage of the attention-getting shorts and drive traffic to their longer videos. It’s as simple as editing a clip from their longer content and making it into a short-form video. Most of the major editing platforms even give you the ability to edit vertical from horizontal footage. In other words, these quick takes become the “preview of coming attractions” for the longer, final production. It’s common to find links to the creator’s channel with their Shorts and Reels.

Additionally, some producers use Shorts and Reels as the “extra” content you might find on a DVD. You can find behind-the-scenes shorts, quick quotes from creators and influencers, and even deleted scenes and bloopers. All this short content acts as a promotion for the longer piece. You can see a lot of this being done by musicians and music video producers.

Another reason the rise of short-form videos is not spelling the end of long-form is the increased popularity of livestreaming. The availability and affordability of livestreaming tools shows us that the industry is all in. And rarely do you see a short-form live stream. In fact, according to Restream, the optimum length for a gaming livestream is a whopping 2 ½ hours. Once again, streamers also are using Shorts and Reels to drive people to their content. It can be as simple as a gamer showing what level or world he’s going to tackle next, or a host letting us know who’s the guest on their next live interview.

One more thing that the platforms need to work out is the monetization factors with short-form videos. Currently, the payback for Shorts is just not the same as it is for a long-form video. In order to get into YouTube’s Partner Program, you’ll need 1000 subscribers. For long videos, you’ll then need 4,000 public watch hours in a year, but for Shorts, you’ll need three million views in just 90 days. That seems like a huge mountain to climb.

The best way to think of short-form versus long-form videos is to think of it like literature. There are short stories and epic novels. They each have a place and unique audiences. Both have advantages and neither should be viewed as a threat to the other.