I just finished up teaching my six week workshop on the missing LXD (where we unpack nuances), when I received a message from a colleague. In it, she recited how she’s being pushed on video length. It struck me that what was missing was a finer focus, and it drove me back to previous writings. What I replied is that people focusing on video length are missing the point. I think that it’s yet another case where you need to go beneath the surface level issues. Or, as I’ve said before, details matter!
I’ve railed, e.g. in my book on myths, that our attention span hasn’t dropped down to 8 seconds. And, despite a newer book based upon research that suggests our attention span has dropped to 47 seconds, I think there’s more to it. For instance, attention is (largely; re: the cocktail party effect) volitional. We may be conditioned to be more open to being disturbed; certainly there are more and more effective distractions! Yet I don’t think our attention span capability has shifted (e.g. we don’t evolve that fast), but perhaps our intents may have changed.
For instance, we still can surface from involvement in a movie/book/game and note “how’d it get so late?” So it’s a matter of what we want or intend to attend to. In cognitive science, we separate out conation, intent or motivation (see also Self Determination Theory), that is whether we are willing to expend effort towards something. We have to have a clear reason for someone’s attention, that they accept. Then, we have to maintain it.
There is research (PDF) that suggests that video attention flags after 6 minutes. However, that’s in a particular context, and it may not be general. Again, think about attending to a movie for more than an hour! I think it helps to have a clear intent, and then maintain a commitment to it. If you do, and the audience resonates, they will attend. There’re clear benefits to practicing asceticism, but as colleague JD Dillon once opined, videos should be as long as they need to be, not arbitrarily truncated.
In short, I think folks are focusing on the wrong issues. My point to my colleague was to focus first on the relevance and value of the video, not the length. That may suggest a trim, but it also may suggest more focus on the WIIFM, and maintaining motivation. In short, you’ve got to go beneath the surface and find the real issue. Nuances matter, and we can’t expect others to go into the depths we do, but they do have to let us do our jobs. Which means we have to know our stuff. Please, do!