The length of YouTube videos has exploded across every genre—essays, how-tos, reviews, current events, ride-alongs, you name it. Videos that used to last 1-3 minutes now push 10-20 or more.
Take any kind of long ‘explainer’ video, like “Why is everyone copying AirPods?” It could be stated in seconds: headphone cables suck, AirPods are insanely popular, and that’s capitalism. Be sure to like, share, and subscribe. The end.
This massive runtime inflation across the platform is driven by three factors:
- To help encourage longer videos, YouTube started allowing more ads on them
- Naturally, The Algorithm™ pivoted to recommend longer videos
- Bonus tip: 70 percent of YouTube views are driven by said algorithm
For some creators, increasing video length by a few minutes allowed for 1-2 more ads and it tripled their per-video revenue. I don’t blame them, being a YouTuber is hard.
Now, in some ways, I don’t mind the increase. I subscribe to and watch a lot of YouTube channels, many of them long-form, sometimes just in the background—pop culture essays from Lyndsay Ellis and Wisecrack, tons of gameplay and humor like Marz, Slimecicle, Valkyrie Aurora, Nutz Gaming (Yeah, I know) and Indiemaus, the occasional home improvement how-to, and more. Many of these channels wouldn’t and couldn’t exist without the current ad system.
Sidenote Pro Tip: YouTube Premium removes automated ads from every video (but it can’t do anything about the in-video sponsorships creators may choose to run). If you split a family account with, ahem, ‘family members,’ it becomes just a few bucks a month per person. I think YouTube splits this revenue between creators you watch a la Netflix, but I haven’t seen an explainer on this.
However, I do mind the death of brevity at the hands of advertising and Google. YouTube is the largest and, for many genres, only viable user-generated video platform. Not everything needs to be tweet-length. But this rapidly expanding genre of 10-20+ minute videos that should have been a fraction of the length seems… wasteful.
Banner photo via Aron Visuals on Unsplash