Research: Pandemic drives short-form video viewing

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As Covid-19 continues to transform the way consumers are interacting with media, new research from digital studio TheSoul Publishing reveals an outsized preference for positive content amid the pandemic.

The survey of more than 2,000 men and women ages 16-55+ in the US sought to understand how the pandemic has altered viewing habits and preferences for digital content. Music videos (38 per cent), comedy (36 per cent), cooking or baking (33 per cent), and DIY or crafting videos (29 per cent) were the most frequently selected categories of short-form – less-than 10-minutes long – videos consumers are watching more of now versus six months ago.

Short-form video content was growing in popularity before the pandemic hit, with younger audiences in particular flocking to a variety of streaming and social media platforms. However, the pandemic has served as a catalyst for massive growth of the medium, as a whopping 84 per cent of audiences cited spending more or the same amount of time watching short-form videos during the pandemic than before, with many using these quick videos to help them adjust to and cope with disruptions to everyday life. For example, nearly 30 per cent of Americans stated that they watch positive online video content to improve their mood, while 26 per cent said they watch for inspiration for ideas and projects and 19 per cent said they watch to escape from the news of the day. Most expect this trend to continue, with 78 per cent of consumers agreeing that fun and positive online video content will become an even more important and popular source of entertainment in the future.

“It’s interesting to see that it’s not just any short-form video that’s resonating with the American audience right now,” said Victor Potrel, VP of Platform Partnerships at TheSoul Publishing. “It’s really positive content that has taken the spotlight, becoming the popular form of escapism and a welcome source of entertainment. For content creators and brands looking to get in front of shoppers around the holiday season, there’s a lot that can be learned about what is more likely to resonate and break through.”

Beyond Americans’ preference for positive short-form content, the study surfaced a variety of trends that illustrate how online videos factor into their everyday:

Digital Distraction: Since lockdown restrictions were set in place, statistics show that more than two-thirds of consumers in the US (69 per cent) are spending between 30 minutes to three hours watching short online video content.

Gen Z Loves to Binge: Gen Z respondents are extensive short-form video bingers, with 32 per cent of respondents stating they watch 2 hours or more on a daily basis. Comedy was found to be their favourite type of short-form content (62 per cent), which correlates with the 32 per cent of respondents in this age category stating they view positive online videos to improve their mood.

Finding Happiness with New Hobbies: As restrictions limit consumers’ dining and entertainment options, 86 per cent of Americans have watched a YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok video for home project inspiration, crafting ideas, DIY activities, and/or cooking. Cooking/baking (44 per cent) and DIY/crafting (41 per cent) ranked among the top categories of consumed content viewers are watching as opposed to six months ago.

Music is a Universal Escape: 59 per cent of respondents selected music and music videos as one of their favourite types of short-form content, with comedy-related content following closely behind (59 per cent). These findings illustrate the link between new habits in video consumption with the lack of opportunity for in-person experiences (i.e. concerts, festivals, etc.).

Bigger Screens Could Make a Comeback: More than half of Americans (56 per cent) believe that they will primarily be watching short online video content (shorter than 10 min) on their phones in 2021. 18 per cent believe they will primarily use their computer, 11 per cent say a tablet, and 7 per cent plan to watch mostly on a television. Less likely are smartwatches (2 per cent), glasses (2 per cent) or VR headset (2 per cent). However, trends may be shifting with mobile phones in terms of time spent watching short-form content on a particular screen, with 63 per cent of Americans watching via phone now versus 56 per cent of the population that expects to be using this medium in the future.

Online Video ‘Shareability’ has Little to do with Length: A mere 8 per cent of Americans said that an online video being short is the most important indicator of its shareability. Topping the list at 38 per cent, the largest amount of American consumers believe that a video being interesting makes it most shareable. This is followed by the content being funny (21 per cent), relatable (18 per cent) or helpful (12 per cent).

Short-Form is the Future: As US consumers have grown accustomed to trusting short-form content to improve their moods and maintain a healthy lifestyle, this data shows that 83 per cent of consumers will continue to watch at least as much or increase their consumption of short-form content in 2021.


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