Online videos and the 10 second rule


Adam Westbrook wrote this post about the 10-second rule – a useful tip to grab the audience’s attention in those first 10 seconds, or you’ve lost them.

The most important thing to consider when making online video is not a high end camera, a compelling character or a journey we can relate to, although these things help. It’s about winning viewers over in the first 10 seconds, he says.

Apparently 20 per cent of the audience click away from a video after just 10 seconds. Like a reader moves on after the intro of a story, I guess.

That’s got to be a tricky one – do you cram in the crux of your story to immerse the viewer but end up giving away all your tricks in the first 10 seconds, making for no surprises later on? Or do you tease them in with an exciting intro and hope they stick around to watch the rest. Tough one.

Writing for print, or the web, I’d try and get the crux f the story – the who, what, why, when etc in the intro or at least first two pars. So if that’s all a reader took in, they’d have taken on board the whole story, to need to read to the bottom. But video (and audio) is different, those 10 seconds are indeed important but what’s the right way to give them just enough but not all of the content? You need pace, suspense, a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s pretty hard to get the who, what , when, why etc in just 10 seconds of video.

So what works? I disagree with Adam’s suggestion that this video ‘gets it” in the first 10 seconds. I totally didn’t get it, I was mislead by a guy smoking cigarette and riding a bike and talking unclearly (I found it hard to understand places) and what this story was about. The first 10 seconds lost me, completely, and I’d have moved on if I wasn’t doing this MA, never really knowing what that video was about. And that would have been a shame because it was incredibly powerful and made me shed a lot of tears; a great piece of work.

This video does get me in the first 10 seconds, it’s a great opener. But I’m not that taken by this short film. So do people need more than 10 seconds to find out if the video is for them? Or should we ‘con’ the viewer into a dramatic 10 seconds that piques their interest and then risk disappointing them when the subject of the video isn’t quite so interesting? Hmmm, what do you think?

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