How long should your YouTube video intro be?

Video creators! An interesting question about video intros popped up on our Fullscreen Network Twitter account recently, which got us thinking: how long should a video intro be? How long is too long? It’s a key question because it affects audience retention and watch time, which are increasingly important on YouTube.

Attention spans are falling

Services like Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine have trained audiences toward ever shorter videos. And you can see the effects of this shorter attention span on YouTube too. Just a few years ago, “short-form” content on YouTube meant anywhere from 7–10 minutes. These days, the sweet spot seems to be 3 minutes max. So what does that mean for intros?

Analytics back this up

Many of us here at Fullscreen watch videos all day long, and many of those videos kick off with motion intros—some 3 seconds long, some 30 or more. So we spoke with creators and viewers and looked at YouTube analytics to understand what keeps viewers around and what drives them away.

We took a look at the audience retention of videos that contain intros longer than 5 seconds. In many cases, the graphs look very similar to the one below (which is for a video that has a 25-second intro).

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 12.43.16 PM

In this case, the intro went on so long (25 seconds) that 50% of viewers dropped off before the actual content of the video even started. After looking at reams of data like this, we feel that intros longer than 5 seconds can drive viewers away.

Watch time matters

With the launch of YouTube Red, watch time is more important than ever. YouTube has even made changes to your analytics to display watch time front and center. With such a heavy focus on watch time, one of your main goals should be to keep your viewers watching.

How to approach your own intros

If your videos contain motion intros longer than 5–10 seconds, you should:

  • Check the audience retention of several of those videos to see whether viewership drops off significantly during your video intros.
  • If the length of your intro is in fact driving away lots of viewers, consider trimming some of your video intros with YouTube’s Video Editor.
  • Consider reducing the length of your intros in future videos to 5 seconds max.

Good luck with your videos!