Why long videos are disrupting the anime YouTuber discourse field

A simple truth – I really don’t like long YouTube videos. Unless, in a few very rare cases when a YouTuber absolutely nails the art of crafting a longer narrative piece and turns it into a more full-on sit-down documentary piece, for the most part, anything longer than 15 minutes or so is an instant turn off – and even that’s pushing it.

Recently, I’ve noticed a trend amongst almost all of the biggest anime YouTubers toward longer videos. Apparently this is because viewing habits are shifting in this direction, while it simultaneously allows for the video to be surfaced more reliably by YouTube’s recommendation systems, as well as better ad return. I’m not a YouTuber myself, so I don’t profess to know the ins and outs of the systems, but as a lay viewer, it’s evident that many are now seeking to ‘game’ this system, or at the very least shift more in line with working to optimise it.

The downside is that many channels no longer output their videos in the way they did when – in my opinion – they did when they were operating at their best. Many now release overly long videos, stretched out by ad opportunities, pre-amble, post-amble or just general ‘filler’ that pads the video toward a longer run-time. Sometimes, when well-written and scripted, this works – but invariably, it forms part of the larger trend of freeform discourse that many lifestyle YouTubers are also tending toward – all in service of keeping eyeballs on the video for longer.

Alongside this, there is also a trend toward more channels mixing in ‘straight up’ videos with podcasts and webcasts – essentially, un-edited vocal only video, or just straight up vocal over still image. Stuff that runs for 30 mins to an hour-plus. Some YouTubers relegate this content to sub channels, while others release it as part of their main content stream.

The simple truth is that good video content takes a long time, and a lot of expertise (either the invidual’s own, or a paid-for third party) to produce. So in this instance, as the written online content industry found out many years ago, it becomes all about the content churn – minimising time input and maximising hits and sheer output. Why waste two days on a great video when you can bang something out in a couple of hours and potentially get just as many hits via a catchy video title or thumbnail? I’ve seen many YouTubers flat out ‘give up’ or reduce their uploads to once every month or two because they are unwilling to ‘play the game’. What was once a passion is now conflated into the tricky minefield of ‘To what degree am I going to ‘step up’ to play this as a business/full degree paid lifestyle’.

This is important, because as I discussed in a previous post, I believe, as with many other online media industries, video is more important than ever right now – moving to become the primary discourse field for media analysis. Companies that post-poned getting ‘in’ on YouTube for years are now finally realising all the eyeballs are there now, and that no matter what the skill or financial outlay is, they need to get on YouTube and start pushing high quality video content to keep those same eyeballs interested.

What it all comes back to is what function YouTube serves, and attention spans. As we are bombarded by more and more distractions and media outputs, we have to make more and more choices of how we compartmentalise our viewing time. A short, snackable five or ten minute video of dynamic, well edited, well soundtracked ‘impact video’ is perfect to fit into a short break. But a thirty minute diatribe or deep-level analysis of a show’s themes is something very different – more like an audiobook or radio programme.

The YouTube anime community continues to put out some remarkably high quality content – the likes of Super Eyepatch Wolf one of my continuing current favourites – but it also owes it to itself to keep itself in ‘good nick’ and not fall overtly prey to ‘the numbers game’. While the ‘vlogging’ model works for some YouTubers, and can certainly still be enjoyable in the right context (when you have unlimited time on your hands and can sit back an enjoy in comfort) – I personally believe that a continual strive toward short dynamic ‘impact’ videos remains one of the medium’s most powerful forms; the videos I, at any rate, still remember – that linger in my mind long after watching.

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9 Replies to “Why long videos are disrupting the anime YouTuber discourse field”

    1. Yeah, I think if it’s done as a documentary style piece, longer videos can work, but generally only the very best channels can pull it off. I’ll have to check that one out!

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  1. If I’m honest, I don’t tend to finish any YouTube video over 5 minutes unless someone has strongly recommended it to me. YouTube for me is about short snippets that get to the point and don’t mess around. I don’t look to YouTube for longer content. That said, it is great that there is a variety of content for different viewers.

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  2. I’m all about practicality so regardless to how long, if all they do is talk then I’m likely to lose interest.

    Even a meme jabs in between are enough to keep my interest, looking at you Gigguk.

    Of course, podcasts are exception because I truly expect them to be long. If I can talk about anime to my friends for 2 hours then I just don’t see why I can’t listen to someone else for half the time.

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    1. Yeah, I think Gigguk is a good example of mixing in humour to keep even longer videos fresh and exciting – it’s not just a lengthy diatribe that you could have read as a text article. And yeah, for podcasts I’ll usually save them for when I’m doing something else at the same time like revising or playing a video game.

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  3. I tend to gravitate towards shorter content as well. Usually anything over about 10 minutes is my limit – and that’s definitely at least in part because the pre-amble/post-amble/general filler both irritates and bores me. It strikes me as very much a quantity over quality problem; I’d rather watch something smart, snappy, and succinct.

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    1. Agreed – I’ve found the whole preamble thing has really been slipping into a lot of videos recently, especially vloggers – padding out what could have been a much shorter more impactful video

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  4. That reminds me I listened to a 3 hour YouTube by Matt because he was talking ajatt and his experience doing that. I liked that video though I definitely didn’t listen to it in one sitting . T must be the longest YouTube video I’ve ever listened to.

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    1. Yeah, when it comes to longer videos I generally don’t even ‘watch’ them – I usually just press play and listen to the audio while doing something else. It’s interesting though as just as YouTube is reaching critical mass in terms of personalities really operating as big name ‘brands’, many people have been saying the bubble is about to burst, and that algorithms and commercial deals are meaning the best people are dropping out. People are giving up on high quality video and just chucking up pure audio/vlogs more and more frequently because they’re so much quicker and easier to do.

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