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Short form digital video is big news for millennials

Short form digital video has now become the primary source of news for younger audiences. More than half (52 percent) of 18-24 year olds now prefer it to reading news, according to a new study by AOL.

AOL commissioned a survey of over 1,000 video viewers across the UK to reveal how consumers watch content and engage with brands, and find out what they expect of brands in return for watching their content.

Short form digital video – video between one and 10 minutes in length – has enjoyed a boom in popularity, with the volume of videos viewed increasing by more than 50 percent over the last 12 months. It’s a valuable space for brands to engage with consumers, with the  rise in popularity being seen across all age groups, including those aged over 55.

The number of 25-34 year olds watching videos increased by 69 percent over 12 months. Millennials are undoubtedly a primary target audience in the short form digital video space, with the average length of viewing per session at 26 minutes for 18-24 year olds, and 23 minutes for 25-34 year olds, however the study also showed significant growth in amount and length of viewing from 45 and over.

Video viewers’ three most popular sources for finding short form videos online are video streaming sites (59 percent), social media (53 percent) and news websites (50 percent). This shows that marketers must go beyond just social and streaming destinations if they are to engage audiences effectively with short form video.

"The fact that short form video is now the primary source of news for the under 24s shows just how important the medium has become," says Mark Melling, Senior Director of  Video, Europe. "Insights such as these tell a clear story and help us to navigate a transforming industry, supporting advertisers to deliver short form video experiences that deliver maximum effectiveness in the face of changing behaviour online."

Consumers say ‘quality is key’  
Consumers said that the key to successful short form video is quality, with over half (58 percent) saying that they lose patience if the production quality is not good enough. Quality also affects shareability – consumers see sharing videos as a reflection of themselves, with 63 percent saying they would only share content if it was of a sufficiently high standard.

Another indicator of high quality is the brand fit – how well the ad fits in with the destination video. 54 percent of viewers were more likely to watch an ad if it is directly related to the content they intend to watch.

Melling said: "Consumers have made it clear to advertisers; they are willing to be engaged with video, but the challenge is to make sure the experiences being created are of a suitable quality and are aligned to the destination content they are trying to view."

He added: "Whilst pre-roll remains an important and effective way to speak to target audiences, brands need to get smart about other ways they can tap into short form video."

The value exchange
Audiences, particularly younger people,  who have grown up with digital, understand the value exchange of receiving advertising for being able to access free content, with only 14 percent disagreeing across all age groups.

Over four in 10 people (41 percent) also said they prefer it when brands are featured in the video they are trying to watch, rather than before it. The majority of those asked said brands need to think of more interesting ways of advertising than pre-roll videos. This challenges marketers to push for more innovative ad experiences and thoughtful brand integration.

If the brand fits, there is license for a greater presence within video content. Almost half (47 percent) said that if they are watching a video they like, they don’t mind if a brand is really prominent throughout the video, although they want to quickly understand the brand being advertised from the outset.

It’s clear that brands have much to learn from today’s savvy consumers, who are happy to embrace great quality ads that fit with the content they are seeking out. Brands and publishers must listen to their needs, and their changing behaviours, to make the most of the outstretched hand being offered to them.

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