Short-form video is the trend of the moment, and with attention spans reducing, and new engagement behaviors taking hold, particularly among younger demographics, it seems like short-form interaction is here to stay, which is why every platform is now following TikTok’s lead into the next phase of video connection.
But effective monetization of short-form video is hard.
Vine found this out the hard way – while Vine was hugely popular at one stage, and kick-started the careers of many now well-known stars, Vine’s parent company Twitter could never work out how to generate significant revenue from Vine clips, because you can’t insert pre or mid-roll ads into such short content. That, eventually, saw its biggest stars moving on to greener pastures, which eventually also forced Vine to shut down.
TikTok is well-aware of this, and it’s well-aware of the increased direct monetization potential on offer in other apps, which is a big part of why today TikTok has confirmed that all users will soon be able to upload 10 minute long videos in the app, a significant expansion on its current time limits.
As you can see in this alert, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, many TikTok users are now being notified of an expansion in their upload capacity.
TikTok has since confirmed the full roll-out of the option (to TechCrunch):
“We’re always thinking about new ways to bring value to our community and enrich the TikTok experience. Last year, we introduced longer videos, giving our community more time to create and be entertained on TikTok. Today, we’re excited to start rolling out the ability to upload videos that are up to 10 minutes, which we hope would unleash even more creative possibilities for our creators around the world.”
That previous expansion in video length came last August, with users given the option to upload 5 minute long clips.
Originally, TikTok’s time limit per clip was 15 seconds, before being extended to 60 seconds, then 3 minutes. Now, users will be able to upload much longer clips, which could actually have a big impact on how people consume content in the app, and in many ways, it’s a risky bet for TikTok, which has built its audience, thus far, on the back of short, pithy memes and responses.
Will users really welcome 10 minute long videos in their ‘For You’ feed?
TikTok does, of course, also have longer live-streams which are displayed in the main feed, and those haven’t caused any engagement issues thus far, while some creators have also been able to post longer uploads for some time. So it does have some insight as to the potential impact of longer uploads on audience behaviors, while the Chinese version of TikTok, ‘Douyin’, has enabled 15 minute uploads for all users since 2019.
So it’s not going in blind here, TikTok does have some understanding of how users are likely to respond, and how to best present longer clips in-stream. But it’ll be interesting to see whether there is an impact on user behavior and interest, and whether TikTok can successfully extend user engagement in the app, which could lead to a much broader set of content and advertising options.
Which is the real push here. Again, given the challenges in monetizing short-form video content, it’s seemed inevitable that TikTok would eventually need to lean into longer form uploads in order to provide more direct monetization potential for creators. YouTube, for example, is looking to use its TikTok-like ‘Shorts’ option as a supplementary content vehicle for its creators, so that they can then drive more interest in their main content feed, where they can make much more money from in-stream ads.
The potential for making real money from your uploads is far greater on YouTube, which brought in $28.8 billion in ad revenue last year, with around half of that going back to creators. TikTok has its $500 million creator fund, as well as tipping and donations, but those options don’t come close to facilitating similar earnings capacity in this respect.
And TikTok’s already feeling the pressure. Last month, well-known video creator Hank Green posted a video in which he outlined how TikTok’s creator funding models are fundamentally flawed, and how, eventually, that’ll likely lead to a creator revolt, as they seek a bigger slice of the revenue pie.
TikTok hasn’t provided any public response to this, despite Green’s video reaching almost a million views and sparking new questions about its longevity.
Maybe this, then, is TikTok’s answer, giving creators the capacity to actually generate direct revenue via longer clips, a direct monetization offering more in line with what they’ll see on YouTube.
Will that work?
Time will tell, but again, I’d have to see it to believe that TikTok users will actively and regularly engage with longer form clips.
Maybe they will, maybe this is the start of the next phase for TikTok, and that will be the thing that propels it to the next stage of growth, and the next billion users. But maybe not. Vine also tried expanding its video length, with no luck, and with TikTok also coming under scrutiny over the spread of misinformation in the app, particularly around the current Ukraine crisis, the expansion could also open up a range of new problems for the platform to deal with, on a scale that it’s not had to address in the past.
Which is likely why it’s taking a staged approach to the roll out – but longer videos are coming, and you’ll soon see new trends starting to form around longer clips within the app. Whether you like it or not.