The Internet's Attention Span for Video Is Quickly Shrinking

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For a long time, everything about the appetite for online video has been assumed to be moving in one direction: up, and very quickly. But there is one statistic that's shown a pretty surprising reversal over the last year: our attention spans. Over the last year and a half, according to the numbers compiled by ComScore, the amount of video Americans watch online has stayed pretty steady, but the length of each individual video has reversed its rise and has plummeted over the last year from nearly 7 minutes to just over 5 minutes.


But Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, founders of YouTube, are betting against this trend with their latest venture: a new social sharing video app called MixBit which gives users 16 seconds, a full 10 seconds longer than micro-video network Vine and a single second more than Instagram's new video offering. But MixBit goes even further with its social tools by allowing people to create hour-long videos by splicing together up to 256 of those 16-second clips (or parts of them). That's absurdly long for the Internet, where MixBit hopes we share and view said videos on Twitter, Facebook, and Google +.  While the length of videos watched on the Internet has been dropping, our patience is even shorter on apps since most people aren't watching hour long masterpieces on their phones. Even 15 seconds for some janky Instagram video can seem like an eternity. How are we expected to sit through an hour-long MixBit remix epic? 

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To some degree, MixBit doesn't want to play the short, viral clip game that YouTube invented. MixBit doesn't bill itself as the same brand of time-wasting app that we glance at in the grocery store line or while waiting for friends at a bar. One key difference is that there's no autoplay. And instead of a stream to scroll through during a cab ride, MixBit looks more like the YouTube app, showing a series of thumbnails, so people can pick and choose what they watch. 

There's much more emphasis on MixBit's a standalone website, which is where you watch and share videos. (It's also where the splicing and remixing happens.) In a laptop browser, 16 seconds doesn't feel too long. But, most of the videos "featured," so far, consist of a bunch of 16-second phone videos mushed together for videos ranging from a 17 seconds to a few minutes — similar to what you'd see on YouTube. 

A quick glance at the site didn't reveal anything over sixteen minutes, so far. But even this fifteen-minute El Salvador Surf Trip MixBit documentary, which starts with a man walking through the airport, isn't something I want to watch for longer than a few seconds. Then again, that shows the potential for this app to rise above its 16-second limit. We may not want to watch the amateur 15-second filtered videos of our friends' trips to the beach. Their 16-second limit isn't so much a limitation as a dare to create more compelling films worthy of our precious, easily distracted eye-balls. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.