After getting us hooked on feeds filled with fleeting videos, social media wants us to watch longer clips.
Soon, Instagram may bump up the duration of Reels to 10 minutes after TikTok did the same last year.
Prolific leaker Alessandro Paluzzi spotted the looming update. The mobile developer is a self-professed “reverse engineer”, which means he takes apps apart to find out how they work.
Upon launch, Reels only lasted a digestible 60 seconds. Instagram then expanded the maximum duration to 90 seconds last July. At the same time, it said that it would turn all videos posted on the app into Reels, as long as they came in under 15 minutes.
Now, the clips are about to become bloated. Which begs the question: does anyone actually want to watch longer videos on Instagram?
It’s easy to discern Instagram’s motivation. The platform is probably hoping creators will produce longer content than can be saddled with more ads. TikTok is already charting this path by allowing popular users to create 20-minute videos that users can pay to view.
— Alessandro Paluzzi (@alex193a) August 30, 2023
Viewers, on the other hand, seem content bingeing on snackable shorts. According to owner Meta, Facebook and Instagram users watch a combined 200 billion Reels per day. The format is undoubtedly a hit, so why mess with the special sauce?
As any TikTok or Reels addict will tell you, it’s the viral, transitory nature of the clips that makes them ideal for repeat viewings. And the 60- to 90-second mark seems like the sweet spot for much of the content on the apps, especially online comedy.
Then again, there are certain categories that may benefit from the added run time. One of the most popular online genres is how-to videos that offer instructions in a step-by-step process. Splitting those videos across multiple clips may lead to confusion for viewers. The same goes for cooking videos or make-up tutorials.
Although TikTok may be Instagram’s main rival, any move to increase video duration will also inevitably draw comparisons with YouTube. The Google-owned video service is the most popular short-form video platform in the UK, according to Ofcom.
Younger users in particular typically gravitate towards videos up to 15 minutes long on the platform, the media regulator revealed earlier this month.
So it’s no wonder Instagram and TikTok are copying YouTube, but whether or not users want that remains to be seen.