Understanding the role of video in 2021

By Tim Bradley

Matter’s State of Video 2021

There’s an old saying that goes, “Hindsight is 2020.” You’ve probably heard it – who hasn’t? But, as we push into the second half of 2021, we might adjust it to reflect how the challenges of this past year sit comfortably in our rear view. 2020 is now officially hindsight, and thanks to webinars like Wistia’s “2021 State of Video Report” we can tease meaning out of the strange version of reality we all just experienced. And, because we know your time is valuable, we’ve digested it all for you in a single, actionable blog post. So, sit back, relax and read (or listen) as we discuss the role video played for your customers in 2020 and will continue to play in 2021. 

But before we dig in, if you have any questions about the value video can bring to your business or content marketing strategy, please reach out to our team. We love talking strategy and brainstorming ways to build brands and grow businesses. Schedule a free call with us by filling out the form below. 


Drumroll please… We now have more videos than ever 

On the whole, 2020 was a wild year for video creation. (FYI, Wistia defines “creation” as the number of videos added to their platform, so here we’ll be using it almost synonymously with “uploading.”) Video uploads have steadily increased over the last five years, but in 2020 that number jumped by 80%! We’ll come back to how that relates to audience consumption shortly, but for now let’s appreciate the actual trend. Not only did uploads increase on average for the year but, in addition to the huge spike in April, uploads remained steady through the fall and into the winter. What that means is yes, the pandemic impacted video creation. But when the dust settled and the numbers plateaued, uploads were still up by 62%. In short, brands are committed to video now more than ever. 

Think shorter is better? Think again. 

That’s right, folks – long videos are on the rise. Among many other things, Wistia tracked video uploads by length. According to their platform data, and perhaps as no surprise, most uploads were under a minute in length.  

But behind that shortest (under 1 min) category, the next most popular length was 5-30 minutes, which beat the total video growth average at 91% growth YoY. That’s significant on its own, but the most striking data point to us was that uploads of videos over 30 minutes jumped by 140%  outpacing any other length category. More marketers than ever are recognizing the value and impact of longer videos, and the data shines a bright light on it. If you want to learn more about what that means to the businesses driving this long-form content surge, check out our blog series, A Marketer’s Guide to Valuing Long-Form Content.

Longer videos are resonating more and more with audiences now, which tells us not to fear length as it correlates with engagement.

Audiences are more engaged than we thought 

At Matter, we say this a lot about marketing: It’s not about who shows up, it’s about who stays. On a video-by-video basis, engagement rates can tell you what works and what doesn’t, based on how people actually engage with your content. Engagement across massive data sets isn’t quite so granular, but we can learn a fair bit from Wistia here. First, and least surprisingly, we see short videos have the highest engagement rate. Frankly, it’s easier to watch a short video, even if your audience isn’t that interested in it, because there’s less of it to watch. That’s one reason they’re historically so impactful. But the report also shows us how longer videos engage at a surprisingly high rate, just barely behind short videos on average. In fact, engagement doesn’t really drop off until you hit the 30-minute mark, and even then, engagement is strong. Longer videos are resonating more and more with audiences now, which tells us not to fear length as it correlates with engagement. If a concept or story requires more time, give it the time it needs – your audience will stick it out. 

People want video and are engaging with the format at a record-setting pace. 

It’s not just uploads – people watched more video than ever 

If we said people watched about a million hours of video last year, would you be surprised? Does that seem like a lot? Well, hold onto your hats, people: on Wistia alone – a B2B video marketing platform, mind you – audiences watched 12.2 billion minutes of video in 2020. That’s over 200 million hours. If that number seems like a lot, that’s because it’s the highest it’s ever been and a massive increase from years past. And, while creation and consumption trends don’t always align, in this case they do. As total uploads increased by 80% on average, total consumption was up by 84.3%. That’s significant because, like the 1989 film Field of Dreams (in which the main character builds a baseball diamond to attract the ghosts of baseball’s greatest players), “if you build it, they will come.” For marketers, on aggregate that means if you post video content, your audience will watch it. And unlike total uploads, which spiked in April and plateaued as the year progressed, total consumption remained steady throughout the year. People want video and are engaging with the format at a record-setting pace. 

Hybrid and virtual events are here to stay 

In their report, Wistia focused on more than just data pulled from their platform – they also flagged some of these “new normal” trends that aren’t going away any time soon. One that stood out to us (because we’ve seen it too) is the growth and impact of virtual and hybrid events. Businesses got creative in 2020 with live virtual engagement using streamed and pre-recorded video, and a lot of that experimentation hit home with audiences. Wistia doesn’t supply any hard data on this trend, but they did include it in their report, specifically around the idea of marketers “doubling down” on virtual events to boost brand engagement. Stay tuned for more Matter blogs on virtual events, and the impact branded content experiences can have on building relationships with your audience. 

In summary, video is (still) great! 

As a marketer, you don’t need to be reminded of video’s value to your brand. You see it every day. But it’s nice to watch these trends play out over huge data sets and relate it back to our own experiences. In addition to recognizing many of video’s more familiar impacts, we’re excited to see that long-form videos and hybrid events are on the rise. At Matter, we love using those formats as ways to engage with real people, and it’s awesome to see that the numbers align with our passions. 

If you want to discuss how a virtual event or video series could impact your business and resonate with your customers, reach out to one of our team members. By filling out the form below, you could be on a free strategy call with a video expert before you know it, resolving persistent engagement issues.