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  1. Ezra Fishman

    Hi Tommy,

    Ezra from Wistia here. I appreciate you sharing some of our studies but I do have to defend the playrate data.

    I’d argue that the average playrate across a very large sample of business videos is a useful data point to have and reference. This gives you a place to start your analysis — you should definitely compare a given video to all others that you have published previously and should likely experiment with the thumbnail, the placement on the page, and the size of the video. All of those are important factors and factors we highlighted in the study you reference —

    1. Tommy Walker

      Hey Ezra,

      From my understanding talking to the people on your social media team, you guys are actually in the process of better segmenting your data, yeah?

      While it is useful to have, because there isn’t a whole lot else out there, the data itself can’t be very accurate IF it’s being lumped together.

      Let’s take it away from video for a second, and say we’re looking at visitors/email signup rates.

      If I have bots (like Google, Amazon, Bing, etc) counting as visitors to my blog, and the conversion to my email list is 10%, when I take out that fake traffic – which will never ever convert – my conversion rates will go up, and be far more accurate.

      If my “business” is selling automobile parts where I give tutorials on how to install parts, and your “business” is video hosting where you use explainer videos to describe the benefits of using something other than Youtube to host videos, I will naturally have a higher page view/play rate metric than you. It’s the nature of my videos.

      However, when you put your videos in with mine, it’s going to drag my average down.

      Suddenly, I will think my personal play rates are well above average. On the flip side, you’ll end up chasing a benchmark that may be completely unrealistic because your industry benchmark might be lower, just given the nature of your videos.

      IF you wanted to lump data together like that, it might be better suited to break “business videos” into just explainer videos.

      Likewise, you could segment to show only videos embedded on software websites, or ecommerce sites, or break it down by industry.

      What I’m realizing now, and what’s not entirely clear in the study, are you analyzing just YOUR videos? And not the customers that are hosted with you?

      You say “The chart below shows the distribution of play rates across all of the business videos hosted by Wistia” so if that doesn’t include customers that makes sense.

      I agree, if you’re doing a video, you should find the benchmark across all of your videos to get an average, but you should also look at the specific category of video to get a more specific look.

  2. Brandon

    Well.. that shut her up didn’t it.

  3. Ethan

    Has anyone done studies to figure out the best way to display the explainer video on the homepage in order to increase conversions? Should the video be the focal point?

    1. Tommy Walker

      Great question Ethan.

      I started looking shortly after seeing your comment, but sadly have not found anything yet.

      However, this would be easy enough to split test. If you were to upload multiple versions of the same video to your host, and create variant pages with different locations, you could easily determine which location gets more plays.

      I would think making video the focal point would be the best to get plays, but I would also test things like the video thumbnail, the headline, and other elements that “frame” the video.

      It may also be worth testing a “light-box” popup version of the video vs non popup.

      If your sample size is large enough, there are a lot of things you could test. The most important thing is that you take action on it.

  4. Daniel

    Re: “What’s interesting is that students who were in the certificate program had a tendency to watch longer” – I’d be interested to see some statistics on how the level of investment of the user effects viewing times. Perhaps a student in cert program has invested time, money and their career on it and so will watch longer. So if you have a really dedicated and invested user base like say Apple, your users may happily watch for and extra minute or two.

    Thanks Tommy for another great article form ConversionXL. Really appreciate the research that goes into these.

    1. Tommy Walker

      Funny you say that Daniel, I do have some research that examines the viewing behavior of avid video watchers. I will dig it up and post the link in a bit.

  5. Peter Merrick


    I’m interested in the notion that you can aim for an ideal length in a video. Certainly I agree that the video should be no longer that it needs to be. If a person does not watch a video to the end, it could be because they discovered that the message is not relevant to them. That’s OK, it seems to me. It could equally be that they got the information they needed, and don’t need anything more from the video. Our objective after all, is not to get people to watch videos, it’s to get them to take some other action – like buying something, or downloading the trial version (or whatever). My point is that an ‘explainer’ video, by definition is explaining something that is more than trivial. My argument is with the idea that the explainer video should necessarily be 2-3 minutes long. It seems the answer to length is ‘it depends’. If I have to explain how versioning software for technical documentation writers in an agile software development house works – then the audience is already pretty engaged, and probably has the stomach for 8 minutes. I would argue that a video showcasing the benefits of one skate board shoe over another might rightly be 30 seconds long – but I wouldn’t call it an ‘explainer’ video. It’s just a commercial…

  6. Peter Merrick

    I think the metric is really 200 words = 1 minute. That’s at a comfortable speaking speed (i.e. not high powered, rapid fire sales speak). For what it’s worth…

  7. Chris Johnson


    After 1mm data points we can say at a near certainty anything much faster than 145 WPM DESTROYS conversions. As in is a huge blow.

    So be careful with what you say. People are encountering it for the first time. What do high authority people sound like? Probably 135-150 WPM.

    We live in a visual world, so we have to lose the low end “this is joe, joe has a problem” swill and go for some creative visual metaphors. People will retain and react to that. Not to the talking cartoon contrivances.


  8. Marc Smith

    A lot of useful & detailed information that we use daily.
    One point I’d like to raise. We always write the script first and then work on the concept/style of the video. I feel that there should be no restrictions when writing the video, not even what it will look like. Why have the style influence your scripting decisions? As an example. If I knew I could get Jack Nicolson as an actor for my short film, I’d write the short film around a character I could imagine Nicolson playing, rather than writing the script that I really wanted to make. This knowledge would influence my storytelling. This is why casting is usually a test set for post scripting.

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Everything You Need To Know About Creating Killer Explainer Videos