Why Short-Form Videos Were 2020's Biggest Trend

Our attention span is shrinking

Key Takeaways

  • Short-form video content from apps like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and Dubsmash had a huge moment in 2020.
  • The open creativity and community-driven content is what has made this material so popular this year.
  • Experts think we will see a higher quality of shorter-length videos as a trend well into next year.
Young woman enjoying music at home on her phone
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Perhaps one of the biggest trends of 2020 was short-form video content from apps like TikTok. Experts say that as we head into 2021, this "quick content" trend isn’t going anywhere.

If it seems like bite-sized videos are everywhere on the internet these days, it’s because they are. From the explosion of TikTok to Instagram introducing Reels and Reddit’s recent purchase of Dubsmash, social platforms are getting in on the short-form video content trend.

"[Short-form content] is really appealing to many groups because it lets people create what they want to create when they want to," Meridith Rojas, the global head of creator marketing at Logitech, told Lifewire in a phone interview.

The Short-Form Video Takeover of 2020

2020 saw more people consuming content because, let’s face it, we didn’t have much else to do. TikTok now has about 100 million monthly active users, which is an 800% increase since 2018, according to CNBC. And other platforms have noticed its success: Facebook-owned Instagram in August introduced Reels, which lets you record 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects, and other creative tools.

Most recently, Reddit announced its purchase of Dubsmash, another TikTok competitor. According to Stream, Dubsmash has approximately 1 billion video views per month, capturing 27% of the U.S. short-form video market by installs, second only to TikTok (59%).

Photo illustration of the TikTok logo is displayed on the screen of a smartphone
Chesnot / Getty Images

Just like Facebook and Reels, it's no wonder Reddit wanted to cash in on the short-form video market.

"Both Reddit and Dubsmash share a deep rooted respect for how communities come together," said Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit, in a blog post announcing the acquisition. "Dubsmash elevates under-represented creators, while Reddit fosters a sense of community and belonging across thousands of different topics and passions. It’s clear that our missions closely align and that our community-focused platforms can coexist and grow as we learn from each other."

Rojas said the community-driven aspect of short-form video apps is what has made them so successful this year. Especially during a pandemic when much of our sense of community has been taken away, these kinds of community-driven content platforms have made it possible to feel like you’re a part of something.

[Short-form content] is really appealing to many groups because it lets people create what they want to create when they want to.

However, not all short-form video apps have followed this community-driven aspect. Quibi, which shut down after only six months, focused on professionally produced and polished content in the short-form space, and Rojas said it’s clear why it didn’t do as well as other apps like TikTok.

"One was produced work, and the other was user-generated content…one folded, and one exploded," she said. "People prefer the real moments that you can’t produce and the personalities that you can’t cast…that’s what’s really compelling."

Rojas said the overall popularity of short-form video content is due to its accessibility and the creativity people get from it.

"Anybody can easily make a cool video by adding a sound and transition and do it all in one creative breath," she said. "It takes the overthinking out of posting something, and it’s a fun and creative way for people to express themselves."

What’s in Store for 2021?

Experts say consumers' attention span is decreasing, and people don't have the time or desire to watch longer content like they used to. Rojas thinks this trend will continue into next year.

People prefer the real moments that you can’t produce and the personalities that you can’t cast…that’s what’s really compelling.

"I’ve seen a lot of people being more interested in a higher quantity of shorter length videos, and I don't see that going anywhere," she said.

However, Rojas said the length of the content isn’t the only factor that will keep short-form media around. She said apps like TikTok have evolved beyond just the length of content into creating and establishing trends.

"TikTok is a mega force in entertainment right now," she said. "There is a direct correlation between what songs reach the Billboard charts and what songs gained popularity on TikTok. I think [TikTok] will continue to evolve in this music culture."

Latin American couple at home dancing while recording content for social media using their cell phone
Hispanolistic / Getty Images

She said she sees this trend of "democratizing content," which lets people create whatever they want and share it with their communities, taking over the direction of influencers and other content creators.

Gone are the days of watching longer and clean-cut edited YouTube videos in favor of uniquely imperfect content that showcases people’s individual personalities.

"It’s not about highly polished content anymore," Rojas said. "It’s my strong belief that we are moving more and more into that direction."

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