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Why TikTok is rolling out longer videos

 Adam Waheed records a video for TikTok with Galang "Stro" To last year.
Adam Waheed records a video for TikTok with Galang “Stro” To last year in Los Angeles. TikTok is expanding the length of time for videos to up to three minutes.
(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

Ever wondered how Chowder the bulldog learned how to skateboard?

Explaining it in a TikTok video that was less than a minute long could be challenging. But on Thursday, TikTok said it would triple the length of time for videos on its platform to up to three minutes, providing video creators more runway.

Chowder’s mom was among a group of creators to test out the longer-form video feature months before Thursday’s announcement. Her tips were revealed in a roughly 2.5-minute video through the dog’s TikTok handle @Chowderthebulldog— Chowder trains in empty parking lots with no easy access to the street and learned how to ride a skateboard on flat areas first.

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The changes come after creators had told TikTok they would like more time per video segment to add to their cooking demos, beauty tutorials, educational videos and comedic sketches, wrote Drew Kirchhoff, a TikTok product manager on the company’s website.

“With longer videos, creators will have the canvas to create new or expanded types of content on TikTok, with the flexibility of a bit more space,” Kirchhoff wrote.

TikTok, at first known for 15-second videos, received a huge boost in popularity during the pandemic as people sheltered at home looked to the viral video app to entertain themselves.

TikTok, a popular based social video app owned by China-based ByteDance, has seen explosive growth this year amid the coronavirus crisis. The company has plans to hire more people, including at its Culver City office.

The app has been a vehicle for up-and-coming artists to be discovered, as a way to educate others and for brands to resonate with younger audiences. Last year, TikTok moved into a larger U.S. office in Culver City and said it had 100 million users in the U.S.

But TikTok isn’t the only app that L.A. creators are using. Last year, the app’s China-based parent company ByteDance was threatened with a potential app ban by the Trump administration due to concerns about whether TikTok would give U.S. user information to the Chinese government. TikTok disputed the claims.

Last fall, TikTok faced a number of problems and seemed to be on the ropes. Now, the app has bounced back.

The app was never banned in the U.S., but some creators fearful of losing their audiences on TikTok looked to expand their audiences on rival platforms like YouTube and Instagram.

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Extending the length of time of TikTok videos to a maximum of three minutes gives users a longer option that is available on rival platforms such as Facebook.

“This is about better storytelling,” said Ray Wang, a principal analyst at Palo Alto-based Constellation Research. “You were really limited before. People want to share things in depth.”

YouTube and Facebook-owned Instagram have also tried to compete with TikTok by offering their own options for short-form videos called Shorts and Reels.

Already, some TikTok users have uploaded longer-form videos, including one that explains the story of Mary Jane Richards, a Black spy who posed as a slave to spy on Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis and a video that goes into the steps of making Brazilian chicken croquettes, coxinha. The option to make up to three-minute videos will be rolled out to all TikTok users over the coming weeks, the company said.

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Advertisers may also like the longer format because it gives them more time to get their message across, analysts said.

“The longer the video, the more time people are on the page,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst of Bend, Ore.-based advisory services firm Enderle Group.


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