Kickstarter itself claims that campaigns lasting 30 days or less are more likely to succeed. I suppose that seems reasonable, but the original claim was made way back in 2011. A lot has changed since then, so I thought it would be best to take a look at it again and see what we come up with.
On the one hand, longer Kickstarter campaigns mean more time to fund. On the other, longer campaigns also reduce urgency by giving potential backers too much time to decide what they want to do, which may lead to them not backing at all.
Most people would say that reducing urgency has a much stronger effect on success, which means you should avoid longer campaigns. That certainly makes sense, but let's see if the data supports it.
To start, let's put up a simple trend line. Here's a chart showing Kickstarter project success rates by campaign length for all campaigns that have launched and finished year to date (each point represents multiple campaigns that were all the same length).
At first glance, it looks like longer campaigns do hurt your chances of success, like Kickstarter says, but there's another possible variable that could be confounding things.
When I first read Kickstarter's article on campaign length, I immediately thought they could be accidentally measuring the funding goal, instead of campaign length. What I suspected was that the higher a campaign's goal is, the more likely the creator would be to increase the timeline. So it might be that higher funding goals have lower success rates, and those higher goals inadvertently make it look like longer timelines are the problem. On top of that, the funding goal / campaign length confounding might be even more pronounced for first-time creators, since they have lower success rates, and might be more likely to have longer campaign's as well.
To test my hunch, we'll have to check for a correlation between funding goals and campaign lengths. If there is one, we should see an obvious pattern when you graph them against each other. So, do you see any obvious pattern emerge in the chart below?
Yeah, me neither.
Even if I try a few different ways of reducing the noise, or filter the data for only first-time creators, no patterns emerge. Contrary to my hunch, there seems to be no link between higher funding goals and longer campaign lengths.
What that means is that we're one step closer to showing that longer campaigns truly do cause success rates to drop. I hesitate to say there's causation yet, though, because we still have at least one more lurking variable to consider - and it's a big one.
Level of Marketing
To be honest, I still suspect that campaign length has very little impact on success. I admit that there probably is a negative effect, but it's probably pretty small. What I personally think is really going on is a lack of marketing. I'd guess that some creators try to compensate for a lack of marketing by extending their campaign length. Then, when we try analyzing campaign length, we see a negative trend, but it's not because of the length, it's because longer campaigns are correlating to little or no marketing.
I'd love to analyze marketing efforts in this way, but unfortunately, it's really difficult to get quantifiable data on something like that. I have some ideas on how to do it, but we're not ready for that yet. For now, we'll have to settle for the data we have, and say that shorter timelines are indeed better for your Kickstarter campaign.
So what do you think about our findings? Did they surprise you? Do you think there's a key piece of information I haven't considered? Let me know in the comments!