Video vs. Text

Video consumption is up 33% from last year, with US internet consumers watching over 13 billion videos a month according to comscore.  That averages out to be over 90 videos per person per month.  As video content rises in popularity, I keep hearing about how video is going to kill the “static web.”

I hope not.  My beef with video is that most of the videos I want to watch are usually better presented as text.  I wish TED would provide a transcript (all great thinkers, but not necessarily great orators).

A  picture may be worth a thousand words, but I can skim that many words in a little over a minute.   Please don’t make make me sit through 20 minutes of someone talking at a camera.  That is worse than a power point presentation with tiny, dense text and no pictures.

Currently, Video is neither skimmable, searchable, nor interactive. The great part about text on the internet is that you can find exactly the information you want, when you need it.  If you need more, you can drill down through links as deep as you like.

Thank goodness many people include transcripts with their videos.   TED does try to make its video content more  searchable by providing with thematic timelines (ie from minute 3 to minute 5 bill gates is talking about africa whereas from 7 to 9 he is talking about software).  I wish more people did this.  Companies like are trying to make video more interactive by linking objects in the video to other content.  I hope it works.

Obviously there are tons of places where video is better than text.  These instances have natural visual components.  How to make oragami.  Sports footage.  College Humour.  this gets me thinking-

Question: Is online video consumption will surpassing online text consumption because video is a more efficient and communicative medium (as many of its pundits would have you believe) or is this sea change just a manifestation of improved technology enabling the general public to realize its preference for passive entertainment (video, shorts) over more demanding media (text, long form)?

Is text (with pics) still the best medium for complex/actionable info? i think so, for most cases.

I bet that even if video technology was around back in the ARPANET days, people wouldn’t have used it as much as they do today.  Back then, the purpose of the internet was to inform, not to entertain.  As internet consumers have changed from governemnt researchers to middle school students watching themselves on youtube and cube dwellers wasting time before the bell tolls, so has the purpose of the internet.

Is this because falling production and distribution costs (on the net) have enabled less and less valuable information to be profitably created and disseminated?  Will targeting and push-media become so good that people will go back to sitting mindlessly infront of their computers like they once did currently do infront of their TVs? Lord knows how easy it is to get nothing done while “catching up” on your RSS feeds*…

This post turned out to be more questions than answers but i would love to hear what everyone else thinks.

*Beware of entertainment posing as information (Hi Discovery channel, Hi CPAN, Hi blogosphere).


4 responses to “Video vs. Text

  1. Video is not taking over.

    Students entering college around 1999-2000 were the first to eschew signing up for landlines at a large scale. We were also the ones to see the glory days of Napster. Free from our parents dial-up and predating government meddlers, we roamed the wild west that was the finally FUNCTIONAL internet.

    CD-quality music and text-based communication came first. There was a time when it took overnight to download a .GIF nude image (I read this in an article). Technology is merely catching up.

    Oral tradition to written books to plays to movies. It’s merely technology catching up. Internet video is new and exciting, but it will be come as commonplace and watered-down as television as soon as the pioneers get fat and old and lose their pioneering spirit.

    Books are better than movies in certain cases, but movies are better than books in others. Each media for its own purposes.

    Text still conveys information more efficiently than video.

  2. Pingback: Home Business & MLM Exposure Through Video

  3. I think you bring up some interesting points, but I must point out that I think your premises are wrong ones.

    Your first premise is that video will REPLACE text. Video will never replace text. Of course we need text, but video does a much better job of telling and compelling. Good video and good text supplement each other. Another faulty premise is that videos are long ones (20 min. in your example.) If organizations and individuals are trying to reach a new audience with 20 minute videos, you’re right . . . that would suck to sit and watch all of that. However, by watching a three minute video, you can presumably consume as much information as a three page blog entry. You also mentioned that video is neither “skimmable, searchable nor interactive.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many video management tools (i.e. Backlight) offer chapter or bookmarking for lengthier videos. However, with 3-5 minute videos, what’s the point in skimming in the first place. As for searchability, video has been proven to enhance SEO efforts. Forrester reported that if you have video on your website, it is 50x more likely to show up on the front page of a Google search. Google, Yahoo and Bing use advanced voice recognition technology to interpret spoken word into meta data for search. So the contrary is true: video ENHANCES searchability. As for interactivity, more and more video management platforms are implementing polling and surveying capabilities. On a more organic level, you can hardly compare text to video in the “human experience” department. The closest thing to human rapport online is authentic, story-driven video.

    The line between entertainment and information is blurred, whether we like it or not. We just need to figure out the proper way to embrace this truth.

  4. Hi Brett. Thanks for visiting and for your thoughts. I’ll respond.

    1) I don’t think video will REPLACE text. I am posing the question: will the average internet consumer’s web consumption change from mostly text to mostly video in the upcoming years? Maybe in my opinion. But that could have just as much to do with how the average web consumer is changing…
    2) I’m going to stand by my assertion that video is neither “skimmable, searchable nor interactive.”
    -Re: skimmable, what % of videos on the web do you think are “bookmarked”? I bet it’s way below 1% but I’d love to see some data proving me wrong?
    -Re: searchable, you are right about Video for SEO. I was talking about searching inside the video for content. Video for SEO doesn’t make it easier for people to find information, it just makes it easier for people with video on their sites to get traffic.
    -Re: interactivity, I mentioned that there are companies like Clickable working on this problem but again, i bet far less than 1% of the videos on the internet are “interactive” in anyway.

    Re: human experience, I feel you.

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