Is text really king over video? Compare the results

Steve Rubel postulates that text is a lot better than video on the web.

Oh, really? Well, explain this graph from Compete.com that compares fastcompany.tv (my video blog) to techmeme (which only displays text and penalizes videos).

Truth is that if you want to build an audience on the web you must use EVERY tool available.

And I’m not taking that advice yet. Yesterday I joined Digg (I never used it much until yesterday). Tomorrow, YouTube (SEO’s tell me that doing YouTube well helps your search engine ranking a lot — Chris Pirillo has been playing YouTube like a fiddle and he’s rocking and rolling everywhere).

He’s right. Text is easier to consume. Easier to search. All that stuff. But here, let’s try something. You take 1,000 words to explain to me what the next game from EA looks like. I’ll do it in a minute or two of video. The video will beat your blog every time. Every time!

Text may be king, like Rubel says, but video is godly. My traffic curves prove that.

And we won’t even get into how Gary Vaynerchuk is using Wine Library TV — there is no way he would be even 1/100th as successful by doing just a text blog. Speaking of Gary, Troy Malone videoed our presentation we gave at CES last week about how to build a successful blog in a bad economy. Thanks for doing that! Lots of people said it was really great.

82 thoughts on “Is text really king over video? Compare the results

  1. As was said further up, people have different preferred perception systems, but about 40% are supposed to be visual (20% auditory, and 40% audio-digital, which basically means text).

    I would tend to agree with Robert that video CAN be very successful (not least of all because Google favors its own YouTube property for SEO, etc.), but it has to be done RIGHT to work well. This introduces an additional barrier that is less pronounced for text.

    Check out this graph I just saw on AlleyInsider.com the other day:

    http://loosebusinessdata.tumblr.com/post/69874922/people-find-how-to-videos-boring

    Shows how quickly audience drops off for videos (basically of all types, even though their point was about How-To videos). The reason besides basic relevance is likely that the content/audio/etc. in the video is not delivered FAST enough. Our brains are trained to expect such rapid-fire, dense editing at this point, that if video falls below a certain threshold it is perceived as unbearably boring. So we stop watching, unless there is another factor that has us pay attention (like having a specific personal interest in what is shown, such as video of a family outing).

    I would say that in part Chris Pirillo’s and Gary V’s success comes from being high-energy, fast-talking people that can keep the attention due to what Gary calls the “Hoopla Factor”. Video + Speed = Win…

    The problem is that unless you are doing interviews like Robert (in which case he is basically held hostage by the speed of output of the interviewee) where the content basically flows/develops somewhat naturally from the conversation, almost no one is basically good enough at talking from the hip to keep a good, dense, and fast flow of ideas and attention-keeping content going.

    Which is where scripting, teleprompters (including totally rigged ones like text on cardboard taped near the camera :), and fast, animated delivery comes into play. You really don’t have to be very brilliant to do this, few people are (basically everyone on TV, all actors, etc. work from scripts…). You can find a good example of what is possible at

    http://www.stomperf5.com
    (you may have to opt in to view this – easy to unsubscribe later, this is NOT an affiliate link and I am not specifically endorsing this, though there is some useful free marketing advice here)

    I would say that this is the minimum speed to deliver content, that is to say, a relatively fast pace. Notice that Andy Jenkins, the guy in the video, is working from a well developed script with some pretty sophisticated sales copy woven into the seemingly casual delivery. But the basic fact remains that you want to talk fast, or else you’re putting your audience to sleep.

  2. As was said further up, people have different preferred perception systems, but about 40% are supposed to be visual (20% auditory, and 40% audio-digital, which basically means text).

    I would tend to agree with Robert that video CAN be very successful (not least of all because Google favors its own YouTube property for SEO, etc.), but it has to be done RIGHT to work well. This introduces an additional barrier that is less pronounced for text.

    Check out this graph I just saw on AlleyInsider.com the other day:

    http://loosebusinessdata.tumblr.com/post/69874922/people-find-how-to-videos-boring

    Shows how quickly audience drops off for videos (basically of all types, even though their point was about How-To videos). The reason besides basic relevance is likely that the content/audio/etc. in the video is not delivered FAST enough. Our brains are trained to expect such rapid-fire, dense editing at this point, that if video falls below a certain threshold it is perceived as unbearably boring. So we stop watching, unless there is another factor that has us pay attention (like having a specific personal interest in what is shown, such as video of a family outing).

    I would say that in part Chris Pirillo’s and Gary V’s success comes from being high-energy, fast-talking people that can keep the attention due to what Gary calls the “Hoopla Factor”. Video + Speed = Win…

    The problem is that unless you are doing interviews like Robert (in which case he is basically held hostage by the speed of output of the interviewee) where the content basically flows/develops somewhat naturally from the conversation, almost no one is basically good enough at talking from the hip to keep a good, dense, and fast flow of ideas and attention-keeping content going.

    Which is where scripting, teleprompters (including totally rigged ones like text on cardboard taped near the camera :), and fast, animated delivery comes into play. You really don’t have to be very brilliant to do this, few people are (basically everyone on TV, all actors, etc. work from scripts…). You can find a good example of what is possible at

    http://www.stomperf5.com
    (you may have to opt in to view this – easy to unsubscribe later, this is NOT an affiliate link and I am not specifically endorsing this, though there is some useful free marketing advice here)

    I would say that this is the minimum speed to deliver content, that is to say, a relatively fast pace. Notice that Andy Jenkins, the guy in the video, is working from a well developed script with some pretty sophisticated sales copy woven into the seemingly casual delivery. But the basic fact remains that you want to talk fast, or else you’re putting your audience to sleep.

  3. Pingback: Text vs Video …
  4. I’m happy to scan reams of text, breaking as needed to deal with other things (answering the phone or whatever) – video or audio, though, is much less controllable. It lacks the “random access” aspect of text, as well as being much slower to convey most information. (Not to mention that I do a fair amount of my blog reading on my iPhone on the train – no chance of video there unless it’s YouTube!)

    I do subscribe to one podcast now (Tack Sharp) – I’ll probably try watching some of the fast-company content some day, but I haven’t yet. Meanwhile, I’m following Twitter and 100-200 posts via RSS each day – probably a thousand text posts for every video clip I watch. Video just doesn’t come close to the convenience of text or pictures for me: can an interview really offer anything significant that a transcript doesn’t? For some product demos, possibly, but not an interview.

  5. I’m happy to scan reams of text, breaking as needed to deal with other things (answering the phone or whatever) – video or audio, though, is much less controllable. It lacks the “random access” aspect of text, as well as being much slower to convey most information. (Not to mention that I do a fair amount of my blog reading on my iPhone on the train – no chance of video there unless it’s YouTube!)

    I do subscribe to one podcast now (Tack Sharp) – I’ll probably try watching some of the fast-company content some day, but I haven’t yet. Meanwhile, I’m following Twitter and 100-200 posts via RSS each day – probably a thousand text posts for every video clip I watch. Video just doesn’t come close to the convenience of text or pictures for me: can an interview really offer anything significant that a transcript doesn’t? For some product demos, possibly, but not an interview.

  6. Why should it be either-or? Provide a text transcription along with the video. Voila, search and skim enabled.

    Even if you only skim the text, it’s highly valuable to see a minute or two of video, to get a sense of who’s talking. There’s no such thing as neutral and personality matters when evaluating opinions.

    The Long Now talks on Fora.tv all have transcripts. Unfortunately they’re in .pdf and you have to click the Downloads tab to even find them. For example:
    http://fora.tv/2008/08/08/Daniel_Suarez_Daemon_Bot-Mediated_Reality

  7. Why should it be either-or? Provide a text transcription along with the video. Voila, search and skim enabled.

    Even if you only skim the text, it’s highly valuable to see a minute or two of video, to get a sense of who’s talking. There’s no such thing as neutral and personality matters when evaluating opinions.

    The Long Now talks on Fora.tv all have transcripts. Unfortunately they’re in .pdf and you have to click the Downloads tab to even find them. For example:
    http://fora.tv/2008/08/08/Daniel_Suarez_Daemon_Bot-Mediated_Reality

  8. I’m not interested in EA’s new whatever game but let’s say Valve’s next game which targets me better. If there’s just an video on their homepage I won’t be watching it. If there’s just an 1000-word-essay on their homepage I won’t be reading it. If there’s text with screenshots I’m interested. If the text and the screenshots are interesting, I’ll watch eventually the additional example video.

    Static content like text an images have this great properties of scanability und skimmability. I read some text, I look at some images and I can decide in seconds, if that content is worth it to explore further, to invest time. In this instant the most video players aren’t loaded. Worse, in video I’m imprisoned in somebody elses timeline and in his exploring and all I can do is watching bored along because I cannot scan to the next interesting piece – I have no clue where it could be. I don’t even have a clue that there could be something interesting.

    I’ve watched maybe 5 of your videos. Maybe 10 minutes of each, on in two thirds. Every time I command-W-t the tab because I couldn’t see a reason of investing my time and attention. I simply had no clues. I’ve never had this problem with text or the combination of text and images (Contrained to documentary or reporting styles. Art like movies, TV series and literature have other ways to capture me)

  9. I’m not interested in EA’s new whatever game but let’s say Valve’s next game which targets me better. If there’s just an video on their homepage I won’t be watching it. If there’s just an 1000-word-essay on their homepage I won’t be reading it. If there’s text with screenshots I’m interested. If the text and the screenshots are interesting, I’ll watch eventually the additional example video.

    Static content like text an images have this great properties of scanability und skimmability. I read some text, I look at some images and I can decide in seconds, if that content is worth it to explore further, to invest time. In this instant the most video players aren’t loaded. Worse, in video I’m imprisoned in somebody elses timeline and in his exploring and all I can do is watching bored along because I cannot scan to the next interesting piece – I have no clue where it could be. I don’t even have a clue that there could be something interesting.

    I’ve watched maybe 5 of your videos. Maybe 10 minutes of each, on in two thirds. Every time I command-W-t the tab because I couldn’t see a reason of investing my time and attention. I simply had no clues. I’ve never had this problem with text or the combination of text and images (Contrained to documentary or reporting styles. Art like movies, TV series and literature have other ways to capture me)

  10. Great points Scoble. I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a nice debate, but I still have to say that text is king over video….unless you’re writing an essay, then video might be better. However, not many of us are out here writing essays. :)

  11. Great points Scoble. I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a nice debate, but I still have to say that text is king over video….unless you’re writing an essay, then video might be better. However, not many of us are out here writing essays. :)

  12. Context is king – yes. Initial attention can be grabbed with eye candy – video, images, whatever — or audio, especially if the “context” supports that interest. Some content is not only just fine with text but sometimes “requires” just text. It’s all about context.

    Having said that, and in keeping with Kevin Kelly’s ruminations on “screen fluency”, there will always be a sense of “added value” with the addition or inclusion of video content. Part of placing this content in context is making sure it isn’t a pant load of superfluous material and instead makes that jump to the relevant portion quickly – or consists “only” of the relevant portion.

    Screen fluency exists not just for the “readers” but also for the creators. No what to say and how to say it.

    Context.

  13. Context is king – yes. Initial attention can be grabbed with eye candy – video, images, whatever — or audio, especially if the “context” supports that interest. Some content is not only just fine with text but sometimes “requires” just text. It’s all about context.

    Having said that, and in keeping with Kevin Kelly’s ruminations on “screen fluency”, there will always be a sense of “added value” with the addition or inclusion of video content. Part of placing this content in context is making sure it isn’t a pant load of superfluous material and instead makes that jump to the relevant portion quickly – or consists “only” of the relevant portion.

    Screen fluency exists not just for the “readers” but also for the creators. No what to say and how to say it.

    Context.

  14. I find that the videos are generally inefficient, irritating, and almost never watch them. They should be used sparingly, with good reason. News should take seconds to parse, not minutes.

  15. I find that the videos are generally inefficient, irritating, and almost never watch them. They should be used sparingly, with good reason. News should take seconds to parse, not minutes.

  16. I don’t know the statistics but I have read all your posts but I have not seen any of your videos.

  17. I don’t know the statistics but I have read all your posts but I have not seen any of your videos.

  18. I think you have the traffic for a couple of reasons. One, you are already well established as a blogger, have been for a long time, and got established by writing tons of good, short, interesting articles. The other reason, in my view, for the video traffic is the interviewees, like Tim O’Reilly and Matt Mullenweg. Do people care what you have to say in those videos. I would be surprised if so. I wouldn’t expect them to care about me if I were doing the interviewees. They care about who is being interviewed and what they have to say.

    I watched the videos I mentioned, but would have preferred to see Tim and Matt write-up themselves what they thought and put on their websites.

  19. I think you have the traffic for a couple of reasons. One, you are already well established as a blogger, have been for a long time, and got established by writing tons of good, short, interesting articles. The other reason, in my view, for the video traffic is the interviewees, like Tim O’Reilly and Matt Mullenweg. Do people care what you have to say in those videos. I would be surprised if so. I wouldn’t expect them to care about me if I were doing the interviewees. They care about who is being interviewed and what they have to say.

    I watched the videos I mentioned, but would have preferred to see Tim and Matt write-up themselves what they thought and put on their websites.

  20. Doesn’t context matter? Text and Video each have their areas where they’re more suitable for consumption. Your games example is perfect but when it comes to something like opinion representation text may be better. Most importantly text allows for increased and quicker consumption, this is not necessarily possible with video.

    Robert you’re right about using every tool available. In reality this debate is pointless as text and video are really complementary. If video could be king on its own wouldn’t you have done this post on video at Seesmic or 12s??

  21. Doesn’t context matter? Text and Video each have their areas where they’re more suitable for consumption. Your games example is perfect but when it comes to something like opinion representation text may be better. Most importantly text allows for increased and quicker consumption, this is not necessarily possible with video.

    Robert you’re right about using every tool available. In reality this debate is pointless as text and video are really complementary. If video could be king on its own wouldn’t you have done this post on video at Seesmic or 12s??

  22. I echo @Aaron’s sentiments completely. Watching a video takes more effort (or at least I think it does) because I have to physically stop and concentrate on the content–taking time out from other activities–for a specific period of time (the length of the video).

    Video certainly tells a more compelling story, but it just isn’t as easy for most busy people to consume. Yet.

  23. I echo @Aaron’s sentiments completely. Watching a video takes more effort (or at least I think it does) because I have to physically stop and concentrate on the content–taking time out from other activities–for a specific period of time (the length of the video).

    Video certainly tells a more compelling story, but it just isn’t as easy for most busy people to consume. Yet.

  24. If every video was three minutes long, I might go along with that. But when your useful bit of information is at the 17-minute mark, I turned you off ten minutes ago (at least). There’s no Ctrl-F for video.

  25. If every video was three minutes long, I might go along with that. But when your useful bit of information is at the 17-minute mark, I turned you off ten minutes ago (at least). There’s no Ctrl-F for video.

  26. Wait, what am I missing here? A website built singlehandedly by one guy has more traffic than a video site built with the backing and resources of a magazine that appears on newsstands across the country. What are you trying to say, Scoble?

    I tend to find videos annoying because I get most of my news on my iPhone when I’m commuting on the bus, waiting in line for coffee, or catching a quick break between meetings. If I’m using my computer, I’m probably listening to music, and don’t want to have to pause iTunes.

    I rarely have several minutes of undivided attention to give over to a video. Text allows me to rapidly triage information, whereas video gives me little commensurate ability.

  27. Wait, what am I missing here? A website built singlehandedly by one guy has more traffic than a video site built with the backing and resources of a magazine that appears on newsstands across the country. What are you trying to say, Scoble?

    I tend to find videos annoying because I get most of my news on my iPhone when I’m commuting on the bus, waiting in line for coffee, or catching a quick break between meetings. If I’m using my computer, I’m probably listening to music, and don’t want to have to pause iTunes.

    I rarely have several minutes of undivided attention to give over to a video. Text allows me to rapidly triage information, whereas video gives me little commensurate ability.

  28. It depends who’s doing the producing. There are many great writers who are utterly dull in person and plenty of people into video who couldn’t write their own names (YouTube is awash with them).

    Video’s just a lot more fun to do.

  29. It depends who’s doing the producing. There are many great writers who are utterly dull in person and plenty of people into video who couldn’t write their own names (YouTube is awash with them).

    Video’s just a lot more fun to do.

  30. Robert,

    You kinda miss the point. The real point is that, as a blogger, you’re trying to reach *people* even more than search engines. People have different preferences for accessing information — some visually, some textually, some kinestheticly, some audially. (I’m not sure how to spell the last two there — apologies.)

    If you want to market yourself big, you need to hit as many access preferences as possible. Sure, search is big, but not as big as individual connection.

    Best,
    ~ Paul

  31. Robert,

    You kinda miss the point. The real point is that, as a blogger, you’re trying to reach *people* even more than search engines. People have different preferences for accessing information — some visually, some textually, some kinestheticly, some audially. (I’m not sure how to spell the last two there — apologies.)

    If you want to market yourself big, you need to hit as many access preferences as possible. Sure, search is big, but not as big as individual connection.

    Best,
    ~ Paul

  32. I think video has more potential, but it’s harder to do right, which is why everyone sticks with text. You’re right though, those that can use every tool available, including video, will be king.

  33. I think video has more potential, but it’s harder to do right, which is why everyone sticks with text. You’re right though, those that can use every tool available, including video, will be king.

  34. I don’t understand why Gary V is such a great example all the time. I’ll be impressed when there’s five others just like him. If there are please say so.

  35. I don’t understand why Gary V is such a great example all the time. I’ll be impressed when there’s five others just like him. If there are please say so.

  36. Wow! Thanks Robert. That session was a great one to video. It is really interesting to me how different you and Gary are, but how successful you both have been at building an audience. I think I found the common denominator though. You both are just good guys. You are approachable, fun to be around and smart. That’s obviously the key to success in my eyes!

    Keep putting out the great content!

    Troy Malone

  37. Wow! Thanks Robert. That session was a great one to video. It is really interesting to me how different you and Gary are, but how successful you both have been at building an audience. I think I found the common denominator though. You both are just good guys. You are approachable, fun to be around and smart. That’s obviously the key to success in my eyes!

    Keep putting out the great content!

    Troy Malone

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