Video content is taking over the world, or so we’re told. Text is old-school — video stands out and people share it. So who needs to learn to write?
If you think the future of communications is video, you’re way off.
Here are five reasons why, for nearly every communication you’re planning, text is better than video.
1. Text is scannable.
How long does it take to figure out what’s in a 5-minute video?
Sure, you can scrub it back and forth with your mouse, but you’re not really going to find out why it’s important to you.
A well-designed piece of text content — whether it’s an email, a blog post, an article, or a white paper — reveals its structure. It has headings, bullets, quotes, links, and graphics. You can find the part you’re interested in and skip the rest — or skip the whole thing if you quickly figure out it’s worthless. Try that with a piece of video.
2. Text is searchable
You can put keywords in a video. But text has the keywords already there. People will search for it using terms you didn’t even realize were important when you wrote them.
3. Text isn’t disruptive
Raise your hand if you’ve become annoyed when visiting a news site and hearing video autoplay.
Most of us work quietly in offices. We want to consume content when we choose to view it — not when it chooses to interrupt us.
You can consume text without headphones and with the sound off. That’s useful in a world where we share space.
4. Text is easy to create and edit
How do you create text? In your email program? In Microsoft Word? In Google Docs? In Facebook? There are a thousand ways, because everything includes a text editor.
If someone sends you text, you can copy it, paste it, edit it, or comment on it. It’s infinitely malleable.
It’s easy to turn bad text into good text by editing.
While it’s easy to create crappy video, it’s not easy to fix it. Good video is far more expensive and time-consuming to create than good text.
5. Text is timeless
I can still read text that somebody wrote in 1971 and get something out of it. There are some new words now, but the punctuation, the headings, and the way we communicate ideas remain pretty much the same as they were.
Text isn’t the least common denominator — it’s more like the lifeblood of communication. Even now, in the video era, it’s the one medium everyone can count on.
When virtual reality and branching video and interactive experiences catch on — along with who knows what that’s up next — we’ll still have text.
Coders document their work in text. Chatbots use it, too. Writing text and getting information from it is going to be a core skill for workers in 2050 as it is now. Count on it.
Why the Web thinks video is better
If you search the Web for “text is better than video,” you get a lot of articles about why video is better than text. But read them carefully and you’ll find the main reason is “video is better at disrupting what you’re doing, intruding upon your work, and keeping your attention.”
That’s not better, it’s just louder and more interruptive.