Human nature means that people will generally opt for the easiest path. And in terms of communicating an idea, it’s far less work to watch a video than to read a passage. It’s like having a story or article read to you – it doesn’t require the same level of involvement and concentration. It’s also substantially easier to produce: just start the camera and talk.
But there are distinct drawbacks to posting videos. For a start, the average reading speed of 250 words per minute is significantly faster than the average speaking rate of 130 words per minute. This means that you can convey considerably more – and even more complex ideas – via the written word compared to a video. And for those who can speed read, they can get through a passage even faster. It’s not really practicable to speed up a video.
Written passages and documents can also be skimmed to get to the relevant elements. A video needs to be watched in its entirety to uncover those parts which you want to hear.
And then there is coherence. Consider this transcript from a Donald Trump interview:
“Well, you know, I love to read. Actually, I’m looking at a book, I’m reading a book, I’m trying to get started. Every time I do about a half a page, I get a phone call that there’s some emergency, this or that. But we’re going to see the home of Andrew Jackson today in Tennessee and I’m reading a book on Andrew Jackson. I love to read. I don’t get to read very much, Tucker, because I’m working very hard on lots of different things, including getting costs down. The costs of our country are out of control. But we have a lot of great things happening, we have a lot of tremendous things happening.” --Donald Trump to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, March 15, 2017
No-one would ever write the way that Trump blathers on. Rather, writing enables you to marshal your thoughts coherently and put them down in a concise, precise way. Clear writing conveys clear thinking. Your message and thoughts can be crafted carefully so that you say exactly what you want to. No more, no less.
While videos are becoming increasingly popular, good videos are expensive to produce and not all company spokespeople are comfortable in front of a camera. Whereas the written word can proceed from draft to editing and final product with a great deal of thought taking place.
There are certainly times when a good quality video could – and probably should – be used. But unless the video is well crafted, it can detract from your message.
From the desk of Gillian Findlay
Economist, data translator, communicator and fascinated by the world around us.