Let’s hope the medium is not the message

The video that should have been an article

Lecture video on Flickr by Andrew Feinberg licensed under Creative CommonsWhat motivates people in chosing media types to publish their content? Why, for example, produce a video on a topic which would be far better expressed in print?

How do we benefit from having a talking head pushing their favourite stocks or shares in a video, complete with fleeting verbal references to the  key figures on which the whole argument rests like year-on-year increases in turnover, profits etc?

Is it just that a lot of people secretly fancy themselves in the moviemaking business or, is there some deep dark secret here that accounts for the proliferation of video in a lot of people’s sites?

For instance is it just that:

  • video is harder to copy and host so spammers are less likely to rip off your content?
  • video creates a deeper rapport with your audience?
  • you’re tapping an audience (YouTube?) that you can’t reach in another media?
  • the video is a disguised advertisement for speaking engagements?

Sure video is harder to copy but it’s also a hell of a lot harder for search engines to index… It may well be the case that in 10 years time it will be fully indexable with a speech recognition engine – well if you’ve got a 10 year plan to build an audience that’s great.

If you have the comic timing of Stephen Colbert or the beauty of Angelina Jolie  it may well make sense to produce a video, but if you don’t personally have either of these traits you’re wasting your time.

On the negative side with videos:

  •  you’ve got to be running sound (perhaps in an open plan office) to watch a video,
  • there is no way that your viewer can quickly skip to the bits that interest them (so the first time you’ve lost their attention you’ve lost them totally as they hit the stop button) and
  • you require their full attention e.g. they can’t be listening to music as they watch.

Why is it that people don’t get podcasting?

Creative Zen MP3 player by blogefl on Flickr licensed under Creative CommonsIn 2005 the hype that currently is devoted to apps like Twitter or Facebook was all about the new medium of podcasting,  hype that Drivelry signed up for at the time.

In contrast to video this really does seem to be a publishing medium that makes sense for a lot of content.

Yet very little onscreen commentary acreage is devoted to podcasting these days, and the growth of podcasting has been relatively slow with about 12% of people interviewed by the Pew research study having listened to podcasts in 2006, and 19% listening when Pew re-ran the study in 2008.

All up a very pedestrian 7% growth in podcasting usage in the 2 years (presumably Pew is unlikely to rerun the survey till 2010 albeit newer July 2009 figures suggest that growth might be accelerating somewhat).

In a sense it’s a testament to the power of advertising. As in ‘podcasts are free so there’s little incentive to push them’

You can identify popular podcasts on iTunes but it will default to popular podcasts for your country (using automatic IP address location) rather than globally, thereby undermining one of the principle benefits of podcasts: that they enable you to listen to the best radio in the world at the time of your choosing, with the most recent episodes collected for you automatically.

Podcasts make sense as a publishing medium because they enable you to:

  • target otherwise unused audience time (for instance when you are driving or on public transport)
  • they do not require your full attention (you can cook or clean whilst listening)
  • they take advantage of radio’s traditional ability to build rapport

In theory you can monetize them by using a system such as Wizzard’s.

There are absolutely superb podcasts out there from organisations like NPR, the BBC and assorted smaller producers that mean you should never have to listen to a boring radio program again (you can find a few of  Drivelry’s favourite podcasts here  if you want a random playlist you can import into iTunes).

If you know why podcasts are so under-appreciated hit the comments box below and tell us why!

Twitter as a publishing medium

It’s impossible to consider the appropriateness of publishing technology without mentioning Twitter. Photo of Twitter screens on Flickr by glenn.batuyong licensed under Creative Commons

It’s not that SMS’ing is a bad concept (think of the positives for a whole younger generation who now have to be functionally literate to socially interact) but with Twitter we have a publishing medium where the length of your story at 140 characters is dictated by a technology launched 17 years ago.  If Douglas Adams was still alive today it would form a key joke to build a novel around. 

There is not a frequent Twitter user out there who hasn’t spent hours of aggregated time trying to work out how to compress something meaningful into 140 characters and then hoping that the mishmash of bad spelling and abbrevations can actually be understood by the recipients.  And yet the constraint is also useless because anyone with any Twitter volume (Following say 20+ people) is unlikely to have it routed to their mobile phone by SMS lest they be drowned in low value messages.

Twitter’s principal claim to fame (that you can build two-way interactions with complete strangers you couldn’t otherwise reach by Following and Tweeting them) rings hollow when you’re talking about a recipient who is Following even 50 or so people. In practice they are likely to have a list of  Favourite Twitterers and use something like Tweetdeck to filter out those people’s Tweet’s into a Group, thereby insuring that they rarely see Tweets outside that Group. 

Without this sort of grouping  the volume of messages would again be unmanageable by anyone with any constraints on their time – drowned in updates from people noting who they’ve just had a beer with, or that they’ve just landed at LAX.

Twitter is therefore unlikely to become a meaningful substitute for more proprietary instant messaging clients like Skype.

As with any new medium (Twitter started in 2006) there’s no question that what was initially a more focused medium is being increasingly targeted by spammers and direct marketers of all shades and to add insult to injury if you use Twitter to inform readers about new articles (say blog posts) you are probably losing ad revenue as well.

There is no question that the Twitter audience is growing at the moment so if you’re a ‘momentum publisher’ it may be the place to be it’s also evident that it’s underlying structural problems could cause it to plateau equally rapidly.

Social media interaction & publishing

Amongst the cheerleading that is going on about social media participation generally it also pays to realize that you are basically building up someone else’s content for them. Great proposition really:

“Hey! How about you spend your time writing a whole bunch of stuff for me on my website so that I can insert ads around it and make money from you and others clicking on the ads? Sign here ….”

Want your own website to rank well for the phrase ‘forestry products’ ?

Well if you create a lot of content in a prominent social media site it is more than likely that the search engines are going to rank that site higher than your own… Even better, most of the time you will find that ‘No Follow’ tags are automatically inserted around any link pointing back to your own site that you place on the social media site, thereby insuring that you get no PageRank benefits from doing this.

So social media participation may be important but it’s also important to understand where you could be shooting yourself in the foot…

This article filed under the following 'Interest' categories (click category for more) Unanswerable questions

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Article posted by @Drivelry on July 28, 2009

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