As online video has become more and more successful, it might be worth reminding producers of the reasons why, particularly at work, some people hate being forced to watch video content rather than reading text.
Haven't we all been embarrassed in an office by music suddenly blaring out of our computer? My own instinctive reaction when I arrive at a site with sound is to click away and apologise - and if I have to go back, it has to be planned, with headphones plugged in.
And who wants their colleagues sitting in the office wearing headphones, unable to hear anybody else?
While they're great for some things, visuals simply don't enhance a lot of information. I'm a wine enthusiast, and I can assure you that my interest in a particular wine is never increased by seeing some chap swill it around in a glass, take a sip, and tell me how it tastes. I would always prefer to read that description, eloquently written. A little visual piece to camera adds nothing; I know how to drink.
And watching visuals on an office screen is...awkward. Aren't we still just a little suspicious when someone in the office is watching a video? Is that really work? And of course, you don't know if something completely office-inappropriate is about to appear on screen - because...
...video is a linear medium - and you don't know where it's going.
Click on a video, and you have no idea what you are going to get. You might know from the control panel that it's five minutes long, but you don't know whether the information you particularly want is at the beginning or the end. You can't see the subjects it is going to cover. You can't skip ahead, because you don't know what you're skipping over. You can't easily extract particular aspects of the content.
An article, whether in print or online, provides a headline and subhead which indicate the content you are going to get. Key points will often be illustrated, with captions, which allows you to skip straight to particular elements of the content. Sections, panels and bulletpoints allow for summaries of points. Crossheads allow you to dip into particular sections of the content, ignoring those before or after. Whether your cut-and-paste is done with scissors or a mouse, it's easy to remove just the bit of content you want to keep or share. And online, of course, hyperlinks allow you to refer to connected articles and jump to related content.
In other words, with text content, you the reader are in control - and surely that's meant to be a key advantage in the digital era?
Your only control with video is to click away. And interestingly, statistics say that 20% of viewers abandon an online video within the first 10 seconds. So much for engagement.
But if you've read, or even skipped, to this point, then this short piece of text has done its job. Thank goodness I didn't do it as a piece to camera.
Paul Keers, Founding Director, Axon Publishing