Before doing anything, I have a simple question for you.If I were to invite you to a lecture on the anatomical composition of the universe, would you be willing to attend? I’m assuming you would politely decline my invitation. The topic, after all, sounds dense, difficult and, quite frankly, boring. But what if I were to tell you that a video on this very subject has over 9.5 million views on YouTube? Would that surprise you at all?
What about a video titled “Existential Bummer“? Does it make sense for a video on this subject–whatever it may denote–to have over 3 million views and over 22,000 likes?
As someone who loves to write, I have to acknowledge a painful fact: In this day and age of virality, connectedness and information-overload, writing is no longer the effective medium it once was.
That’s not to say that writing is not an effective medium through which to convey a message (which is why I don’t find it ironic to be delivering this to you in writing). The New York Times and other newspapers still exert tremendous influence. Books still hit the bestseller list and can turn a profit for authors. And I would defy anyone to admit they’d rather sit through a PowerPoint presentation than read an article or book on the same subject.
But writing just doesn’t have the influence it once used to. In fact, the odds are that you won’t even get halfway through this article. And the writing that does grab attention today is, well, different. For example, BuzzFeed’s “24 Pictures That Men Will Just Never Ever Understand,” isn’t just the first, and not to mention grammatically-incorrect, article I see when checking the publication’s Facebook page: it is an article that has almost 40,000 likes and over 12,000 shares.
I don’t think I’m breaking any new ground when I say that today video is a more effective medium through which to grab attention. Of course, video is not for everyone. But the tide is turning towards it. Consider sites like NowThis or Newsy, two successful media companies that report the news exclusively through video, with little, if any, voiceovers.
But still, I must admit, I find myself struggling to make it through some three- or even two-minute-long videos. The reason: they’re either poorly made or just devoid of any meaningful message (something any real writer knows to avoid).
And that’s where the videos I cited above come in. They’re not only well-made, but they get their messages across beautifully and effectively, using powerful music and visualizations to make an appealing and succinct product. They are content that deliver their message in almost poetic form, and are able to hold people’s attention as a result.
Videos created in this style are becoming wildly popular, not only because technology is making them easier to create, but because it is simply a better, more vivid way to exhibit information that is otherwise boring and dull. Take as a case in point Shots of Awe‘s video on the “the augmented reality solution,” a video posted only a week ago. It already has almost 20,000 views. Or, try typing in “Pale Blue Dot,” the title of Carl Sagan’s mesmerizing speech, on YouTube. The first three results are videos made in the stylistic form mentioned above, and they collectively have over 10 million views.
There is some debate today as to whether video will supplant writing as the content of choice for consumers. In many respects, writing has already been replaced. After all, consider this: statistically, you are one of the very few to have read this entire article.