The Next Great Debate: Will Video Be the New Norm?

February 27, 2018 Rev. Daniel Ross

blog-video debate.pngPeter Frank and I get along pretty well. In fact, if we ever had the chance to meet in person, I am sure we would both be more than happy to get coffee together and talk technology, media, and theology all day long. Peter is pretty insightful on all that and is a great guy to boot. In fact, you should check out his blog post about seven tech trends for churches to watch for in 2018. Well, except for one part of it. You can ignore the first trend, because Peter is wrong about it.

The Proof

This is not Peter’s fault. We have been hearing for years that video is becoming the new norm for consuming content on the internet. Ever since Facebook started allowing YouTube videos to directly play on their platform, this chorus has gone up. And Peter rightly points out that video is the most likely to be shared of all media content on places like Facebook.

But there is a caveat. Only videos with text or captions are likely to be watched. In fact, if you want your video to be watched and shared, there are five key attributes to work into it: make it aspirational, DIY, simple, short, and voiceless. Why voiceless? Because many people cannot figure out how to turn off autoplay, and few things irritate users more than loud videos suddenly making sound on their phone or computer. People hate autoplay. Google went so far as to make the September 2017 update of Chrome automatically mute autoplay videos. (Now if it could just block autoplay videos altogether. . . .)

My argument is not that video is going away. Chances are you could find me watching random YouTube videos just as much as Netflix in my free time. Rather, it is that video will not become the norm. For one, “young people” (as news organizations like to call millennials and people younger than them) actually prefer to read their news rather than watch it. Granted, news is only a portion of what is out there, but there is a corollary. Young people like the ease of use of text over video.

Think about it for a second: you are watching a video when somebody comes into your office. You either do not stop the video and then have to find your spot later, or stop the video and restart it. Many people start to find these annoying after a bit. However, if you were reading something, it is simply a matter of looking up and talking with the person. You know where your spot was, there is not extra action to pause something, and you could even be listening to music to help your concentration (e.g. Pandora’s “Classical for the Soul” station).

A Quick Case Study

A great case study for this is Fox Sports Digital (basically, the website arm of Fox Sports). In June 2017, Fox Sports went video-only—a move that was announced to employees back in January of that year. This was after a concerted and successful effort to bring more readers to the site, which led to solid profits after a long period of losses before January 2017. Normally in fall, there is an increase in traffic because the NFL and college football are gearing up. But website traffic dropped 88 percent from early summer to early fall. (Pick those jaws up from the floor.)

This is not a harbinger that video is on the way to being the norm. It is the exact opposite. Videos take longer to consume than written material. Often, popular videos being hosted on third-party sites like YouTube have annoying commercials to deal with at the beginning or, if the video is long enough, in the middle. And videos are difficult to search if they have multiple points, whereas you can simply search for headers in written material.

Some Good Things about Video

Don’t get me wrong—there are several advantages video does have. For one, videos can be made in less time than it takes to write something out. This post would have taken me half the time or less to make if it was a video instead. All I would have had to do is had my research readily available, jotted down a quick outline and key points, and then hit “record” on my computer or phone. Writing forces a person to think through what they want to say. It easily shows repetition of words or phrases, which means more editing. And, overall, it takes longer to type a word than to speak it.

Videos, as Peter rightly points out, also portray the realness of a person or organization. The written word is impersonal. That is why sarcasm rarely comes across. However, a video of a person or group gives clues about body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Plus, a wall of text is downright intimidating.

The Concluding Point

Videos are awesome. They are a great way to easily create and push content. But they will not be the norm. Instead, to be the most effective, they will remain part of a multilayered content strategy. In fact, video is a great way to push traffic toward written pieces on a website! Peter is going to nail me about the increase of video when we debate this . . . . on video. However, Peter—and you, reader—the point of that video is to not only talk about the subject at hand, but also to hopefully get viewers to come read this article (and hopefully others) on Concordia Technology’s blog! Yep, we are going to be doing a video in the hope that it will lead people to read.

So, what does this all mean for you? Short videos are great supplements to have on your website or content to post on social media. On your website, you could have a short welcome video showing staff members. On the page that talks about worship, you could have some short snippets of a worship service. (Just be careful about all that copyright stuff.) Do you have a paragraph or two about parking or entrances? Why not also have a short video overlaid with a friendly voice and text?

But don’t just scrub your website of all text and go video-only or even video-mostly. Bad things will happen if you do.

See Daniel and Peter duel it out over the future of video!

Join us for a live discussion on Facebook on Thursday, March 1, 2018, at 11:30 a.m. (CST).

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