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The Two Faces Of The Web

Everywhere I read about how video traffic is dominating the Internet. I’ve been seeing lots of updates on my Facebook and Twitter streams urging entrepreneurs to start videoing.

While I believe video should be part of your marketing mix, I realized something over the last few weeks about the strengths and weaknesses of video vs text.

I’ve been on the Web since it began back in 1995. For you young whippersnappers, back then the Internet was strictly a text-and-pictures affair. In 1998 I remember tuning into the first lo-fi RealAudio streams, and then in the early 2000s I watched with amazement early lo-res videos.

When I access the web today with my Mac, it’s definitely a full-color multimedia affair. I have Internet Radio going on constantly. I rarely turn on my television, preferring to watch my favorite shows through websites that I have bookmarked. When I consult the Web, I flip-flip-flip through websites, truly “surfing” the medium.

When the Kindle 3 came out back in August 2010, I rushed to be one of the first to get one in Canada. I absolutely love this black-and-white e-ink reader. I read on average a book a week on the thing (for business and for pleasure). Before my Kindle, I would be lucky to read a book a month.

One interesting feature of the Kindle is the ability to access websites anywhere via its wi-fi or 3G connectivity. However it does not do multimedia (video or audio), it is a text-only reader.

At first this was disconcerting. I’m used to my Web with a bright white background, nicely formatted, with pictures springing to life as I click on them.

This is when I realized that the Web has another face.

The front face, the one that most people know and love, is bright, white, flashing, shining. This face of the Web competes for our attention by shouting, jumping up and down, grabbing us by the shirttail.  In this Web, color, sound and video is king.

But there is another, more reflective, pensive, even serious side to the Web: a rich vein of deep, textual thoughtful prose that feeds my intelligence and my imagination.

When I view any major newspaper or magazine website through its mobile or text-only counterpart, time slows down for me. I don’t jump around from article to article or site to site as I do on a computer. I prefer to read through articles, pausing to consider the ideas, reflecting on the content.

The amateur psychologist in me started to realize the power and the weakness of each medium.

Video takes control of our two dominant senses, visual and hearing, pumping its message past the inner critic that stands guard over our reason, and shooting it straight into the brain to trigger an emotional reaction.

Reading text takes more thinking effort. I have to work to create the visual and the audio. This effort engages the analytical brain, bringing me deeper into the message. It is the higher, analytical brain that triggers the lower emotional orders of my cerebrum. The sum of all of this effort is that I find I remember a lot more when I read something as compared to watching it in a video.

The immediacy of video is its power and also its weakness. Because video requires less thinking power, it also has less sticking power. I may remember a video clip, or even the emotion it triggered, but not as much the message, the meaning or the details.

With text, I can remember specific passages. I rarely “bookmark” videos to view again at a later date. But I will flag articles, blog posts and other written media to re-read and analyze later on.

Then again, I may be a weird old fuddy duddy, wired for ink on paper (or e-ink on Kindle nowadays).

I like writing. I don’t have to go through all the trouble of finding a visual “hook” that will get my video viewed. I prefer sitting here in my comfortable jeans and old sweatshirt, working over my text until it precisely conveys what I want to communicate. Give me the choice between writing a blog post or creating a video, and I will choose writing.

The message I want to pass on to you is this: Be aware of the two faces of the web, and use them in tandem to your advantage. The power of video is to grab the attention of web surfers by piquing their emotions. Then provide thought-provoking articles, blog entries and other text to demonstrate your expertise and build trust.

Go ahead. Make your voice heard, using whatever medium that resonates the most with you. As long as you are communicating, you can’t go wrong.

For more information

The “Google Moblizer” tool converts any website into a text-only version. Great for the iPhone, Kindle and smartphones. Will significantly cut down on your data bill.

I’ve built a “Mobile-formatted” website directory that I use as a homepage to access my favorite text sites via Kindle. You’re welcome to use it too, on any device or browser:

This Cisco white paper provides fascinating statistics about the volume of video on the Internet (and also sparked a whole sea of articles on the subject):

My article: “Build Your Credibility By Becoming A Content Creator”

Amazon page about the Kindle:

And an article I recommend about how to blog better:
Ten Blogging Myths You Must Ignore” by Onibalusi Bamidele

Just for fun, to “prove” I’ve been on the net more than 15 years now, here’s the Internet Archive cache of one of my first websites:
(please be patient, sometimes the system times out when you access the page)

Image credit: jeff_golden via Flickr
Direct Link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffanddayna/4678056078/
Used under Creative Commons 2.0 licence

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