Chatter Part Two: Text vs Video Content

In another installment of “things I like or don’t like compared to what everybody else seems to like,” I think it’s time I talked about the pivot to video everybody seems to be making. I think a lot of websites, organizations, and other groups or individuals are rushing to video and abandoning text too quickly, or without really thinking about it. I’ll admit there’s some bias here: text is my whole skill set. I also however still prefer reading to text when consuming media, and there is both sound reasoning and data behind that preference. It’s not even that simple though, there are a few video-oriented publications I like, but only a few.

Everywhere I look people seem to be saying video is the future. All the major publications, including gaming-oriented ones, want more people who are skilled with video (they still want more writers too). I think VICE just let a lot of people go in a presumed pivot to video. Video-as-the-future is obviously a trend, but I think some of the trend is just hype.

There are a few good reasons for people to stick to text. A couple studies have shown many young people actually prefer reading text to watching video news. The biggest reason is it’s quicker. Humans read faster than they speak and listen, and if all a video delivers is textual information, then it’s better to just read it. The other main reason is because it’s more efficient for smartphones or tablets. Text doesn’t eat up as much data or battery charge as video, and doesn’t take as long to load. One person joked to me that they still only read physical newspapers because newspaper ads don’t crash your web browser.

I think that’s really what it is: advertising. Advertisers have it in their heads that video advertising is better for some reason (maybe there are numbers to prove it, I don’t know), so they want the publications they fund to pivot to video. Internet advertising is a whole other can of worms I should probably make a post about some other time though.

I don’t hate all video though. I just think a lot of video going up these days doesn’t actually take advantage of the nature of moving pictures. A lot of the video I see on mainstream news websites is literally just text over static images. It’s like film in the early 1900’s before people figured out how to utilize the advantages of film.

Now I’m just gonna go into personal preferences in this paragraph, but I also watch basically no streamers and almost no gaming YouTubers. I certainly don’t watch any of the YouTubers who just upload 30 minutes of unedited gameplay and off-the-cuff commentary. I guess it’s just the media of a generation after mine, I’d already latched onto other things by the time it came along. I’m really uninterested in the videos of just one person talking in front of a camera, but I’ve heard how those can make just as much money as a video of gameplay for YouTubers who’ve already built up dedicated fanbases. I personally need to see at least two or three people bouncing words and opinions off of each other.

Really though, I just miss The 1up Show. I understand it was incredibly expensive to produce and most YouTubers don’t actually have a ton of resources, but I’m still sad The 1up Show’s format never took on. Just before the YouTube explosion, The 1up Show gave us carefully edited gameplay footage on top of engaging conversations by the editors. Those gaming preview and review segments were really a lot like podcast conversations, only spliced with just enough gameplay footage to complete the idea of what each game was like. The staff that made that show has tried it repeatedly in different venues under different producers but it never really stuck with anyone. Currently they’re working on an ambitious gaming documentary series (remember Icons on G4?). Jeremy Parish, who used to work with the 1up Show staff, currently runs a YouTube channel that shows traces of the 1up Show style, but with resources closer to those of your standard YouTuber. It’s documentary videos about old games, but produced in a pretty slick and professional style that efficiently uses gameplay footage and photography.

The other YouTube channels I follow are all ones I feel actually take advantage of video. One of them is actually VICE, which is basically just TV news delivered through YouTube. Others though use a lot of graphics and animations to really illustrate a point. I understand that’s more expensive than most YouTubers can actually afford (most of the channels I follow are Patreon-funded), but I still feel like there are some lessons of efficiency to be learned. Efficiency is the whole reason I go to text over video so often.


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