Video online or text?
August 1, 2013 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Anecdotally, everyone I know hates watching information in video format, but all the online marketing stats (that are easily google-able), say that every demographic, across the board, prefers video.

I'm not saying people never watch video- my friends and I watch how-tos for craft projects and other things that are hard to describe in text, but they're usually in addition to text instructions- but for news, advertising, etc, we nearly universally hate sitting through a video.

Someone obviously feels otherwise: marketing pages all suggest video, yahoo stories seem to have more and more video, and even news sites seem to have more and more video.

Why the discrepancy? Do I just know a peculiar group of people?
posted by small_ruminant to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

I like to read something because I can skip to the part that's relevant for me, and I can go at a pace that suits me.

Video is stuck at the pace, and I can't skip around.

I do this when I need help with something in Excel, I'll always search for a step-by-step text/picture explanation and skip over the video.

I could be an age thing. I'm kind of old.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:31 AM on August 1, 2013 [8 favorites]

See, among my group of friends, the consensus is thus: video is fundamentally different than text or sound in that YOU CAN'T DO IT AT WORK. Which people hate (except, I dunno, cardiothoracic surgeons?), because sometimes, you want to do Non-Work-Related Shit at work, and when the very format of The Shit in Question precludes doing so, you wind up disliking it. I can see where video would be preferred in some venues than in others for this very reason - so it really depends on where the videos are being watched.
posted by julthumbscrew at 11:33 AM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

What stats are you looking at? Who published them, and what is their stake in the matter? Totally a shot in the dark here, but could the "findings" have to do with the amount of money one might be willing to pay a company to produce a video for them, as opposed to simply having text?

For whatever it's worth, I'm with you and will go well out of my way to avoid any video (that doesn't involve dogs). Accidentally clicking something that turns out to be a video results in copious backclicking and kvetching on my part.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:34 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I can't search video for the particular part I need to know. Also noise= ick.

But I'd love to hear from some marketing people- it would make sense if everyone except Ages 40-55 liked video, (our age range), but google results suggest that EVERY group likes video.

I don't know what stake the websites had in the game, but if someone would link to some stats showing something different from what I found, I'd love to see it.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:36 AM on August 1, 2013

I frequently skip links on the blue if they're video; unless the point of the link is "watch this amazing thing" or "look at this beautiful film." If it's a "watch this video to learn about such-and-such an important topic" I usually pass--whereas I'll happily pop open long text documents and plow through them.

Same thing happens when I'm browsing news sites. I'll often see a headline link to some story that makes me think "hmmm, that's interesting" and then if I see a video loading after I click the link I'll just kill the page. So it's definitely a YMMV thing.

On the other hand, if I'm doing something handyperson-y or crafty around the house I'll often check out YouTube to see if someone's put up a "how-to" video. In other words, if it's something where you'd want to teach someone by saying "watch me do it a few times" rather than saying "here's how you do it" a video is often the best medium.
posted by yoink at 11:36 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: cute animal videos, of course, are a completely different matter
posted by small_ruminant at 11:37 AM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

One of the big websites I use for my job is transitioning to be something wholly different, and they are only releasing tutorials in webinar and video format. It's the worst and I hate it because you can't search them, you can't print them out for easy student reference, and I can't waste 30 minutes watching videos to get one answer. I am pretty young but videos vs. written versions (usually with more content) is one issue that makes me want barricade myself at my desk behind 19th century monographs.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:38 AM on August 1, 2013 [9 favorites]

I think it depends what you're talking about. For ecommerce and kickstarter type things, video is great for bringing a product to life. If you're selling something fun then video is a better fit. Video allows you to create content that can be interesting rather than just descriptive (think BlendTec).

Excel tutorials, yes, much better in print.
posted by dripdripdrop at 11:38 AM on August 1, 2013

I was gonna agree on the "cute animal" thing, but then I thought, "If I could read a text description of cute animals doing cute things, I WOULD TOTALLY DO THAT INSTEAD". Video just sucks (and I'm 31, so... yeah, it's not an old fogey thing). I am convinced that video's ostensible "popularity" is due to poor market research (I bet I'd be happier about watching videos in some glossy new computer research lab than at my desk, or my house, or on my phone, or anywhere).
posted by julthumbscrew at 11:40 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: dripdripdrop: how do you get people to click on it in the first place? One of the stats was that if someone watches a video, they are XX% more likely to buy, or stay on the page, or whatever. THAT I can believe. But those stats have already narrowed down your demographic to the one willing to sit through a video in the first place.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:43 AM on August 1, 2013

Video is Stage II for me - I have seen your product in a web search, and have first skimmed, then read your site's HTML marketing material, and looked at your galleries. This was all stage one. Stage three is I've downloaded the .pdf white-sheets, and if available, a product manual. Before that, tho... stage II. Watch the videos demoing the product or service, hear the head big-brain in charge talk about the craftgineering that went into the design and science, maybe, but mostly to see performance stats and how the thing looks in action.

You can't replace the galleries and product descriptions and little html charts showing off the stats with a video. You cannot skip Stage I. You cannot expect me to pull the trigger or even talk to a sales wonk without some in-depth geekery freely available for Stage III. Stage II (videos and interactive demos) are a lure - but you still need a hook (Stage I) and a reel to pull me in (Stage III).

Without the total package, I will not be contacting nobody at your outfit.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:50 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thinking about this more, it occurs to me that I see a lot of this in my field of instructional design - but mostly from the higher-ups in a company. This is vastly oversimplifying things, but a lot of the bigwigs seem to think that a quick and cheap talking head video of them will be just as effective at getting across important info as more interactive means of communication, and tend to think this is a good way of maintaining visibility among the rank and file. Moreover, I often get the feeling that a lot of them think of video (and podcasts to some extent) as "hip" and "exciting" in ways that text isn't.

However, in my experience, people on the receiving end of this communication almost uniformly tend to prefer a text-based job aid, email, or web page because a) they're busy doing their day-to-day job and don't have time for videos, b) mandatory video is RARELY hip or exciting, and c) most people would rather have what info they need when they need it.

So I'd be really curious about the subjects being questioned in the marketing studies you're referring to; maybe these studies reflect more about what content producers think people would like than what actual consumers want?
posted by DingoMutt at 11:50 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's a great tool to convert someone on the fence. So, if they're already on your page, the video seals the deal. I worked for an ecommerce platform. We always had some kind of video on our home page. You can talk on and on about ease of use, features, blah blah blah, but in 30-60 seconds you can actually show how that works. Did anyone share or view that video outside that page, no.

Then there's the elusive "viral" video that every marketing client asks for. This only works if you have a cool product. Red Bull does great with video content, from the extreme sports to dropping a guy from space. They get zillions of views. You can't necessarily correlate that with immediate action (just like a TV commercial) but it's driving awareness. And, if you get lucky, it's interesting enough that people will share it.

Video can work well on FB also, where people are a little more likely to hit play (and FB is rumored to be bringing video ads to people's feeds).

It's not a one or the other thing, text and video and images and everything else should be part of the whole plan. If video's working well for you, invest more.
posted by dripdripdrop at 11:52 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am an online marketer. IANYOM. As dripdripdrop noted, video tends to work for a few fairly narrow areas: consumer products (something super engaging, often a brand campaign) branding for an item witha long lead time (say: which college you want to go to) or something consumable like music, or for social media campaigns where you have a video you hope will go viral. Most companies do not have the skillset to pull off a video that's both short and engaging enough that people will want to watch rather than read.

My experience is that most people do NOT prefer video. It's definitely not my first choice for an advertising campaign if my goal is to actually sell wigets, which is what online marketing is typically used for. (Good old TV and radio commericals tend to be used for branding and other less quantifiable marketing campaigns. Some print, some banner ads, some video - but TV and radio are where you're going to make a really strong outbound push and raise category/product awareness.) Google is trying to sell the hell out of video in general because they want to make more advertising money off YouTube. Video only things and webinars drive me and most people I work with nuts because they're such a big time commitment and you can't quickly scan the video for the information you need.

I too would love some links to the type of pages you're reading - I might be able to talk more specifically about those. (And it would be interesting to know if Google has done case studies that are behind any of those stats.)
posted by data hound at 11:58 AM on August 1, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all. If anyone has links to data showing what people DO prefer, more or less, I'd love to see them!
posted by small_ruminant at 12:03 PM on August 1, 2013

I have seen social media engagement numbers for a few major celebrities, and even there, photo and text posts tend to do much better. This is real engagement data, not just some consultant's opinion. I think their video does much better than it does for other categories, but it still lags behind other types of content (though of course it's all on a case-by-case basis -- the engagement for different posts is widely variable anyway).
posted by primethyme at 12:03 PM on August 1, 2013

I kind of wonder if this isn't a person-led thing, but a corporate/marketing/advertising led thing.

For example I know that google likes video search results, and I've seen "include video content" in SEO pointers.

Similarly, social media blasts that include video can be readily engaged with, which provides more metrics for how your audience is responding to your posts.

But I've never actually seen any people who say they prefer watching a video.

I think part of it is that, as the internet becomes more a place for products and content consumption, encouraging people to do that through video makes the internet more like media that corporations already understand, like TV. So it's not so much that users are clamoring for video, but that companies find video easier to integrate into pre-existing ways of doing business.
posted by Sara C. at 12:11 PM on August 1, 2013

Much of the anecdotal evidence in this thread could be the result of all of us hanging out with early adopters.

In my experience with a variety of tech-adoption user profiles, videos are great for engaging with the vast majority of internet users, especially the late majority users who are uncomfortable with change but are clever enough to get everything they need out of a short video explanation. So who are your targets? Are they super-savvy web-masters? Early adopters (like probably you, all your friends, and most AskMe users)? Or are they my sister that just got a twitter account? Or are they my Dad who sends email forwards?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:33 PM on August 1, 2013

One of the problems I have is that it's inconvenient for people with vision or hearing disabilities.
posted by b33j at 1:40 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

For the love of God, if you're going to do video please include a text alternative, transcript, or captions. Though my hearing isn't completely gone I still have trouble following videos, and even when the audio track is nice and clear it still takes longer to watch a video than it does to read some text.
posted by Soliloquy at 1:48 PM on August 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

I haaaaaate video. I can't watch video easily on my phone, and tumblr video pretty much breaks my browser, and if I'm in a public place I'm either using a public (slow) computer or not wanting to deal with sound. I have weird hearing and miss a lot without subtitles, and I can ctrl+f a document. There are many reasons I would prefer text.
I have a clue who those people who prefer video are: people who don't like reading or have difficulty reading. You have to read competently and enjoy reading and skimming information in text to want to use the nonvideo internet. Lots of people aren't very skilled readers, have a reading -related disability, or just don't enjoy reading as an activity. I think that the level of nerd you had to be to use computers and the internet pre-video was probably correlated with literacy and enjoyment of reading. Now that computing is much easier for the average person due to advances in devices and operating systems, there's this whole other demographic of people who now need to be served content they
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:22 PM on August 1, 2013

I make web videos for a living and I hate watching web videos. There are certain tutorial types I think are better on video and sometimes I get in the mood for a YouTube rabbit hole, but I generally avoid clicking on links I know are to videos. For all the reasons listed above.

I don't personally know anyone who prefers videos over text for the same info except where the subject is more effectively conveyed through video.

I haven't seen the stats you refer to, but I wouldn't have any trouble believing they come from somewhere that has a stake in making web videos.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 3:46 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Possibly anecdata, but the publication I work for has lower web traffic for straight-up video posts (even if it's "Look at this crazy/cute/boggling thing!" for a minute-long video) than it does for a bunch of text and a few photos or stills from a video.

I haaaaaaaate video because I read a lot faster than I can watch anything. If I click on an article link and it takes me to a video, I back out really quickly. Even if I'm trying to figure out how something works -- those little "How to work your remote control" videos annoy the hell out of me. Just give me WORDS!
posted by vickyverky at 3:56 PM on August 1, 2013

I hate video as well, especially for anything instructional unless it's a quick demonstration of how to do something physical which is just really difficult to explain in words - for example, three-dimensional folds in origami, complicated stitches in embroidery, etc. Like others, I avoid clicking on videos. I hate TED talks. I don't like listening to the radio either. I can't go at my own pace, I have to go at the pace set for me. There's also the noise/obviousness factors, esp at work. It actually reassures me to see so many people saying they also dislike video; I'd thought I was a freak.

Anyway, as to why people think video is so cool? My own theory is that it's the next iteration of business trying to piggyback on social media success. First you had businesses starting up blogs when blogs were really cool. Now you have businesses starting up twitter and facebook accounts, and trying to make videos to capture people's interest. They're all hoping that the word of mouth thing and "this is cool" viral thing will happen for them and that it's related to format rather than content.

As far as research on the subject, I was going to suggest you search the journal databases offered by your library but it doesn't look like they offer much, actually. The CA State Library offers a few more, including Business Source Complete, but it looks like you have to be in the building to actually use them. No remote access. That's rather shabby, I have to say! (Sorry, librarian pride coming into play here.) If you memail me an email address I can send you some articles. (Oh and also not stalking, just checked your profile to see where you are for the library recommendations.)
posted by Athanassiel at 5:44 PM on August 1, 2013

I almost always prefer text to video. I'm in my mid-twenties, I don't think it's an age thing. Videos are annoying as fuck. I feel like they're always either pandering to me or trying to sell me something. Or both. And they take forever to get through!
posted by windykites at 7:23 PM on August 1, 2013

The exception is for dextrous manual skills where the video is replacing in-person instruction.
posted by windykites at 7:25 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

1. MeFites universally love reading
2. What people report they do and what they actually do can be quite different
3. I hate instructional videos
4. (I watch instructional videos occasionally)
posted by puffmoike at 7:42 PM on August 1, 2013

Do marketers take into account where people are surfing? If you're at work, you can't click on a video because they also tend to have audio. Boom, everyone knows you're watching a movie trailer or cute animal video or playing a game or watching crap on You Tube when you're supposed to be working. Not gonna happen.

I hate reading text I'm enjoying, and then being commanded to go somewhere else - even if it's just a link to another site. There's something in me that resists being told what to do. I like the printed word, I enjoy reading, and I enjoy doing it at a certain pace. Video takes away your autonomy and demands that you attend to information in a new way that feels disruptive, at least to me.

An aquaintance just sent me his e-book and asked me to give him some feedback before he published it. I told him the same thing - just give me a book, if that's what you're writing. Just because it's interactive and you can load the text down with tons of links to other content, doesn't mean you should. (I still haven't watched the five videos he sent me of him presiding over his workshops. It just sounds boring. I am SO NOT GONNA click on that shit! But I enjoyed his book. Go figure.)
posted by cartoonella at 8:40 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I wrote you a long comment yesterday, but my phone ate it :-( Trying again now.

So I work in media and I have *a lot* of experience with this issue. Your instincts are right, and a lot of what you're being told here in this thread is true. "People love video and we should make lots of videos and put them online" is a widely-held view, and it's total nonsense.

People do love watching video online. They like cute and funny stuff (cats and kids and stand-up), they like compelling professional-quality entertainment, they like short product demos like the Zappos staff modelling sneakers, and they like dramatic video of e.g. war and natural disasters.

But, people hate marketing material in any form, including video. People mostly dislike video when it's used for informational purposes: video is not good at conveying facts and figures. And they hate that they can't control the speed, and that they can't watch it at work, or without disturbing people around them.

Why then are companies so keen to make video? Partly I think it's just ego: people (especially older people, who are typically the corporate decision-makers) think TV and film are glamorous, and so the idea of commissioning/creating video is exciting to them. Partly it's because video looks great displayed in a boardroom, which is where spending decisions get made. And, there's a whole industry of video production houses and marketing/advertising agencies who have a financial incentive to expand their market, and who therefore put a lot of energy into persuading execs, with studies etc., that they need video. And for media/news organizations, video is seen as the solution to their current business model problems: pre-roll advertising gets a much higher CPM than other forms of online advertising, and the media see it as a way to return to their former glory days, with a passive, captive audience generating lots of ad revenue.

So, I'd chalk up the obsession with video to a number of factors -- basically a mix of ego, successful marketing by interested parties, corporate wishful thinking and short-sightedness, and a kind of reflexive nostalgia.
posted by Susan PG at 11:02 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I write non-fiction books and luncheon speeches are an accepted (and expected) part of the marketing mix. I convert the speeches into videos, because I spend a lot of time polishing and rehearsing. Turning the speeches into videos helps me recoup that effort and helps me improve my presentations.

I have done this eight times and have found that:
> There is an "implied endorsement" effect that you get if you deliver a presentation to a prestigious organization. That effect carries over to the video.
> The same video hosted on Vimeo and YouTube will get far more views on the latter.
> Audio is important because many people just listen to the video while doing something else.

That said, I am in the older demographic and share this thread's dislike for video, mainly because I cannot search/skim and must consume video at someone else's pace.
posted by quidividi at 3:16 PM on August 3, 2013

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