Why Podcasts and Videos Are a Poor Medium for Learning and Taking Action
I’ve often thought about launching a Leaving Work Behind podcast.
Why wouldn’t I? Everywhere you turn bloggers are talking about the power of podcasting. It seems a week doesn’t pass without another big name blogger launching their own podcast.
The same goes for video — anyone who’s anyone is on YouTube, publishing content at a prolific rate.
And then there’s me; publishing about one video per month on average.
I’ve always run into an issue with audio and video as a medium for learning and taking action. Put simply, I think they are deficient. In the vast majority of cases, they play second fiddle to written content in terms of efficiency, quality and ease of assimilation.
In this post I want to explain why I feel this way and present you with a challenge to improve your learning, and ultimately, your success.
The Problem With Podcasts and Videos
If you’re familiar with my writing here on Leaving Work Behind then you will know that I am all about efficiency. I like to get things done as quickly as possible.
That’s why podcasts and audio drive me round the bend — for the most part, they are chock full of completely redundant information. Whether it’s introductions, advertisements, promotions, or simply a lack of clear focus, you’ll find that a huge proportion of your time listening to podcasts and watching videos is of no benefit whatsoever.
How many times have you found yourself tracking through a video in order to find the section that actually covers what you want to learn? How many times have you attempted to sit down and listen to a podcast without doing anything else to keep you occupied? That in itself reveals just how useless so much of the content is.
A good example of this, to pick on myself rather than a fellow blogger, is my post on finding freelance writing jobs on online job boards. It contains a whopping 26 minute video in which I go through a bunch of job listings on the ProBlogger Job Board. What would you rather do: Watch the 26 video, or read a concise blog post that lists in detail all of the key points made in the video, complete with relevant screenshots?
I made that video because as a blogger I felt that I should be doing more video. But in reality I was doing my readers a disservice. They shouldn’t have to watch a 26 minute video to get my advice — it should have been presented to them in a blog post that would have taken a quarter of the time to digest.
Finally, consider the way in which audio and video is typically structured. There is no universal structure for these mediums — from one podcast or video to the next you don’t know what to expect. There is no skipping through the fluff to get to the good stuff without a lot of guesswork. You can’t “scan” a podcast or video very effectively at all.
Meanwhile, a good blog post distills vital information down into specific points, clearly delineated by sub-headers and other graphical/typographical elements. You can skim through a good blog post in 30 seconds and know if it has anything to offer you. The same cannot be said of audio or video.
The Power of the Written Word
Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind. (Tweet this)
~ Rudyard Kipling
Let’s be honest – everyone loves to talk. Put me in front of a microphone and I’ll waffle on all day. And to compound the issue, editing audio or video is a relatively laborious process. Once you’re finished talking for far longer than you should have, you leave all the fluff in place because getting rid of it would be such a pain.
On the other hand, the beauty of writing is that it encourages you to be concise. You can easily hone things down to a fine point. You can cut out of all of the bumf and retain only the core points that you want to make.
Think for a moment of the last time you tried to read something with someone. You probably found that they were either faster or slower than you. Either you or them may have turned the page or moved the screen too early, resulting in one of your losing your place. My point is this: Written content can be easily digested at the reader’s pace — the same cannot be said of audio or video. The stop-start of pausing video or audio is a poor substitute for the seamless and natural ability of human beings to digest written content at whatever speed they desire.
Finally — and in my opinion most importantly — written content is by far the best medium for absorbing information. Read the steps I outline in my post on how to act on what you read in books and blogs and consider how you would adapt that to videos and podcasts. It could be done, but it would take much longer and ultimately be a frustrating experience.
What About the Benefits?
As I alluded to at the top of this post, there is a lot to say about podcasts and videos in terms of building your site’s exposure.
I get that, and I’m not about to tell you not to produce audio and video for your blog if you think that it will help. After all, if the people want it, shouldn’t you produce it for them?
Perhaps. But producing audio and video for your readers doesn’t mean that you should follow in their footsteps. My position with regards to podcasts and videos is simple: My time is too valuable to listen to and/or watch them. I know that I can learn far more from an equivalent book or blog post in a fraction of the time. The last thing I want to be doing is staring at a screen, waiting to learn something that I could be reading without hesitation.
In terms of Leaving Work Behind, I am not planning on launching a podcast or doing loads more videos any time soon, because I don’t think it aligns with what I feel is best for you — the reader. I acknowledge that my actions (or inaction) may prevent me from reaching people that will otherwise not know of me, but my primary goal is to serve my existing readers as best I can.
At the end of the day, whether you publish written content, podcasts or videos does not ultimately define your success — your brand and the quality of your message does. That’s what really makes the difference. With that in mind, I’m not going to lose any sleep over the fact that I don’t do podcasts or videos.
I should say before I wrap this up that it is not my intention to hate on podcasts and videos. I have consumed my fair share in my time and have learned useful tips and information from them. Some podcasts are awesome and some bloggers produce great videos too.
But there are better ways to consume information. Unless these guys are producing stuff that is completely unique and unavailable in written form (which is highly unlikely), I’ll skip it.
There are exceptions to the above — for instance, certain technical information can be better conveyed by video. However, most technical how-to guides are far easier to digest in a step-by-step written format with screenshots, rather than video. For the most part, written content is king.
In my previous post I mentioned that I’m on an information diet — I don’t watch or read the news, engage in personal social media or read blog posts. All I do is read anything that is sent to me from trusted sources, along with highly-rated books by qualified people.
It’s been incredibly liberating and I don’t see myself going back from it. In short, I don’t miss any of the content that I was consuming previously.
Now I challenge you to do the same. Go on an information diet and see how it fits you. Cut out all news, tabloid articles and personal social media (you can still do the blog stuff, but keep it to a minimum). Read only those blogs that you find most informative, and only if they publish articles that you feel could really help you with your current project(s).
Next, buy a book on a topic that you would like to know more about, from which you can learn something that you can apply to your online business. Then follow my steps on how to act on what you read for that book.
If you normally listen to podcasts when you’re running, in the car, etc., buy audio and hard copy versions of the book and listen to it when you’re otherwise engaged, then take notes when you’re able to.
Continue your diet until you finish the book (this should take you no longer than two weeks), then ask yourself one simple question: “Did I learn more in this period of time that I can apply to my business than I typically would?”
I would be surprised if the answer is no.
What Are Your Thoughts?
I’d love to read what you think about podcasts, video and written content and how they compare. Are you an avid podcast listener or YouTube addict, or do you agree that written content is the best way to go? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!