Why Podcasts and Videos Are a Poor Medium for Learning and Taking Action

Photo Credit: Lego-LM

Photo Credit: Lego-LM

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.

A Caveat

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.

A Challenge

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!

Comments

  1. says

    Not sure about that Tom it depends on the subject i suppose, some people get real fired up about a podcast especially when it has do with something like sports or entertainment , espn is an example, if you were trying something like weight loss most likely a difficult topic to get much attention for pod casting just my opinion

    • says

      Hey Scott,

      That’s why the headline of this post is “Why Podcasts and Videos Are a Poor Medium for Learning and Taking Action”, not “Why Podcasts and Videos Are a Poor Medium for Entertainment” ;-)

      Cheers,

      Tom

  2. says

    I agree with you. Text is much faster for scanning. But listening to a well done podcast gives you easy access to knew information that you did not actually look for. I like to listen to podcasts as entertainment, still knowing it always contains good advice and some hints that are interesting for me or my business.

    On the other hand, you clearly stated the important part of the blog post that is too often missing: pictures and screenshots! Just go through your own posts and see how many screenshots or pictures you have explaining things in detail. :-)

    • says

      Hey Rico,

      I think that’s a good attitude — I’m certainly not suggesting that people shouldn’t listen to podcasts for entertainment purposes — especially if they think they may get something out of it as an added bonus.

      If you could give me some examples of where I have not used screenshots when I should have I’d love to know about them so I can improve in the future. For the most part my articles don’t require screenshots (i.e. they’re not technical how-tos).

      Cheers,

      Tom

  3. Alex says

    I agree but podcasts are great for beginners who just want to become familiar with industry language etc. it’s like getting to hangout with a buddy that’s good at what you wanna do.

  4. says

    Hey Tom – Love LWB and your content here, but I think you’re a off on this one…

    You make the argument that the written word is more effective/efficient – but that may be true for you and not others. Trying to convince everyone else to change the way they learn from content seems futile. (and wrong if podcasts/video are better for them, no?)

    You could argue (and do) that if you like listening to podcasts in the car, at the gym, etc. that you might be better off listening to well-reviewed and popular audio books. The problem with this is that audio books (via something like Audible) only make it to audio if they have some mass market appeal. They’re often not niche-specific enough to be actionable and/or are written by someone that may be a bit too high-level to be applicable to most that are looking to “leave work behind”.

    Podcast publishing is much more personal than writing a blog post. It’s great that one may have time to think about and review blog posts but (from a listener’s perspective) you can tell pretty quickly when someone giving business advice on a podcast knows what they’re talking about through experience or whether they’re just regurgitating tired advice they’ve heard elsewhere without understanding what they’re really saying. It’s much easier to qualify/dis-qualify someone on a podcast where it might be a more difficult thing to do if they happen to be a decent/good writer.

    Additionally, being a podcast publisher can give you a reason to reach out to and get content from someone around something specific. They might not want to sit down and write a guest post for you (i.e. Seth Godin, Gary V, etc.) but they might answer a few questions on a 15-30 minute podcast interview.

    • says

      I’m with Justin on this one. I’m also rather impressed with how he could disagree while still remaining so positive in his opposing viewpoints! :)

      Here’s the line in your post that really got my attention:
      “On the other hand, the beauty of writing is that it encourages you to be concise.”

      I found that line a tad bit ironic, especially considering the context. So… how long was this post??? LOL ;)

      Here’s a couple points that I’m not sure were covered… and I’m not sure because I admit I started to fad a bit and skimmed through the last half of the article…

      First – READING a post REQUIRES at least a certain amount of focus. It is almost impossible, at least for me, to do anything else while I am reading.

      Yet I can listen to a podcast while I eat, drink, walk, exercise, lay down and relax, or in many cases, while I work – at least when working on stuff that does not require a lot of focus.

      I also find listening to podcasts to be very entertaining. The conversational nature of them, either through interviews, discussions, or on “team” podcasts like Empire Flippers or the LBP, the lively conversation makes me feel like I am part of the conversation – or at least listening in. It can be a great cure for that feeling of working all alone – that reading blog posts just doesn’t do.

      I love reading a well written blog post… but listening to podcasts just plain satisfies an entirely different set of needs. :)

      • says

        Hi Paul,

        Justin’s awesome — I can always count on him to disagree in a well-considered and respectful manner!

        I thank you for actually backing up my point in your comment. You say that reading a post requires focus and that you can “tune out” while listening to a podcast. The fact is this: If you want to learn and take action on information, you have to focus. So your argument in the context of this post (i.e. learning and taking action) doesn’t wash with me at all.

        As for podcasts for entertainment’s sake, you’ll have no argument from me. That’s not what this post is about.

        Cheers,

        Tom

    • says

      Hey Justin,

      I’m so glad that you stopped by and commented! I hoped that you would as I knew your opinion would conflict with mine. If I’m honest, part of the reason I write these kinds of posts is to develop my ideas further, so it’s great to get your perspective on this.

      I am familiar with the “I learn better by listening” argument — in fact, that’s the first thing my girlfriend said to me yesterday when I told her about the article. I’m not convinced it’s the case though. I don’t think anyone learns simply by listening unless they listen several times over — the human brain requires repetition to fully assimilate and understand information. Do you think many people listen to the same five minute section of a podcast several times over in order fully absorb the information? I don’t. I think ultimately they need to make notes to properly absorb the information, in which case, they would have been better off starting with a concise blog post in the first place.

      You may have a fair point regarding audiobooks — to be honest, I have no idea how readily available they are for books. Having said that, I just checked the last five books I read on Amazon and they are all available in audiobook format.

      I think you’re right in your point about being able to better assess experience through podcasts. But then I’m recommending that people limit their blog exposure to only those sources that they have total faith in and read only published books by the most qualified people, so I’m not sure how relevant the point is to this post.

      As for the benefits of podcasts for the publisher, you’ll get no argument from me. As I said in the 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?

      Cheers,

      Tom

  5. says

    I agree with you Tom. For learning and doing text is the best medium and to promote my blogs I want a PDF to learn from not a webinar aka a pitchfest.

    For entertainment all the media work well and you can pick and choose.

    I think a lot of product creators produce webinars because they demand less effort although it must be admitted that some people are much more visually orientated than others.

    • says

      Hey Alex,

      You’re definitely right — some people are more visually oriented. But I still don’t think that makes video the most effective medium for learning in many cases.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  6. Ronald Earl Wilsher says

    Just ran across your webLOG, Mr. T.

    Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income fame says that you would be wise to always assume that one third of your audience is deaf, one third is blind and one third is illiterate. Cover all your bases that way. I happen to agree.

    Thanks for the shareage, SIr.

    Keep the faith and keep moving forward.

    All is well in Paradise.

  7. says

    I’ve not really embarked on Video or Podcasts as yet. Writing is my more favoured avenue for world domination. Video has some benefit if you need to guide somebody through something (like trying to reset an iPad) but on more theoretical topics I would agree that the audience can get lost in waffle. The other problem is you don’t know whether the podcast/video are going to be relevant until you start looking or listening whereas you have a chance to skim read an article. I think it is more important to keep podcasts and videos short and sweet. They are the ones that stick with you longer. I personally love youtube. I’ve repaired many PCs with a bit of help, I’ve also learnt how to fold t-shirts Japanese style (saves a lot of time).

  8. Lee says

    Right on Tom! I totally agree! I find myself getting distracted when I listen to podcasts — and end up missing value information in the process. If it’s for entertainment purposes only — I’m okay with the audio/video. It’s definitely a problem not being able to “scan” to the information that’s useful to you.

    Thanks for your insight.

    • says

      I think you’ve missed my point Joe. At no point in the post do I say that you should not produce videos. On the contrary, I encourage you to produce them if it gets you clients.

  9. says

    i dont agree. everyone has his own learning style….some people learn through ears/listening , some through eyes, some by reading…some by mix of them……this posts negates this notion without giving solid bases…

    • says

      Hi Faisal,

      I think you can learn by reading text and making notes, by listening to someone and making notes, or by watching something and making notes. My point is that the watching/listening often involves a lot of unnecessary fluff that slows you down and makes the process less efficient. Therefore, concise written content is the best medium for learning

      Cheers,

      Tom

  10. says

    Hi Tom. I also follow you closely and enjoy your work, but I think that you’ve missed the mark here. 26 minutes on one video, no way would I watch that! However, I love short and well thought out videos of 3-4 minutes. I never skip through good videos, if they hook you from the start nothing will take my attention away. You’d need a far more in depth comparison than this to convince me. To be honest, it seems like you’re “trying” to be controversial but haven’t really thought it through. Good effort for the courage to take a stab though!

    • says

      Hey Grant,

      Come on…you know me better than that surely? I don’t do controversy for the sake of controversy; it’s not my style. My last post on this blog (before this one) said that I would be writing from the heart and absolutely not compromising my integrity for the sake of clicks — I wasn’t planning on going back on that promise immediately!

      You may well have a point on short, actionable, well thought-out videos of 3-4 minutes. Having said that, I maintain my point that the useful information contained within a 3-4 minute video could probably be read in about 30 seconds.

      Furthermore, I have no interest in watching 3-4 minute videos about what is likely to be a random topic that does not align 100% with whatever I am trying to achieve at that time. That’s the whole point of an information diet — limit yourself to only the highest quality information that aligns with your current goals.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  11. says

    In terms of absorbing information, written content is and probably always will be my preferred choice.

    I don’t like video for the points you mentioned, especially that I like to move at my own pace.

    I do enjoy entertaining podcasts (This American Life, Planet Money, etc.), but it’s more of a leisurely activity for me rather than a learning tool.

    Love the information diet, by the way. I used to be a chronic news reader (I’d check news sites dozens of times a day) but I really cut back on that. I think that’s been a huge positive change for me. I definitely limit social media, too, and I’ve never felt bad about that, either.

  12. says

    Thanks for writing this Tom! I’m working on my first premium course right now, and I am torn between doing what everyone else has been doing (video, audio download, worksheet) or doing it the way that I want to, which is mostly text with the occasional video to walk people through a process. I figure writing is my strong point, and what people are most used to. But I was succumbing to the “peer pressure” of other courses out there and wondering if people wouldn’t like mine because it didn’t fit the mold.

  13. says

    Mostly I agree. But it’s really hard to say, “Divide this number by this one.” Especially because there are only 10 digits and lots of opportunities to get them mixed up.

    But even if I did make photos of doing math and explain them with text, there is one thing I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT DO with words. And that’s demonstrated in this video: http://youtu.be/oVoIjAgFeC8

    (I don’t know why I feel compelled to irritate you with my all caps. Maybe because I haven’t had a chance to comment on that 14 point post that was so good. So instead I wanted to let you know I actually read it without having to go refute the 4 points that I totally disagree with.)

    #xoxo

    • says

      Isn’t that what the division sign is for Bon? They seemed to manage it okay in the maths textbooks when I was growing up ;-)

      P.S. I want two minutes of my life back.

  14. says

    I absolutely agree!

    The entire blogosphere seems to be high on videos and podcasting. But I almost never bother to click on them. In fact, if I see that a post is done entirely in video and without an accompanying transcript, I’m fairly compelled to immediately close the window.

    One of the reasons is that I read faster than I watch. A better reason is that I like to read. I’m already staring at the computer screen for hours on end; I might as well put my brain to work a bit more and read something, ha.

    Another reason is that, as a writer, I want to get better at writing. I’m not a vlogger or podcaster, either as a purveyor or as a customer. So I stick to writing. For once, I’m trying to not be a Jill of all trades, which is nice.

    I realize that a key part of business success is stepping out of your comfort zone to give your customers what they want. But I feel there’s still a healthy contingent of folks who also prefer to read over watch. I’m content with that.

    One of my upcoming blog posts is coincidentally about when to follow the trend versus following your instinct and whether to join the crowd or stand alone. By and large, I’m outta the box and like to push the envelope, learn new skills, revolutionize, etc. But in this case, I like growing where I’m planted.

  15. says

    I tend to agree with you. Everyone digests information differently, so audio/video may work for some, but it does not work for me at all. If I am listening to a podcast, I miss a lot of information and I end up getting annoyed at the pace and extraneous stuff. Like you said, advertisements, music, introduction, etc. The best part of something written is that I can skim it extremely fast and pick up the parts that interest me, while you can’t do that as effectively with audio. With video, I usually feel like things go at a snails pace, and I get bored immediately. Nothing annoys me more than seeing a link on a site or something Tweeted that I’m interested in and finding out its a link to a video or podcast. Again, that’s me though, and I know I’m not always in the majority.

  16. Chris Black says

    Good debate and thanks for a stimulating point of view. Personally I think it’s horses for courses and depends on the content and audience and objective. Inform vs entertain is very different.

  17. says

    I agree Tom that the video medium you are referring to is useless: reading thru video what one could easily read. That makes no sense. I also agree there is a lot of fluff or as one person calls it ‘rigmarole’.

    I don’t agree that everyone loves to talk. I like to get right to the point in a way that viewers will get my point in the first 30 seconds. (I have a Pilates-based movement studio where I teach people how simple efficient movement) It’s a challenge to be concise on video. At the top of mind in every video I create is “why should the viewer care?”.
    I aim to hit that immediately.

    All that being said, you are a fab writer- stick with writing.
    Thank you for all you do for the online world.

    Having someone read how to do a movement that could help their tight hamstrings, sore ankles, or locked up shoulder is painful for me to imagine.
    What comes out as 150 words explaining how-to-do, then hope the reader gets it before they have to read it twice can be frustrating.
    For professions like mine a well done video that is 2 minutes long is invaluable. I like to write as simple, sensible and practical as I can in my posts. Concise videos can make it clearer to the learner.

    Does that make sense?

    Again, thanks of all the clarity you bring to the internet space;)

    Lisa

    • says

      Hey Lisa,

      Makes perfect sense — it sounds like video is the perfect medium for what you are doing. Although I suppose it isn’t obvious (but I was hoping it would be implicit), the post isn’t really talking about the kind of videos you produce.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  18. says

    I agree that podcasts/videos are more inefficient then a bulleted list or concise written description, but I still think they are valuable beyond entertainment. Podcasts and videos can be a better medium for sharing stories, motivating, and inspiring an audience. You can argue that this is a waste of time, but I find that seeking external sources of motivation fuels me into action. Hearing a positive story changes my state and makes me want to work 10x harder. I’m probably not going to read a detail blog post that tells someone’s story, but I will listen to them tell it on a podcast because that medium is more engaging on a personal level.

    • says

      Interesting point Scott…I suppose I have approached this post from the perspective of someone who is already motivated.

      Having said that, if you are generally demotivated then I think using a podcast to motivate you is like putting a bandaid on a knife wound — there is clearly a more intrinsic issues that needs to be resolved.

  19. says

    Hmm, this is interesting because I definitely prefer to read stuff online than stop to watch a video or listen to a podcast. I’ve often gone to listen to podcasts in fact and then clicked away somewhere and realised suddenly that I’m not listening! As a writer I naturally prefer writing blog posts than creating any other content too.

    The reason why I find it interesting is that I’ve just set up a new website from scratch and am not very technically minded. The thing that helped me the most with this process? Not blog posts but videos on Youtube – it just helped that I could see what people were trying to show me on the screen. And yes, I skipped bits that were irrelevant, but they still helped the most.

    I’m torn!

    Great post as usual though Tom ;o)

    • says

      Hey Kirsty,

      I get that, but I still stand by the idea that step-by-step written instructions with screenshots is better than video in many cases. There are times however where something is better portrayed with video (i.e. something particularly technical that requires you to be able to see what’s being done in real time).

      Cheers,

      Tom

  20. says

    I prefer the combination of both. A nice short video ~3-5 minutes with the key facts, also a bit for entertainment, and a in depth written article.

    This way you can watch the video and if you like the content and want to go deeper you can read the complete article.

    Might not be the most efficient way for the author, but you`ll receive the benefits from written word and video (including traffic building).

    • says

      I suppose that’s the best of both worlds Sebastian — the short video being the equivalent of scanning a blog post, but for those who are more visually-minded. Having said that, I’d still prefer to just scan in 20 seconds to find out if the post has anything to offer me :-)

  21. says

    Hey Tom, great topic, and a lot of great comments so far. I only have a few things to add or just give my $0.02
    First, everyone learns in different ways. I’m very written-word oriented, whereas my wife is very auditory. The benefit of podcasts, video and blog entries is the ability to reach people more powerfully they way they receive information.
    Second would be that different subjects are sometimes more suited to various medium. If I’m interested in started a freelance career, I want that written so I have links and resources I can click on immediately. While I loved The Four Hour Workweek, the audio book was unbearable at times with the narrator reading off “h, t, t, p, colon, foward slash, etc…” for each and every URL.
    Third, the weakness of most video and audio I’ve heard is simple – poor preparation and direction of the speaker. I would prefer to read almost anything, but I find the explosion in video marketing just annoying because they will drone on, repeating themselves, for 20+ minutes. A few of those a day and you’ve lost a morning.
    Outline your subject, get in, get it done, in under 7 minutes if you can. Humbly, with some quality preparation and knowing you’re keeping it short, video would be a great accompaniment to your blog posts

    • says

      Hey Jon,

      I gotta say, I don’t buy the whole “people learn in different ways” argument, for reasons I’ve explained above. I think it’s the case of the most effective tool for the job, and for me the written word is usually it. I think there’s a difference between liking a particular medium of communication more than others and recognizing which is the most efficient and the most effective for learning and taking action.

      Whoever wrote the transcript for the 4HWW is a moron if they really read out URLs like that! What’s wrong with “Leaving Work Behind dot com”?

      As for short sharp videos, I guess there is a place for them for many people. Personally I wouldn’t watch them — I just don’t see the benefit when compared to the written word.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  22. says

    Normally, I stalk your posts and never comment. But because I’m a new media fan, I have to speak up.

    First of all, I’d say this post is obviously written from your perspective that productivity is king, and that you’re on an information diet that you think is best for you. This may not be true of every blogger, which you were clear to point out. So if someone’s interested in starting podcasting or videos, they need to take this into consideration. Do they align with your ideas of what’s good material and what’s worth your time, or no?

    Second, I’m not sure it’s actually true that video isn’t a good medium for information. It depends on the quality of the video, I think. Cisco just put out a white paper about online usage and consumption, and they estimate that by 2017 over 60% of internet interaction and usage will be related to videos (and they said that if you counted the links people are sharing between each other in-person or through email, that number could be over 80%). Now that doesn’t mean that “just ’cause everyone’s doing it” makes it good. But there’s obviously something to video that people relate to. The impetus is then on you as the creator to make it worth people’s time.

    Third, this quality content issue is exactly why I haven’t created my own podcast or videos yet. I want to, ever so badly, but I don’t want to just throw something together for the heck of doing one. I know people tell me to just do it or I never will, but there’s a fine line there. I could just start making videos, but how likely will they be a waste of time for me and the viewers? I don’t want to start making something unless it has the potential to at least be worth SOME good. Then I can test and learn and pay attention to what could make it GREAT to be worth my own and others’ time.

    Sorry, that was a lot! Told you I was a new media fan. :)

    • says

      Hey Bree,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      To be honest I don’t think that Cisco stat is of any relevant to this particular debate. If video watching is at 60%, 90% of that will be people watching cats on YouTube ;-)

      And as I said in the post, this isn’t about whether or not you should create video to engage with your audience, it’s about whether video/audio is the best medium for learning for you.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  23. says

    The most important things I’ve learned that have made a big difference came from podcasts and videos, but maybe it’s just that blog posts aren’t memorable enough to remember. I’m sure reading a lot has a cumulative effect because everything gets stored somewhere.

    I can see why some people use podcasts because they get a huge amount of traffic from iTunes, plus their audience get to know them and a deeper connection is formed.

    I do agree that podcasts over 20-30 minutes are far too long. Videos over 5-10 minutes are long too unless they’re teaching something specific in a way they can’t be explained using a few bullet points.

    • says

      Hey Jamie,

      Interesting that the “big difference” stuff for you has come from podcasts and videos…you know what it’s almost always been for me? Published books. Or to put it another way, the best vetted and edited form of content digestion available to us.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  24. says

    Hi Tom

    Loved this post mainly because I’m torn about it too. I do prefer to read and I rarely listen to podcasts. I do like watching video but not for anymore than a few minutes. Marie Forleo, one of the few people I follow and admire, does video really well and I don’t think it would work as well for her if she only had text blog posts. They usually go for no more than 5 minutes give or take. It’s a hard one because I’m in the process of starting my own video channel because I do think video allows you to really engage with people and sometimes people learn better to see things visually (especially with what I do).

    • says

      Hey Shae,

      You’ve got a point about Marie — she’s got an extremely strong brand and her videos are part of that. I still don’t think that makes it the best medium of communication for learning though ;-)

      Cheers,

      Tom

  25. Jordan says

    Hey Tom,
    I’m a new reader. I’m resurrecting my writing career (was a grant writer, now I’m looking to publish online) and reading your blog is helpful and inspiring to me. This post was refreshing to read as internet marketers are touting in chorus the power of podcasts, videos, and infographics. I get that it expands your audience more quickly, but there are definite drawbacks that aren’t talked about.
    I’m curious whether you think mass public preference for consuming video devalues good writing? I’m sure you can agree that vocabulary and grammatical expectations have devolved. I’m not married to being arbitrarily and technically perfect, but there are professional benefits to indulging and rolling around a bit in descriptive sentences and adjectives in a mode that isn’t deemed “efficient” anymore, at least not online. Do you agree? At any rate, thanks for the reminder on the powers of the written word, and for being mindful of how you distribute content to your readers :D

    • says

      Hey Jordan,

      To be honest I think the advent of the internet has devalued good writing. The barriers of entry for people to publish content are now so low that just about anyone can do it. Of course, I’m not suggesting that the internet is a bad thing (far from it!) — I just see things that way.

      Writing is still an art form. Anyone can throw paint on a canvas but not many people can create something truly beautiful. As long as there are still people who appreciate that fact, society still has a chance :-)

      Cheers,

      Tom

  26. Jacob says

    Hey Tom,

    I listen to about 15-20 podcasts in this space.

    From my studious note taking, Here’s how you podcast like a Pro, especially if you’re in the marketing, IM, Make Money Online, E-Commerce, or software start up space.

    *Inside Joke*
    *horrible intro 90′s grunge rock music with schmaltzy guy or Australian woman*
    *self serving 5 star review shout outs*
    *more pseudo sales pitches dressed up as news*
    *un-knowable time to the meat of the episode*

    Options
    1) 1 guy who doesn’t particularly know much about the subject and much less about doing an audio show.

    2) Or a get a co-host and Let’s joke incessantly or talk about insider stuff and mention mastermind group or secret cabal of super villains aiming to take take over the internet.

    3) Interview with someone of dubious pedigree who is promoting something of dubious value of which the hosts have no direct experience, nor any ability to critique said product.

    a) Soft ball questions
    b) Hosts cuts off guest to tell his own story that may or may not relate to what guest says
    c) Guest just goes along with it
    d) Host attacks guest with weird emo question meant to show insecurities that may or may not be there
    e) SOMETHING USEFUL
    f) no follow up on useful comment, no reflection, no thought
    g) SOMETHING ELSE USEFUL

    or

    h) Here’s a list of 7 things that you should be doing, that we kinda do, but won’t really go into details about – not because we can’t – but because we don’t realize that’s why you listen to the show. No road map of the 7 points, and no recap of the 7 points, and no listing of the 7 points on the blog.

    or

    i) Nothing tactical this week, we’re gonna focus on mindset and motivation.

    j) round table that never stays on topic and everyone shouts over each other – they reach some sort of fake agreement – but word by word they don’t actually agree

    4) Just as the topic starts to get good, “Well that’s all the time we have for the topic”

    For the next 15 minutes

    *more sales-y stuff and recommendations for smartphone application of the week – never to be mentioned again in subsequent episodes*
    *good bye*
    *awful music outro*
    *heads over to website to see comments*
    *no transcript*
    *all glowing comments – you guys and the occasional girl are GREAT*
    *show notes – all affiliate links*

    ___________________________

    With that being said, even the worst of the bunch sometimes hit a home run. Either they have a great insight or the guest goes off on a great tangent, or there’s some real humor.

    More often than not, I do grab something positive from each podcast I listen to, but the individual quirks of each have me hitting the 4x button or hoping that there’s a transcript.

    • says

      Haha Jacob — that’s a pretty good summarization of many podcasts out there! Not naming any names obviously…

      I have to say though, why do you listen to so many podcasts if the value extract from them is so hit and miss? Do you drive a lot and have nothing better to do or something similar?

      • Jacob says

        I don’t have the internet @ my terminal (security reasons) so podcasts get me through my typical boring 10-12 hour day. Usually there are a few crumbs is what is being discussed. Even the bad podcasts give me “negative advice”. Here’s what NOT to do.

        At least at the start, a lot of podcasters don’t have much to say. (Much like bloggers.) They might have a life full of cool experiences and insights, but it takes a while for that voice to really come out.

    • says

      Man, your listening to some terrible podcasts lol! I wouldnt put up with any of them. There are some really good ones that have no adverts or sponsors at all.

  27. says

    Hmm some interesting points, but I do not think that is is an either/or situation. I spend too much time online and I get aching eyes on a regular basis. When I started consuming some information via Podcast my eyes started feeling better. Plus listening to Podcasts in the car makes a traffic jam something to look forward too!

    • says

      If your eyes are aching, read a book ;-)

      Seriously though, podcasts are good for when you’re in a car I guess, but I do doubt the value you’ll get out of the listening experience in terms of learning and taking action.

  28. says

    Hey Tom, I have to say Podcast are a huge part of my continued eduacation. Six pixels of seperation, Derek halpern, The foudation podcast and of course smart passive income are essential listening. I also listen in the car every single day i have a 45 min commute each way and i learn so much every single day. I then get home or work and make notes or check the shownotes. The foundation podcast has actionable items list on the website so save even more time. I would listen to your podcast ;-)

    • says

      Hey David,

      Podcasts can be good for listening to while in the car and if you’re going home and taking notes then that’s even better (although it can be tough to remember all of the salient points, and show notes / transcripts are usually a nightmare to read!).

      I have to say though, if you’re listening to 90 mins of podcasts every single weekday, I don’t know how you’re not suffering from analysis paralysis.

      As for me, well, who wouldn’t want to listen to my dulcet tones? ;-)

      Cheers,

      Tom

  29. says

    Hey Tom,

    This is a really interesting take on Video and Podcasts. I recently launched my Podcast because I was strongly influenced by Pat Flynn’s take on his “Be Everywhere” strategy, the idea was that if you are blogging, creating videos and Podcasts you are all over the place and are just that much more likely to allow people to find you.

    I totally agree with all of your points here, although I do find for podcasting specifically I would listen to an hour 1/2 of Podcast episodes during my commute to and from work. Driving 60 miles total for work makes for a great time to consume audio. While at work I can read RSS feeds of my favorite blogs and consume written content during other time in my day.

    • says

      Hey John,

      A lot of people mention podcasts as good for the commute and I can’t argue with that. However, I would be surprised if people were taking much away from listening to 60 minutes of podcasts every single day. Talk about information overload!

      Cheers,

      Tom

  30. says

    You make some good points Tom about podcasts and video. I’ve been starting to think the same. There tends to be too much fluff and waffle in a lot of them, especially those which have two co-hosts.

    The trouble is when you put two people together like that if you aren’t careful it’s easy to get into social media waffle model. With some I’ve taken to skipping the first several minutes to get through all the “what’s up, how are you etc etc” and promotional/organisational/admin stuff.

    I think they can work well when they involve interviewing someone for the first time, rather than regular co-hosts. That can be inspiring. But otherwise, I think the written word is much better. Much less waffle, more brevity and better use of time.

    Another thing that gets me is how so many audio podcasts seem to be being produced as flv or mp4 files, which take up more space on your devices than mp3. Audio does not need to be mp4!

  31. Charlotte says

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for writing an honest and perhaps controversial post – it was very refreshing to read as it’s hit on something that I find myself repeating at least once a day!

    Although I’m not planning to leave work behind, I work in a large organisation and find myself battling with internal ‘clients’ who want a video/podcast/app with no real idea of why they want it, apart from the fact that they want what they think everyone else has got.

    So now my mantra is: ‘What problem are you trying to solve? Why do you think this is the best way to do this? Who is your audience and what are you trying to tell them?’ It seems to work and gets people thinking deeper about what they are really trying to achieve, rather than immediately jumping on the multi-media bandwagon because it’s more glamorous and ‘everyone else is doing it’.

    With the popularisation of social media and the notion that people want information quickly, it’s like the written word has almost turned into an afterthought because people have forgotten the power of a few choice (written) words. As a blogger, this makes me sad… but it’s refreshing to read your post and find that a few people do agree with me!

    Personally I’d much prefer to have clear step-by-steps accompanied by screenshots and (very) short videos, but only where necessary and never just for the sake of creating a flashy video!

    Thanks again for your post!

    Charlotte

    • says

      Hey Charlotte,

      Nothing beats the written word, in my humble opinion. Writing (in one form or another) has been around since the Bronze Age and it’s not going anywhere. It can be an extraordinarily compelling and powerful form of communication, and you don’t need a fancy microphone or editing skills to produce it.

      On another note, you’re spot on with the questions you ask your colleagues/clients. Most people tend to approach things from a “this feels like it could be a good idea” angle, rather than a “what are the distinct benefits I can estimate from following this course of action?” The second approach tends to be far more profitable.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  32. says

    Great article, Tom!

    Of course, a lot depends on the quality of execution in any medium. I’ll take a concise video over a muddled article any day. But even if all things are equal…

    Some subjects lend themselves better to different media. Learning movements is obviously easier on video. Even following along with a web tutorial is easier than reading a step by step guide… for me at least.

    But here’s the main point: your article is about learning AND taking action. Even if learning is easier from an article, audio and video are able to convey emotions much more clearly and easily than the written word. Reading, “You can do it!” is different from hearing and seeing someone like Marie Forleo or Tony Robbins SAY it.

    Haven’t you ever gotten a lump in your throat from a 15 second TV commercial? Hard to make me tear up in 15 seconds of reading!

    That’s why I write articles AND do a podcast. Who said it has to be one or the other?

    • says

      Hi Ando,

      I think that centuries-worth of writers would be offended by your assertion. In my opinion, the written word is able to stir up emotion in the reader like nothing else.

      Having said that, I appreciate this is a highly subjective topic and I can totally understand where you’re coming from. You won’t change my mind though ;-)

      Cheers,

      Tom

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