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For years now, I have been listening to numerous digital marketing experts preach about the end of written content as we know it. They think its days are pretty much numbered. Even though the entire Web is basically built on it, more than a few experts believe that sooner or later, video is going to take over. It’s going to push written content right out of the picture (pun intended). Ok, maybe not LITERALLY, but you get the drift. They believe it will become redundant and secondary to basically everything else online.
Why is that? – There are two reasons, mostly. The first and more important one being: The average attention span of people who visit the Web is drastically decreasing.
Looking at the numbers from various relevant research results – the situation is constantly getting worse in this department. In 2017, the average attention span of humans who currently walk the Earth is ridiculously short.
So short, it hurts.
I can not believe that the average attention span is just 8 seconds.
The age of smartphones and instant information has left us with the attention span of a goldfish. No. Scratch that – a senile goldfish. A fish with Alzheimer’s disease who doesn’t want to take its meds.
A lot of research has shown that these days people just scan content on the Internet, instead of actually reading it. Everything that demands some effort and genuine focus has become repellent. Users don’t want to work for information anymore. That’s a fact! The days when people used to go to libraries and manually dig through dozens and dozens of books to learn a thing or two about a specific subject are long gone, my friend. They want their information NOW, served on a shiny silver platter, with a sweet red apple stuffed in its mouth.
Even though people tend to display some genuine interest and click on various blog posts and share them on their social media profiles, the sad truth is – they don’t actually engage with the content. Instead of taking the time to truly acquaint themselves with the topic and material at hand and read it word for word – they just hover over the text and look for highlighted information. Headlines, sub headlines, bullet points, bolded words – these are the only things that grab their attention these days.
Why is This Happening? Why are People Scanning Content, Instead of Actually Reading It?
According to the results of numerous different surveys online, “lack of time” seems to be the no.2 reason for this witch hunt on written content. Although I think this is undoubtedly true, I also feel that there’s more to it.
Judging solely by my own experience, content overkill also plays an important role. Even though I enjoy reading, as an educated person who writes content for a living and interacts with other educated individuals – sometimes it’s hard for me to sit down and actually digest a certain text or book the way I initially wanted to.
The clock works against me and, like any other marketer, I have to go through tons and tons of material in order to find information that will kickstart my creative juices.
Even though today, almost every brand is creating and publishing at least some type of content on a daily, weekly or monthly basis – the overall quality of it has never been lower. Mass production has taken its toll on the general state and quality of textual content online. These days, people are basically pushing generic texts just for the sake of staying active and finding their place in Google’s search engine results for relevant queries. Having all this in mind, I can surely understand why a lot of users feel that written content is on its way out.
However, regardless of how many people feel that this form of information will soon be laid to rest, there are literally dozens of facts which prove that text will never die. Especially on the Web. Here are just the major ones:
1. Text Will Forever Be More Convenient Than Video
I don’t know how you feel about video on social media for example, but I despise it. And I am not the only one. A lot of people share my opinion.
SM video just doesn’t work for me. I feel that it doesn’t really go down well with anyone who is constantly on the go. The same goes for Facetime. It’s just not convenient. Most of us aren’t really comfortable with people listening to our conversations or shouting at our screen. Sure, you can use headphones or any other number of devices to tone it all down and buy a couple of more spheres of privacy – but that still isn’t enough.
Unlike video, text let’s you stay in the moment. It gives you the option to stop exactly where you want to stop and really wrap your mind around a certain piece of information.
2. It’s Adaptable
Unlike video and images, text can be easily updated and upgraded.
The important thing to have in mind if you’re in the business of creating content for the Web is that things change fast.
What’s hot now will tomorrow probably be just another thing of the past. It will become démodé before you even realize it.
This is a huge disadvantage everyone needs to keep in mind when creating videos and images for their brand. Sure, some campaigns could become evergreen, but lets face it – most of them won’t. A vast majority will feel almost embarrassing in 5 year’s time.
The problem with video is that it cannot really be rebuilt. You can reuse it for various different purposes, but if the production sucks – you’ll need to start from scratch. If you try to play with it, it will certainly become a whole new thing.
With text, the story is quite different. You can always rewrite and republish your best posts. Google will even reward you for your efforts.
3. B2B Decision Makers Still Prefer Text Over Video
Here are some interesting stats I’ve found online:
- 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.
- 96% of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders.
- When it comes to content, B2B buyers consume: whitepapers (78%), case studies (73%), and webinars.
Especially in the B2B world.
Most decision-makers still spend far more time going through all sorts of whitepapers and case studies. They are not really interested in videos or webinars. They want to get a deeper understanding of a product and service they’re thinking about buying. Video can’t deliver that. It’s usually all about raising awareness and giving users a simple run through the process. Text is more flexible for them.
Even though NewsCred Insights says that the average reader only spends 37 seconds reading an article or blog post, marketers are still going all out in this department. Long-form content is becoming the norm. In 2017, all sorts of industry experts are investing more and more time and money in creating in-depth pieces of content that deliver higher value for their targeted readers.
4. Text Stimulates the Mind Like Nothing Else
Even though we as humans have evolutionarily acquired vision before the ability to think metaphorically, I still feel that our mind works better when it isn’t drowning in various types of information. Sure, at first it might seem that it’s easier to watch a story unfold than to read, process, and then imagine everything in our head, but it really isn’t.
Let me ask you a question: why do people still read books when they can watch the movie adaptation of the same story? Why do thousands and thousands of individuals go through books about physics when they can watch, for example, Cosmos? Why is J.K. Rowling still banking hard on the Harry Potter books? Why haven’t big media houses like The New York Times and The Washington Post moved to video? Because words offer a different type of value than video (or images).
The problem with video is that it instantly communicates many different things all at once. For an untrained eye, the whole process of learning through video can get a bit overwhelming. All sorts of factors come into play. Every little detail can steal your attention and destroy your focus. The protagonist’s appearance, tone, voice, gestures, the setting – everything.
That’s not the case with text.
Text is a lot more flexible format. It allows us to visualize things in the way that suits us best.
Since its very birth, text has been a quintessential symbol of intelligence, knowledge, education, and even status. To reveal that you simply don’t enjoy reading, is (in most circles) akin to committing a socio-intellectual suicide. Even though I’m not really okay with that, I still feel that you should give this instrument for distributing information a chance. By no means is reading easy. However, those who still remain faithful to it know that some things can never be effectively communicated in any other way.
We need to make text matter again. It’s our job to cut the garbage from the equation.
Even though most of us who produce content try our hardest to constantly come up with 10x content and feed our audiences with information that’s relevant to them, we also have to face facts and accept the psychology of an average internet user who comes into contact with our material. Apart from making sure that we always deliver on the promises we have made in our headlines, we need to cater to our readers’ other needs as well. In order to keep text alive, we need to work on it and constantly reinvent it. If you really think about it, text has evolved so much since the day it was invented. My opinion is that it has survived only because of its ability to shapeshift and be constantly in sync with the times, so we must nurture that in our business and keep adapting it to the demands of the general audience.
Thank you for reading this post from top to bottom.
I hope it will help you see the value behind nurturing written content.
That’s it for now, see you again soon!
Milica @ FourDots