Video: only when you have the luxury of time

Video: only when you have the luxury of time

It may be a bit of a Pavlov Dog reaction but people often sit back and take a breather when they watch even a short business video, as they do when watching TV at home

In our mad rush of information of today, do we really have time to absorb it from a video or audio program – when text is absorbed a lot faster?

Don’t for a moment think I’m going to berate the use of video for business and other online communication. It would be hypocritical of me considering I earned quite a lot of money writing, directing and producing corporate video for many years. But given that it moves pretty slowly compared with text that you read, it has got to be really interesting to grab and sustain viewers’ attention.

Far better to judge video and audio, as opposed to text, on the basis of “horses for courses.”

Uh? How can be video be longer that reading text?

Let’s do an experiment here to illustrate what I mean.

The following is an excerpt from one of my recent blog posts. Given that I write in a conversational tone here on HTWB, with a bit of a haircut it could be used as voice over narration for a training video, or as an audio podcast, etc. Its total word count is 260.

“Setting up a basic blog is simple and easy. There are quite a few free blogging options you can choose, and they’re not hard to set up. Drop me a note if you want me to point you in the right direction. You can also find people who will do it for you for reasonable money and without blinding you with BS.

Blogging is pretty straightforward. Blogging (and blog writing) is simply about being yourself to your readership, whether that’s customers and prospects or readers with a non-commercial interest. It’s about sharing information that you think will be useful to your readers, and/or will entertain them – perhaps even make them laugh. For more about what to write, check out my “blogging” category on here – hundreds of ideas and they’re all free.

If you can talk, you can blog. Don’t worry about not being “able to write.” If you find writing hard, tell the story of your blog post to an audio recorder (and transcribe it) or some voice recognition software. Then edit that up.

Your blog is not an advertisement in sheep’s clothing. Blogging for your business or interest is not about sharing a few hundred words of drivel followed by a strong “call to action” that basically asks readers to buy you and/or your products. That’s just online salesmanship which of course has its place, but these days is inconsistent with the fast-growing “social” element of social media and online marketing. Your blog is where your readers get to know you, the person who knows his or her stuff.”

My normal speaking speed when presenting live is 125 words per minute. When I do a voice over narration, this probably comes down to about 110 words per minute. These speeds are pretty common amongst all speakers and VO artistes apart from rappers, crazy professors and people who have just inhaled helium.

Consequently this chunk of text above read as a video narration or audio program would take just over 2 minutes – two minutes or so of your time.

And how long does it take to skim/speedread/read quickly?

I just did it, and – promise – didn’t cheat: I read every word. OK, I read quickly because I read so much for my job, but I don’t skim, and I don’t speedread.

How long did it take me?
30 seconds. Dead.

Now, let’s spread that out a bit because this seems quite extreme – in fact it shocked me, not having tried it for some time. However even if the average were to be that video takes twice  as long to get the same words over as text – rather than four  times as long as it is here – … there is still enough of a difference to make you choose, as I said above, “horses for courses.” (NB: if you don’t believe me, try timing it for yourself!)

What video is bad for

For starters, it’s bad for imparting straight, factual information that doesn’t really require illustration – rather like the 260 words above. Many people get inveigled into making “vlogs” or video blogs because they think that to share a normal blog post using live action is a novelty that their readers will love. They set up the camera and off they go.

They place the camera too high so they look as though they’re peering up at you from over a table top at the bottom of the screen, and then either freeze while they parrot out the words they have learned by heart or else look like furtive shoplifters when they glance off at their idiot boards all around the area behind the camera. There are lots more mistakes people make with DIY videos but I won’t bore you with them all here.

Talking heads – and even talking heads that have been trained and filmed properly are very, very boring no matter how novel you think it might be for your blog or website, and your readers. Don’t forget that people have been watching TV since the 1950s or earlier so video is no big deal – and all you’ll achieve with an amateurish facsimile of a news report is to make you and your business or organization look a bit sad.

Above all, know your readers: if they are the types of people who are always in a hurry just glancing through their news feeds, stick to good, powerful text.

What video is good for

Video is visual. Fill the extra time in a video to show lots of things – action, demonstration, charts and graphs (but nothing too complex there). Although it takes people longer to absorb the words their eyes and ears can absorb other information simultaneously, so making valuable use of their time … and, making them feel  they have made more valuable use of their time.

Don’t say in the narration or piece to camera what viewers can see for themselves. There is nothing more boring than words and pictures that duplicate each other apart, perhaps from the Death By PowerPoint speaker whose only utterances are that s/he reads her/his slides … often that’s just as well because the slides contain a couple of thousand words of figures nobody in the audience can see anyway. But I digress.

Keep video for more relaxed, contemplative topics – if you understand newspaper terminology, think of text as hard news, and video/audio as feature stories. It may be a bit of a Pavlov Dog reaction but people often sit back and take a breather when they watch even a short business video, as they do when watching TV at home, so use that mood shift to your advantage by telling your story in a smoother, less staccato way than you would in a text blog post.

Do you use video in your business communications? How does it work for you? Please share!

photo credit: David Boyle in DC via photopin cc




  1. Hi Suze,

    Yes I agree completely about time wasted, although strangely enough I just finished a video to promote Mrs. Bray’s new Kindle book last week. She also creates ‘Talking Head’ videos, which have been helpful in promoting her business.

    Video is useful for those who are searching for answers via video, remember YouTube is the No 3, or is it No 2, search engine out there.

    Videos are a way of jumping up the rankings for a topic that may be harder to rank for in an article. But they do take time to produce, and the best ones are scripted.

    A video can be a way of providing yourself with credentials, depending upon where the action is set, in much the same way as Ian Fleming made his assassin, (Bond), someone of taste by making him smoke the right kind of fags whilst he drank branded ‘plonk’ and stayed in the right hotels.

    Videos allow you to be seen in different settings, and so people believe they know you better, because they’ve seen you doing the correct things in different contexts.

    I like to include a summary of the script in the description, just for people like you, and me, who prefer to read quickly. That said, videos are time-consuming to write and produce well, and so people must be cautious about when best to use them.


    • Oh, I know there are a number of reasons why video is useful, Stephen – and not just connected with pure communication! And talking heads can be OK as long, as you say, as they are scripted or at least put across professionally. But as a means purely of getting information over efficiently, video isn’t as effective as text. Anyway thanks for pointing these other issues out – helps give everyone a more rounded picture.

  2. Just to reinforce your words, and also because you asked me to do so via Facebook, here is a link to a video I made recently with an explanation of the thought and work that went into it.

    Here is a link to the video. People may need to cut and paste it into their browser although it should work 🙂

    Before doing anything we needed to decide what image we wanted to convey. Research suggests that the people who most need the product mentioned in the video tend to look up to images that convey a little success and style – so, and in view of the fact that we only recently moved into our current house and are in the middle of renovations, we found somewhere unusual.

    Then I scripted the questions, and Irem wrote down some answers so we both knew roughly how the interview would occur. It was important to cover a number of points, including introducing Irem to a new market and answering common objections to the product in a disarming way.

    This is real copywriting, something that many assume may be overlooked in social media video production.

    We spent two half days shooting. Half a day to get some suitable clips of the horse riding and stables, and another to film the bar scene, (on a day when the place was closed). Phones were switched off and appliances such as kettles and fridges disconnected.

    The interview was conducted pretty much as is, using two cameras with legacy lenses that could be opened up wide to throw the background out of focus. We also recorded using lapel mics for the best sound quality.

    All the clips were sorted, and whilst that was going on our assistant sourced the Latin soundtrack via the YouTube Music facility. We also obtained bar ambiance to underlay below the music track.

    The entire script and storyboard, including sound directions, were then sent to our assistant via Dropbox. He edited them all and produced the video. Meanwhile I created the credits to be added at the end.

    Once everything was assembled I created a custom thumbnail with some conversation and thought bubbles to make the video look more interesting in the YouTube feed.

    It took around half an hour to come up with the video description, which once again deals with common questions about the product, and positions Irem in terms of her beliefs and values. This was the quickest part of the entire process!

    All in all making this short video amounts to around four days work, when we include my time and that of our assistant.

    A blog post to cover much of the material would take around an hour, were I starting from nothing. The product mentioned probably took around the same time to write as the video took to be filmed and produced.

    I rest your case 😉


    P.S. Our eleven year old daughter, who has been riding since she was six says: “Mummy’s legs are all wrong!”

    • It’s certainly a good way for viewers to get to know Irem which, in her profession, is very important. She comes across as very warm and sincere. One thing though … the eyelines between interviewer and interviewee aren’t quite right; with this technique the camera should act almost as a snooper into the conversation! And you can do it quite easily with one camera, too. I thought I had written a blog post about that but although I did a two part tutorial ( ) on how to conduct such an interview, I didn’t go into the shooting techniques. My bad! Will do one about that soon though.

      Please tell your daughter from me that I think she is being a bit unkind about Mum’s lower legs in trot … it’s the hardest pace to keep your legs still and that horse looks like it needs your “leg on” most of the time to keep it going! Irem would benefit from some trot work (probably on a lunge rein) without stirrups to get her sitting deeper so she drives the horse into the contact with her body weight and doesn’t need so much leg to compensate. If you want to watch some excellent riding skills videos I thoroughly recommend those of Randi Thompson – she is in the USA but teaches “English” style. Go

      Anyway thanks for sharing the video – lovely visual quality, by the way – and good luck with the book sales!

  3. Very interesting article, Suzan! Especially as we read so many articles about what to expect in 2015 as far as digital marketing is concerned — it seems video will continue to offer what the written word can not, granted we have the time to absorb the information! Even with it’s slow transmission when compared to text, video still provides the ability to reach someone on an individual, personalized level – hearing our name is one of the sweetest sounds and often shows a person went through more care to reach them!

    Words are simply text that often lack context. Video brings context back to conversations, strengthens the relationship and often creates a bond sooner than a shared article can! Blog posts and written articles will always have their place in our on-the-go lives, but video cuts through the noise! They really should be a dynamic duo, and not one or the other!

    Perhaps the new headlines for 2015 trends should read: Video + text creates a lasting impression!

    Thanks again for sharing, Suzan! Very interesting insight!

    • Nice product, Lorrie! Should I assume it is not live video communication like Facetime or Skype?

      As you suggest and as I say in the article, it’s very much a case of “horses for courses” and you’re right – video has an extra personal touch that text doesn’t. But when it comes to sharing information as quickly and efficiently as possible, you still can’t beat text. Video used for sharing straight information is clunky and monotonous. Worse is when there isn’t much to say but they wanted a video because someone has told them that “video cuts through the noise” … (LOL – not trying to be unkind!) e.g. those awful videos you see where some amphetamine-riddled hand writes out the keywords at ridiculous speed while the narrator reads them out.

      Anyway thanks for your Movy that you sent me (readers: have a look at it here if you’d like a sample)

      Looks a bit snowy where you are, Laurie – Delaware, isn’t it? Thanks for stopping by!


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