Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Thursday, December 01, 2005 3:56 pm
Video is not necessarily greater than audio
Even though TV killed the radio star, audio-only content never really went away. And it’s making a comeback. Just in time too, just as video content is imploding.

I can’t bear to watch television anymore, and am staying away from the cinema complex as well. Movies, have become bigger, louder, whizzier, but not much fun. I regret wasting time to watch most of the movies I’ve seen this year. Just about the only things worth watching, are some video podcasts, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart—and I don’t mind missing those.

I found the video-podcast experience to be quite disappointing. The first problem is the massive file sizes. The second problem is one in common with most types of video: that video doesn’t bring much additional content with it.

On a side note: there is a stupid trend nowadays on television, to glitz up visuals, just to attract one’s attention to the screen. Just watch a news broadcast. Instead of mundane news, there’s shiny bullet points, and flying shimmering logos. Computer graphics are everywhere, the result of desktop publishing gone mad. Actors (newscasters) ham up their accents, and mannerisms. And silly camera shots that don’t add any information to the content being discussed.

But the main problem is that audio content can be consumed "in the background", while video cannot.

I love to listen to Adam Curry, Engadget and Roger Ebert while cooking. I feel little compulsion to fast forward through boring bits or advertisements, because I can just block these things out. And if I’m distracted and don’t catch something the first time, I can usually just ignore it; but I still have the option of going back to that track later to re-hear it.

(If I’m in front of the computer as the track is playing, I have hot keys set up to skip 30 seconds forward/backward, just to avoid those boring bits.)

My current audio delight is the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets audiobook. I’ve never read the books, but finished the audiobook of book 1 (Sorcerer's Stone) over a couple of days while doing my other daily activities. If only I had an iPod, I could even do the listening while out walking, driving or gardening. There just isn’t that option with video.

In contrast, when I watch video versions of TWiT, and diggnation, or The Daily Show I always feel compelled to look at the screen, even though it’s just talking heads talking.

Self-help books understood this, and successfully moved to audiobooks a long time ago. Apple stuck polished up the audio experience for a long while even though others had “moved to” video. Devices such as Airport Express, SlimDevices are popular even though they only do audio. Skype became successful because they got the audio right. Video conferencing (while nice) continues to be the cool technology that few people use. Videophones are long-promised by non-existent.

The concept that "video is greater than audio", is simply false. Audio content is simpler and—with the help of MP3 compression, portable audio players, and the Internet—is increasingly compelling.

[posted with ecto]


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