Thursday, November 18, 2004

Why Online Audio and Video are Doomed

If you've followed some of my recent articles and posts you may have noticed my fixation on online audio and video. I'm well aware the internet as we know it is static and silent. It just sits there, and we "read" it.

"Content" is King

There are good reasons for this. Some of them are technical. Like for instance the extra bandwidth required to transmit online audio and video.

But many of these reasons are not technical. One claim often made is that the web is static and silent because it is a "content-rich" medium. "Content is King" we are told. This is supposed to make the web a serious cut above things like TV and radio — and more akin to print media like newspapers and magazines...or even books...saturated with serious content. So audio and video are not required for such a serious, meaningful activity.

The fact that web surfing is a "private", solitary activity is also important. The family does not sit around the computer together and check out their favorite website. We don't "share" the web surfing experience. One person one computer. Audio — and to a lesser extent, video — disrupt the privateness of the activity. Those of us who surf in the middle of the night don't want our computers suddenly erupting with a bunch of noise.

As online audio and video become more common these habits and expectations will change. We will eventually stop believing that written content is superior to televised content, and we will find ways to control the disruptiveness of the noise. Like buttons that turn the audio on and off, and the use of headphones to keep it private.

Hiding behind our copy

I think many internet marketers, publishers, and authors want the web to stay static and silent because this serves their purposes just fine. The truth is, creating static web pages is easy. Once you know how to get online all you really have to know is how to type. Technical knowledge about servers, html code, web programming... blogging has made all of these completely unnecessary.

We can also hide our "warts and all" behind the impersonal nature of static, silent web pages. Sure our writing will reveal something about the character we want to reveal. But it can be a completely fictitious character. This is useful for marketers — especially internet marketers — because they can say outrageously exaggerated things in print they might be less likely to say into a microphone or in front of a camera.

The real "technical" problems are not technical

But probably the single most important reason why audio and video will not work for many internet marketers is that our delivery is poor, our voices are unappealing, we look weird, or more likely, a combination of all these things. There are good reasons why not everybody can be a radio or TV personality. It is one thing to write a promotional pitch for your product. It is something completely different to present it into a microphone or in front of a camera.

I am reminded of the time I created a "video business card" for one of our sales people. A simple 15 second script took more than 3 hours to record. Take after take after take. This was not a klutz I was dealing with. He was a fairly polished guy who looked good, had a decent voice, and a pretty good delivery. Prior to this I had found that shooting video for a 30 second local TV commercial always took about 4 hours. Nothing had changed.

Four hours to shoot some relatively amateurish footage, and then another 3 or 4 hours (at least) to edit it. Is it worth this kind of hassle to the average internet marketer? I don't think so...

OK. OK... I know recording four or five minutes of audio doesn't have to take 3 hours. In my case, I've gotten the process down to pretty much one take and about 15 minutes of editing. But my point is, not very many of us are going to set up a little recording studio in their basement. Not very many of us are going to take the time to practice their delivery, edit out the coughs and stutters, organize the files, upload them, etc., etc.

And those services where you record your pitch on the phone...? Forget it. They are an interesting attempt at "democratizing" the world of online audio. But after your first telephone recording what will you do for an encore? I see there is now a similar video-oriented service... "Just use our exciting software to record yourself with an ordinary $30 webcam...then simply upload the file..."

Amazing! Have you ever seen pictures of yourself taken with one of those webcams. Cool. Very attractive. I'm sure that will get you lots of sales.

-- Rick
Online Audio and Video Concepts