Crabby Old Lady winds up in a snit these days every time she reads – or, rather, TRIES to read - online news.
Certainly she has her favorite news websites, but Crabby regularly visits a wide variety of other news sources too, several dozen in fact, and although she can't read every one every day, she's familiar with them all from her decades of use.
For several years now, however, a growing phenomenon is making it harder and harder for Crabby to find written news stories (you know, the kind with detail and explanation, the kind that make it easy to backtrack when she wants to re-read a sentence or paragraph) because more and more news websites are publishing all or some of their stories as video only without providing a transcript.
By their nature, video news stories are always more shallow and less informative than written ones because the medium does not lend itself to explanation and detail.
(Documentaries are a different animal. Their length allows producers to present a more thorough report than one-to-three minute news pieces can accomplish.)
Crabby doubts she is the only person who knows that it takes at least twice as long and sometimes more to watch a news video than to read a written one.
Further, she can't skip forward watching a video because she has no way to know if the information she wants is next. With words on paper or a screen, she can always skim the tiresome parts.
Video news can be useful when Crabby can listen while she has something mindless to do – wash the dishes, make the bed, etc. But it doesn't do much for understanding our complicated world; that requires the concentration that reading involves.
Even the grand dames of legacy publishing are posting more video/audio-only stories, The New York Times, the Washington Post among them. And Crabby watches hardly any of it mainly for the reasons stated but also because the majority are so poorly produced and written.
And according to at least one source, Crabby isn't the only person who rejects video/audio-only reports.
A two-year-old study from Digital News Publications found that except during times of important breaking news, online video news is driven more by “technology, platforms and publishers” than consumer demand.
”Around 75% of respondents to a Reuters Institute survey of 26 countries said they only occasionally (or never) use video news online.”
But the respondents were watching more news video on third-party sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, etc. and further, according to the study:
”We find that the most successful off-site and social videos tend to be short (under one minute), are designed to work with no sound (with subtitles), focus on soft news, and have a strong emotional element.”
Which may account for the gazillions of cute kitty video compilations.
Crabby doesn't recall where but she was encouraged recently to read that after dramatic drop-offs, book sales are up slightly giving her reason to believe that reading which, unlike video news, requires actual thought might not be deteriorating after all. But then this turned up last week:
Michael Lewis, one of the most successful non-fiction book writers in the world (with good reason) announced that his next magazine article will be published only in audio:
“'You’re not going to be able to read it, you’re only going to be able to listen to it,' Mr. Lewis [told The New York Times]. 'I’ve become Audible’s first magazine writer.'”
Michael Lewis just lost one fan. Can others be far behind?
The Times tells us that other top-line writers including Robert Caro and Jeffrey Deaver have signed on to publish with Audible, which is also producing original audio books, even plays.
Crabby believes there is a place for audio books (as long as they are also available in print or on screen), and given a long drive or train trip, for example, she would probably stock up.
Her problem is that she doesn't commute anymore and it doesn't take long enough to wash dishes or make the bed to be bothered.
People our age have seen an amazing number of ideas, inventions and technological advances we could not have guessed at when we were young and there is a tendency to believe that new is always good. Crabby Old Lady doesn't believe that - especially about audio-only news and books.