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How Old is Your Stuff?

Crabby Old Lady and Audio-Only News

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.


Whatever gave anybody the idea that I would wish to watch news via video? I skip those when they are embedded. Also, as you've previously mentioned, I really dislike it when an audio track or video automatically starts to play when I go to a website. Grrrrr

Most of my news come by way of NPR and/or BBC radio. Beyond that, I read a daily newspaper. I don't consider the web to be a place to get news.

Good to know that I'm not the only one who avoids videos. I read fast.... much faster than I listen.

However, my main squeeze says there is nothing like a YouTube video for learning how to fix his car.

I am certainly with you on this one, for a reason you didn't mention. I can't seem to listen to audio-only with concentration. I get distracted with my own thoughts and "wake up" a few minutes later to discover I've missed large parts of what I'm supposed to be listening to. Video is a little better, but there has to be something to look at besides a talking head or again, I check out.

My aversion goes further than yours, however. I don't like to read online. I can see a half-page story in the New York Times and read every word if the subject interests me. But put that same story online and I will only read a few paragraphs. I dread the day they stop printing newspapers at all, and I know it's coming soon.

I started my career at a newspaper and I know something about the difference between newspaper and TV coverage of a story. I would go to a City Council meeting and spend hours listening to boring stuff out of which I would have to distill the important matters. The TV people would arrive with their cameras, obtain some good sound bites and leave. Sometimes they'd call the newsroom later to get info about what happened. We will be poorly served as citizens if newspapers don't survive.

I totally agree with Crabby. I've been grumbling about this for ages now. Even the good old BBC is doing it these days: more and more videos and fewer and fewer written pieces.

That's one good thing about TED talks. You can almost always choose to read the transcript instead - and I usually do.

Thank you, Crabby for bringing this to our attention. I too, curse the video method of dispensing information. You are absolutely correct, although I have never timed it, I KNOW it will take me longer when I see a video and I don't bother listening. It's irritating! Just give me something to read! Or, at least a choice. Seeing, watching a video is more cumbersome. Whose idea was this anyway?

An equally crabby Karin

The updates I get on medical matters often offer the option of watching and listening to a video or reading a transcript. Even on-screen; reading is way easier and better than a video. Newspapers can be scanned visually, and an interesting article can be carefully studied, re-read and skimmed... Not possible with a video. I also dread losing newspapers, and prefer books to electronic reading. Losing one's place, or wanting to skim a book on a Kindle is frustrating and takes forever.

Oh no, I don't do on-line news, don't trust it, don't like it, NO! I do totally love youtube for artist interviews, Noam Chomsky, and okay, I'll admit it, Dame Edna.

Thank you for this interesting post . I agree.

Absolutely agree!! If I can't find a transcript of the video, then I don't get the information. I have always been a "print learner". I don't have a problem with reading online, my only issue with electronic sources is the information is so ephemeral; so easily manipulated and changed.

Oh my, thank you for putting into (printed) words exactly how I feel. I invariably skip video news - unless there is a transcript. And I really dislike the way the video automatically comes to life on my computer feed, whenever I'm trying to read the news story. That little boxy screen that pops up and makes me search for the mute option- ugh.

Couldn't agree more, Crabby. You've certainly hit a nerve here.

Add my voice to the chorus. I often do my news browsing with the sound off as well.

I enjoy instructional videos (NYTimes-how to make hand made pasta), humorous videos (Tiny Kitchen!), and I am very interested in weather videos or videos that enhance a story (Pele Vocanic eruption), but for in-depth news I MUST read it.
On-line is good because I have access to world-wide newspapers (Canada, Australia, Great Britain, and English editions of other language papers). I love moseying through our local paper which I pay the deliverer a little extra to leave at our front steps instead of down at the street,four hundred feet away.
We subscribe to a bunch of magazines: National Geographic, Science News, Brew Magazine, Vanity Fair, Archaeology, Funny Times, Physics, and Cooks Illustrated. I love taking them around to read in bits and pieces. As soon as we’re done with them, I write “FREE"across the cover and sprinkle them like flower petals wherever I go for other folks to enjoy.

P.S. I’ve been thinking that the videos without an accompanying transcript are VERY much NOT in the tradition of the A.D.A.* Perhaps a group of deaf/hearing impaired folks might get a case together. When news is presented JUST visually (video or text) or JUST audio a significant portion of the population is left out.

*Americans with Disabilities Act

Agreed! Even when we watch TV news (my sweetie is addicted) I sometimes turn away as I find I somehow absorb more info when I'm not actually watching, just listening.
So far my on-line Canadian news sources are still mostly print, and I really appreciate being able to follow links to check the back story, where I feel I need more info.

The problem with you Ronnie is that in a world where every idiot with a smart phone is suddenly in the TV news business, you are looking for production value.
Even print media no longer have photographers on permanent duty. The NY Daily News only has a few freelance photogs who are not employees of the paper.

One thing that really bugs me about our on air local news is they put up a tease then direct you to their page or Facebook page for details. Who actually does that?

Claudia has an interesting point. If a video does not have closed captioning I miss part of the dialog and it's so difficult to try to hear what is being said that it is not only frustrating, but is non-productive. Some voices are easy for me to understand because of the clarity of their speech, but most are not.

If a ramp is required in public places for those with disabilities, why isn't closed captioning required on videos? I enjoy the late night comics (replaying the next day) because they are usually closed captioned.

I always skip the video if there is a transcript. It's much easier for me to retain what I read and it also serves as a reference if I want to go back and check something.

I'll get a few headlines from TV, but if a story warrants my full attention and concentration, I must have it in print. I can read at my own pace, pause, think about it, re-read, refer to other sources when necessary, etc. Sound and movement are just distractions when I'm "studying." Video and TV, of necessity, are down and dirty, "just the facts, ma'am."

I so agree! I avoid video/audible news without a transcript. If the subject matters is really important to me, I'll Bing or Google it to find an actual article to read.

In just a few decades we will be dead and the sentiments in your column, which I wholeheartedly agree with, will not even form a footnote in the history of our age.

My pet peeve of the moment is the video without sound...words scroll across the screen and if you miss them too bad!! There’s no way I can get a good look at the video and read the fast moving text simultaneously. Ugh.

Totally agree! I detest audio except, upon occasion, for cute cat videos. I'm another one who turns off the sound if there's text. If it's audio-only, I probably won't read it on the computer. I'll go to my local newspaper (which, thank goodness, is still published and I hope continues to exist until I'm either dead or no longer have enough functioning brain cells to care).

I think I've found the remedy for not losing posts (make 'em brief so they don't time out), but could be that my computer crashing could have had something to do with it, too. Took it in to be repaired (if possible) this morning. If I've lost all my data, despite backing up to an external hard drive, I'm not sure what I'll do next .

Me Too!!! I skip most videos especially if they are over five minutes.

If I need to find out how to do something then I will use youtube where I can also see how something is done while listening.

Keep up the good work Ronnie!

10/10 agree.

Hope newspapers never die.

I like ghost placing my used pocket books in different cities while traveling.

Sometimes I leave a note inside.

What about those of us with hearing loss? If a TV program doesn’t have closed captioning I don’t watch it. And so I certainly won’t watch a video that doesn’t have closed captioning! Crabby Lynn

Perhaps this would apply to this discussion ... a theory has it that there are three ways humans learn: sight, audio, and tactile (handling mechanical things, for instance).
Most humans have one of these traits dominate in their learning ability. I learn by sight ... reading watching something actually work, taking something apart to see how it works, etc.

I don't do well with hearing directions or explanations about anything or handling something. I need to read about things or see plans on paper, or read the news, read about happenings, read text books, etc. Listening to a lecturer, etc. does not work well for me unless there are strong visuals in front of me so I can follow the lecturer's audio.

How do you learn?

I skip all videos when I am trying to read news. Period.

I resent the growing tendency to expect me to watch videos in order to use some appliance! They seem to have largely given up on manuals.

Yet I sometimes post videos on my blog, when I think (as I did today) someone has found a clever way to make a point via the medium. It wouldn't be my way, but I know there are some people who watch the things.

Audio without pictures works for me when I am wandering about or exercising which I am lucky enough to still be able to do a lot.

I completely concur.

I couldn’t agree more!

Have you tried "COMMON GROUND?" Good solid commentaries, generally progressive on nationwide and worldwide issues. Never a hint they will switch to audible or video only.
And I get a kick out of "Daily Kos" which is, as y'all probably know a grab bag of leftish, fun reactions to what's happening.

As a person with impaired vision I actually get the majority of my information and entertainment in the form audio files.

I save reading for important things, such as your Blog posts, Ronni, and currently I'm reading the autobiographies of all the presidents I've lived under. Just finished Truman:Man of the people at about 1000 pages and on to Ikes autobiography. I took a side trip through both FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt's works, especially First Lady Eleanor. She was quite a woman and I'm named after her. I use a page enlarger and my computer font is quite large.

But, bless Audible-I've been a good customer for 10 years, when my vision first began to go.

Just as I can't read easily, I can't/don't watch videos with ease. PBS is good for full story audio clips and Huff Post has some videos with full audio stories.

Without audio books I'de one bored and crabby woman and without audio news feeds I'k not have any knowledge of what goes on in the world.

Og course I'd prefer to read-but I'm sure I'm not alone amongst people who have to rely on audio for information due to failing eyesight.

So, cut us some slack, maybe?


The small stuff we tolerate today is the totalitarian system we’ll accept tomorrow.

Agree totally...
Now I will watch John Oliver on my iPad, but regular news sites...I want to read!
I really haven't run into this too much. Hope it doesn't increase

Oh crabby, I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one. Video is not only less informative and takes too long, but so many of the presenters have annoying voices and put on such fake expressions that I wonder if they are on drugs. But then again, the writing, even in "good" news forums, is really declining. Still, at least you can get the facts without listening to a lot of drivel.

@ Elle in Oregon. I'm with you. I listen to NPR and/or NPR One virtually all day via smart phone apps, being somewhat of a news junkie. Many of their features are in depth and I trust them to be "fair and balanced" with both sides represented. NPR One introduced me to many very interesting podcasts that keep me in tune with popular culture and oh so many other areas that I find myself having no time for listening to books.

But, I'm an Audible user,and there's also the free BARD service from the Library of Congress where you can chose from thousands of titles for free. Your Oregon Dept for the Blind can help. I like your biography approach.

I subscribe to my local paper e version which includes an option to have articles read via a robo voice. Ronni, pretty soon I'm going to have to activate the Narrative accessibility function on my large screen computer to listen to your blog. Because you seem to use a large readable font (TYVM), I can manage reading with 4X magnification still.

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