Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Written Content vs. Other Media

I recognize the reality that there is such a thing as audio and video that some people consider to be "content," but to me, this is another attempt to sidestep the necessity for education and integrity while trying to squeeze a buck from the Internet.

Let me tell you straight off: I'm a musician. I love music of all kinds, and I listen to music all day while I'm working, and I play music when I'm done. Nobody respects the audio medium more than me. But I don't go to websites to hear music (except the occasional MySpace or YouTube), and I certainly don't want to hear audio when I'm searching the web for a product or service. I don't want to see video either, because it will be accompanied by audio, and I don't want my music interrupted. I can read quite well, thank you.

I respect a social media site like YouTube that allows the sharing of so much music. But that has nothing to do with website content. If you take their code and drop it into your blog to amplify some point, that's totally cool. But if you do that for someone else's site, you really can't call yourself a "content provider."

If you are a professional videographer and you create videos that become useful web content, then yes, you are playing the role of content provider, and the people in this field do amazing work. But very few videographers would describe themselves as "web content providers." My point is that the field of web content is almost exclusively the domain of the written word. There is valid content, like some podcasts and videos, that is not written, but the primary use of the Internet for commerce revolves around the written word.

The word "commerce" is operative here. The net contains mad quantities of audio and video that could be described as entertainment or art. But when I get home from the emergency room after having my leg broken in an auto accident, I'm looking for the phone number of a good lawyer in writing, not a movie or podcast of a lawyer talking. When I need a plumber because my pipe is broken, I don't want to watch a 13 minute short film about the history of copper pipes. I want to know how to get in touch with a local plumber, now, in writing.

One of the reasons I like reading things on the Internet is because it enables me to multitask. I killed my TV a long time ago, but if you are so inclined you can listen to music, watch a game on television with the volume down, and devour unlimited written information on the web all at the same time.

Try as they might, the dumb-us-down crowd is never going to get rid of the written word, and from my perspective, if you are not a professional writer, you are not a content provider.

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