I have the attention span of a particularly inattentive and distractible goldfish. I’d usually rather read than watch, since I can take it in at my own pace, which is fast by default, and often liable to get even faster and skip paragraphs until I spot something that catches my eye. I already try to absorb way too much, so my tendency is to browse feeds looking for nuggets rather than slogging through every word of every new post out there.
Now think of the way video works. While it is technically possible to skip ahead (in some players), it’s not feasible to quickly skip bits while maintaining any kind of overview of what you’re jumping over. The upshot: if you’re going to put out 2 hour(!) video which documents a debate on OS X vs Vista, don’t be surprised when people don’t notice it.
Remember the bit in Microserfs where they discover they can watch closed captioned movies in fast forward?
There are some things I do take the time to watch. The Show with Ze Frank is one. Ze has it right on three counts.
- Each episode is compelling, beautiful, intelligent and devastatingly funny. Unmissable stuff.
- They’re short. 2 minutes. The common assumption seems to be that people want 30 or 60 minutes of content to feel like they’re getting value from it. It’s probably a TV mentality, and the web is not like that. Give me bite sized pieces of goodness.
- They’re transcribed. If I need to find an episode about hotel room checkout etiquette, thanks to the transcription in the zefrank wiki, I can not only do a text search to find that episode, I can browse the content to find the bit I was thinking of in about 3 seconds flat rather than having to watch the whole 2 minutes.
Transcription is key here. In Ze’s case he has a big enough following that his fanbase transcribes them for fun. If you’re putting up a podcast, consider either crowdsourcing it like that, transcribing it yourself, or a opting for a service like CastingWords. For $0.42 per minute of audio (another reason to keep the length down) you can have Mechanical Turk’s hordes of internet monkeys transcribe it for you. That’s a service I’ll be using if I ever make the leap into podcasting.
I’m not planning to podcast though. I opened four tabs in Firefox just while writing the opening sentence about goldfish.