Video is changing writing forever.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a video worth? It’s incalculable. YouTube and the plethora of video that it offers are changing the way that we communicate and I believe will profoundly influence the course of mass communications.

Take for example, the simple communication of instructions.

With video you essentially have a private tutorial with an infinitely patient teacher. You can watch the difficult parts over and over again until they make sense. And with YouTube, you have the opportunity to interact with that instructor through comments so you can get answers to your questions.

I’ve seen this play out in small ways. When my son got a new calculator — one that allows him to solve math problems that I’ve never even heard of — he didn’t read the instruction manual. Instead, he went to YouTube where he found a demonstration of the exact task that he wanted to perform. In less than five minutes he was completely empowered.

I use YouTube for its instructional properties as well. I’ve been teaching myself how to knit and crochet. When I need help with a technique or a stitch, it’s all there — in slow motion and high definition. Instructions that were indecipherable in their written format become clear and (frankly) obvious when shown in video.

How will that impact mass communications? In general, I believe people are reading less and that by using video to communicate thoughts, ideas and instructions, this trend further diminishes the impact of the written word.

That does not mean that our job as communicators is becoming obsolete; rather we must learn how to use video as an effective medium. People listen differently than they read. We need to understand that dynamic in order to create videos that use words and images together in a way that both educates and entertains. Writing isn’t going away. It’s just taking on a new form. One that is potentially even more powerful and influential.

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