What the Future Looks Like for Written Content

In today’s lesson, I want to talk to you about written content vs other mediums and respond to a few questions I’ve been getting lately about which medium is best to focus upon and to answer the question – is the future of written content dead!

Listen to this episode in the player above or here on iTunes (look for episode 187).

187: Is Written Content Dead?


Before I get into today’s show though I’ve been hinting for a few episodes now that I’ll have some news for you about this year’s ProBlogger events in Australia and the USA – and how you can get early bird tickets to both.

Today I’m pleased to announce what we’re doing:

In Australia – we’re running two events. We’ve got Pat Flynn coming out to speak in both Brisbane and Melbourne on two consecutive weeks. Brisbane is 29-30 July and Melbourne is 5-6 August.

There’s two options with tickets in both cities. On the Saturdays we’ll be doing a larger single stream day with 7 sessions. Pat, myself and some other special guests will be teaching on how to monetize blogs. We’ll be talking monetization models, content, traffic, engagement and conversion.

On the Sundays there’s an option to upgrade your ticket to come to a mastermind day. These will be much smaller (32 people) and give you an opportunity to really drill down into your own blog and business and to talk with both Pat, myself and some other experience bloggers to brainstorm, strategize and plan how to grow your business.

These two Aussie events are already selling quickly – the Melbourne mastermind is already sold out but there are tickets as I record this for day 1 in Melbourne and both day 1 and the mastermind in Brisbane.

Check out the Aussie event at problogger.com/events, where for the next week or so you can save $100 when you get an Early Bird Ticket.

If you’re in the US, I am co-presenting/hosting an event in Dallas on 24-25 October. I’m doing this in partnership with the Digital CoLab and we’re calling it the Success Incubator.

This event will be a combination of very practical/actionable teaching but also a chance to really drill down and mastermind/discuss your business in round table sessions.

We’ll be announcing more details about speakers and agenda in the coming weeks but have put tickets on sale for those of you who are keen. We have a limited number of tickets and they’re already selling fast. You can see what we’re planning and grab your ticket at:

problogger.com/success, where there’s currently an Early Bird ticket available that saves you $50.

OK – that’s enough about our events – let’s get into today’s show where we’re going to talk about the place of written content in blogging today.

Mentioned in todays episode – A series by Colin Gray on Content Stacking.

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Hey there and welcome to episode 187 of the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind the ProBlogger.com – blog, podcast, event, job board and series of eBooks all designed to help you, as a blogger, to grow your audience, but first, to start you blog, to grow your audience and then to create some amazing content that’s going to help people to improve their lives in some way. This is going to make the world better but also, hopefully, be sustainable for you to build some profit into your blog. You can learn more about ProBlogger and all that we do over at ProBlogger.com.

In today’s lesson, I want to talk to you about written content versus other mediums, other types of content. I want to respond to a few questions that I’ve been getting lately about which medium is best to focus upon and if there’s any future in the written word. Is the future of the written content dead? That’s the question I had a few times at Social Media Marketing World last week. I want to address in today’s podcast.

You can find today show notes where I’ll have some further listening and further reading over at ProBlogger.com/podcast/187.

Before I get into today’s show, I have been hinting over the last few episodes that I’ll have some news for you about this year’s ProBlogger event in Australia and the USA, and how you can get some early bird tickets to both those. Today, I’m pleased to announce what we’re doing. I’m going to give you some further reading if you are interested, over in the show notes. But if you’re in Australia, we’re running two events this year. We’ve got Pat Flynn coming out to speak from Smart Passive Income. He’s coming out to Brisbane and Melbourne on consecutive weeks. Brisbane is the 29th and 30th of July and Melbourne is the 5th and 6th of August.

There are two options for tickets in both of those cities as well. We’re doing two-day events as you know. The first day, in both cities is a larger single stream day with a seven sessions. Pat, myself and some other special guest will be teaching you on the topic of monetizing blogs. We’re going to be specifically talking about the different models that you can do, content tips and traffic tips, some engagement tips and a little bit about conversion, making the money from all that stuff. That’s the first day. It’s everyone in the same room. We’ll have 100 plus people in on that day, potentially even more.

On the Sunday, the second day, there’s an option to upgrade your ticket to come to a mastermind day. Again, these will be with Pat, myself, and some other experienced blogger. It’s going to be limited to 32 people for that second day. We’ll give an opportunity to really drill down into your blog, into your business, to talk to Pat, myself and some of these other experts that were bringing in to strategize, to plan and to really brainstorm what it is that you need to do to grow your business, much more intimate kind of thing.

Those two cities, Melbourne and Brisbane, that’s the format. We’ll do the same thing in both events with slightly different speakers in addition to Pat and myself. I have to say the Melbourne mastermind is already sold out. It’s sold out in the few hours when we launched it. As I record this, there’s still a few tickets left for the mastermind in Brisbane and then there are plenty of tickets for day one of both of those events. We should be able to accommodate most people who want to come to those first days.

If you’re in Australia, check out ProBlogger.com/events and for the next week or so you get $100 early bird discount on both tickets there.

If you’re in the US, as I know about half of our listeners are. I’m co presenting or co hosting an event in Dallas, in October. It’s the 24th and 25th of October. It’s in partnership with some friends of mine called the Digital CoLab and we’re calling the event that’s partnership of both of our different businesses, we’re calling it the Success Incubator. I’ve got some link for you on that as well if you go to ProBlogger.com/success.

ProBlogger.com/success, there’s a $50 discount at present for early birds.

That event is going to be a combination of some practical, actionable teaching but also some mastermind type of experiences as well. We will be giving you a bit more information on that in the next few weeks but at the moment, you can get that early bird offer. Again, if you’re in Australia, ProBlogger.com/events. If you’re in America, ProBlogger.com/success.

That’s all I got to say on the events, I would love to see you there. It’s the whole out of my year doing this events. It’s probably the best thing that I think I do. If you get some value from this podcast, you’re going to love what we do at those events because it’s very similar. I’m trying to do practical, actionable stuff that you’re going to get a lot of value at. Some of my best online friends will be there to deliver that value as well in addition to what I’ve got to present.

That’s enough of the events. You can find today show notes over at ProBlogger.com/podcast/187 where I’ll link to both of those event types as well.

That’s the longest introduction I have ever done. I’m not going to do that in every show, that’s for sure but I want to get onto today’s show. We’re going to talk about written content.

Just a little word of warning, I’m completely jet lagged out of my head. I got back from Social Media Marketing World a couple of days ago in San Diego, 25 hours both ways. Those of you who were in the Facebook group, who know that I, pretty much, every time I had a layover, I answered questions in the group. I want to thank those of you who kept me company over that particular trip. That was a crazy trip. I’m pretty tired but I want to get into today show, we’re talking about written content.

The reason that I want to talk about it is because at Social Media Marketing World, I recon I had about 10 conversations with people about written content and whether it has a future. People are coming out and going, is written content dead? Everyone at Social Media Marketing World is talking about video. There were whole streams about podcasts. There were lots of streams about visual content. In a lot of our sessions on written content, people were saying, “Is it dead? Is there a future in it?” That’s why I want to talk about it today.

To do so, I want to rewind the clock back to 2002, in my first blog. While it’s the first blog, it was called Living Room, it’s not online anymore the other day, I was actually looking back as part of my preparation for my talk at Social Media Marketing World. I went onto one of my favorite tools, the Internet Archive, which is a tool that records what sites you used to look like in the past. It’s actually recording what it looks like every few months. Once you’re site’s in there, it will continue to grab what things look like on your site right now.

I went back as far as I could on the Internet Archive to find what my blog look like, that first original blog looked like. I got to it eventually when I remembered what the URL was because it was on Blogspot when I first had it. As I was looking at it, I found myself really cringing. Probably because of the horrible design, I hacked it together myself. I’m not a designer at all. Back then I was even less of a designer. I also cringed at the spelling mistakes and some of the naivety of what I was doing on the blog at the time.

As I was looking at it, I was amazed by a couple of things. The main thing that I was amazed about was the complete lack of visual content on that blog. The front page had 10 posts on it and not a single one of them had anything other than text. The only visuals on the front page of my blog were a tiny little series of 100×100 pixels that I put in the header of my design, these tiny little images which, if memory serves me correctly, took me days to get those images right up there in the design. That was the only visual on the whole site. Every blog post I had was text and it really, to me, stood out as being very different to what my blogs look like today. If you go to my blogs today, ProBlogger for instance, you’ll see there’s video on the front page and on key pages around the site. Every single post has images. There’s obviously a podcast on there as well. It’s a much more of a multimedia experience.

Back then in 2002, I didn’t use images or any other mediums at all for a number of reasons. Firstly, people just didn’t do that back then. I do remember a few bloggers who were doing visual stuff but really not many at all. Most bloggers that I was reading were doing purely text as well. Dial up internet, that’s what I was on at that time in 2002. That made it hard to upload images. I remember trying to upload an image at one stage, even those 100×100 pixels, it was really slow to get them up there. Any time that I did start to do images, I would get pushed back from my readers because some of my readers were on dial up as well. I really didn’t like it when I did use images. I don’t know if you remember those days when you would load up a website with images on it and the images would load line by line, a big image would take 5 to 10 minutes to see images. I guess the other reason that people weren’t doing multimedia, video and audio in particular, was that the tools to do that were pretty primitive. This is pre-YouTube, this is pre-iTunes. The tools to make that topic content were pretty primitive as well.

It was possible to do it but it was pretty hard to do. Things have changed a lot since 2002 when I started blogging. Today, not a blog post goes by on my blog where there’s not at least a single image. That’s a rule I have. We have to have an image in every post. Of course, I’m doing a weekly podcast. We’re doing live videos over on Facebook and embedding some of those into content on the blogs as well, playing with different types of mediums, some infographics and other visual content as well.

The web today is just so much more visual and the tools at our fingertips are so powerful. The fact that I can get my phone now and go live on Facebook is just amazing, so much easier to create content, to edit that content today. There’s this expectation amongst our readers today that if content isn’t at the very least visual, then it’s often seen as second right. As a result, we’re seeing a lot more bloggers shifting their attention to audio, to visual, to live content and visual content as well. As a result, I’m starting to see some of my friends shift away or at least decreasing their reliance on the written word.

Hence, the question I’ve been getting this year at Social Media Marketing World. Is the future of text, of written content gloomy? Is written content dead?

I don’t think it is. I really don’t think it is. What I think has been happening over the last five years is a needed realignment to get the balance right between the different mediums. If we look over the last few decades of mainstream media, even before the rise of the internet, we’ve always seen room for text, newspapers, magazines in largely a textual content with images as well, I guess. We’ve always had, over the last few decades, room for audio radio, we’ve always had room for video over the last few decades at least, with television, movies whether that be live television or recorded televisions.

As we look back in history, we’ve always had these types of content sitting side by side, at least over the last few decades since television came out. We’ve always had them sitting side by side but there had been periods of time where certain mediums have dominated. We’ve seen the rise and fall of different mediums. None of them have ever completely died, often. Over the last decade, we’ve seen of course a massive shift to the internet. Now, it’s so much easier to produce all of these different types of content on the internet. In comparison to 2002, it’s so much easier to do video. I think what’s been happening as we’ve seen the rise of audio and particularly the rise of video is just a realignment. I actually think it’s going to balance out and we will see a place in another few years where these three different types of content or four different types if you include visual sort of sit side by side.

At the moment, it does seem like video is everything. We’re saying Facebook, putting a lot of time in the video as well. But I think things will balance out again particularly with the web getting faster and faster and more and more of the world getting access to fast internet. We’re going to see things continue rise perhaps for audio and video for the next little while, but written content is not going away.

I actually think, at the moment, written content is still, the dominant or at least in the top two types of content that people are consuming online today. Yes, we have seen the rise in video but I think written content is still perhaps the most popular, if not, the second most popular.

There’s a few reasons that I will give you that I don’t think written content is going away. For me, the main reason for this is that some people simply prefer written content to anything else. I saw this when I launched these podcast. When I launched these podcast, I was really excited about it. I was really excited about audio because I’m an audio kind of person. I learned best through listening to someone. But when I launched it, I got some really positive feedback. I also got quite a few of my readers who were a bit angry that I was starting to do audio. They pushed back. I got a number of emails in that first week or so and in the weeks afterwards from people saying, “I don’t listen to audio.” When I do the same thing with video, when I do a Facebook Live and I link to it in a newsletter, I get emails from people saying, “I don’t watch video.”

There’s a variety of reasons why they don’t, for some it’s accessibility, they’re on slower internet. Some, it’s they don’t have an iPhone and they don’t know how to listen to the audio or they don’t want to download an app to listen to it or they don’t want to do that and for some people, it’s just a preference. Some people learn best through the written word. That’s why we’ve added transcripts for all of our podcasts but the reality is some people just prefer an article to listening to something or to watching something. This is not going away. The written word is not going away because some people just are going to be searching for that topic content. For me, that’s the number one reason. There are other reasons as well.

For now, the type of content that search engines present most in their results, this is changing a little, is written content. If you do a search for anything in Google on google.com, you will find that Google is presenting a few videos and images to include some visuals in their search results but still, the vast majority of what they’re indexing is text and written content. That might be partly because there’s more written content on the internet than video but Google is still showing more of that, I think it’s another good reason to continue to create written content.

Another reason that I think written content is great is that it’s scannable. Most people can scan an article much quicker than they can watch a video or listen to a podcast. You can speed up YouTube clip, you can double the speed of a YouTube clip. Some of you listen to these podcasts at one and a half times speed or even two times speed but there’s only some file you can speed up listening. It’s very hard to find an exact moment in a podcast. You can’t scan and go, “Yeah that looks interesting, I’m going to just go straight to that.” Same with video unless the creator of that video or audio goes to the effort of marking when things happen, they do timestamps. In most cases, written content, you can take a quick scan and go, “Yeah, I want to read that section.” That’s another advantage of written word.

We’ll see some changes in these, we’ll perhaps see Google indexing video and audio in a better way that helps people to be able to scan it and find the right beat that’s relevant for them but for now, written content is the best in terms of that. Text also allows you to really comprehensively cover an idea. Of course, this can be done in other mediums too but I think people are used to reading those comprehensive pieces of content, at least some people are. I’ve got books that take hours or days to get through. My last holidays, I read a book that took me several days to read, that really long form content people are used to. They have the mindset that they’re willing to really invest time in reading.

In terms of video content, perhaps people aren’t quite as used to that although we’re seeing changes with this. With live streaming, people are now binging on video content a lot more. Things are changing in that regard but I think text does allow you to comprehensively cover an idea in a way that people are used to and willing to invest time into.

Text is still perhaps the most accessible type of content for many people today. In terms of internet speeds, we still see some parts of the world that are on slower internet speeds than others. Text opens up a way of communication with those people. I think text builds credibility, I’m not saying video and audio don’t, but I think it does build credibility. People are impressed by the written word.

Written content is also really easy to create. This is another advantage for the written word, I think. While it’s very easy these days to create and edit video, it does take more work to get that to a final point where you can publish it. It’s something that takes some certain level of technical expertise as compared to written content where you can open up a WordPress document and type it straight in and then you can edit it on there as well. You can even go back and edit it once you’ve already published. I guess that’s the other advantage of text, for me.

In comparison to audio or video, once it’s published, it’s really hard to go back in and then edit it. Sometimes, I’ll be listening to my own podcast and think, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I made that mistake.” I could go back and edit it but it would take so much more work than it does to edit a blog post, for example.

There’s a variety of reasons why I don’t think written content is going away either from a consumer standpoint or from a creator standpoint as well. I’m sure other people would give me some other benefits of written content. If you’ve got any, I’d love to hear them in the comments over on the show notes or on the Facebook group.

I do want to say I’m not arguing that it should be the only medium. I’m not arguing that written content is the best medium even, that everyone should be creating it even. I just want to emphasize that I don’t think it’s going away. I see a lot of hype about how video is going to be the only thing that we consume online and I personally don’t see that day coming. I actually, personally think I will always listen to podcast. I prefer audio. There are certain types of content I prefer to read. I don’t have all day to sit and watch videos, to find the snippets that I really need to learn about. I want to be able to scan content. I don’t think written content is going away. I’ve just argued for written. I think there are also some real benefits of having other types of content as well.

I guess the way I look at it is it’s like a tool bell. I want in my online content creation to be able to pull out written content, to be able to produce video, to be able to produce audio, to be able to produce visual content at the right time. Each medium has its strengths. To be able to create them all enables us as communicators, as online entrepreneurs to communicate more effectively at the right time. For example, let’s just go through different types of content. I’ve just argued the case for the written content.

Let’s think about visual content. Visual content is really good today, obviously, it’s a very visual web. But what I found is the visual content helps you to get shared, it helps you to get exposure. It helps you to become known. People share visuals on Pinterest, Instagram, Google Images, help us to become known and found through visual content. Creating visual is really important because it helps us to become more known, it helps us to become shared.

Video is great, also for being found. We’re seeing video coming into the search engine results more and more. But for me, the strength of videos, that helps us to be liked. We talked about visual content helps us to be known. I think video helps us to be liked. It shows who we are. It shows people our expertise. It shows people our sense of humor, our delivery style. It helps us to become liked. It helps us to build credibility. It helps us also to illustrate ideas and processes in a way that text sometimes struggles to do. To be able to show someone this is how I do something, that’s something that you can’t do in text but it’s so much easier sometimes in video. Video is really good in that.

For me, the strength of audio is that it’s incredibly personal. I lost count of the number of times at Social Media Marketing World that people came out to me and said, “You know I feel like I talk to you every week. I feel like we have conversations. I feel like I know you on a deeper level.” There’s something very intimate about putting ear buds in the ears and listening to the voice of someone. It helps people to make a connection with you on a really deeper level. It helps people to build trust with you.

We often talk about people want to know, like and trust you. We want to be known. We want to be liked. We want to be trusted. For me, if you’re using these different types of mediums, it enables you to be known, to be liked and trusted. Particularly, if you bring those different types of medium together.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is there’s real advantages of text but there are also real advantages of these other mediums as well. If possible, gather as many skills as you can in those different areas because there’s something very powerful that happens when you bring those things together.

My friend, Colin Gray, he’s spoke at our Australian event, ProBlogger event last year. He has a blog podcast called The Podcast Host. At last year’s event, in Australia, he talked about something that I’ve never heard anyone talked about before, he called it Content Stacking, Content Stacking as a way to communicate more effectively. He talked about designing a series of content or a season of content that takes people through a number of pieces of content or a number of different types of content. He talked about bringing written word, podcast, video, visual content together to create a stack of content that leads people through a learning process.

Ever since I heard him talking about that, it’s something that I’ve been wanting to do more and more often. I’ll link in the show notes today an article that Colin wrote on that particular topic. In fact, it’s actually a series of articles that he wrote on that topic. I’ve really been digging into that series. On ProBlogger, we’re going to be exploring content stacking a little bit more in the coming months. You’re going to see us roll out some content that is stacked. It will take us a couple of months to get it together but you’re going to see us put together some content that’s written content and audio content and video content and some visual content as well that will walk you through a process over on ProBlogger. It’s something that we’re putting together at the moment. We’ll present almost like a course but I could see it being done on a blog as well. I really encourage you to really grapple with bringing the different types of content together but don’t throw out written content.

Is written content dead? No, way. Keep creating it. There are so many reasons to do it.

Should it be the only type of content you create? This is really going to come down to your goals but I think most bloggers today should be mixing their mediums. They shouldn’t be just creating single medium blogs.

I still think there is a place for single medium blogs. Someone like Seth Godin, is a great example. Seth Godin is a gifted writer. He writes really well and his articles are short and punchy, they’re short but they’re powerful and I think he presents those articles in a really good  way. He’s a gifted writer and so that’s all he does. You go look at his blog, it looks like my blog in 2002. There are no images on it at all. He’s got a bald head and his glasses a part of his brand. But really, vast majority of the content he’s creating is written content.

It can be done that you just focus on one medium. If you are an amazing writer, write. If you are a gifted video maker, go with video. If you’re audio is your skill, be a podcaster. There are no rules. You can focus on one of the mediums but I think most bloggers today are bringing these different types of mediums together but don’t give up on the written word. I guess that’s my message for tonight. Don’t give up on the written word. It still does have a big place on the web today.

If you want to listen to a little bit more, explore some of these things a little bit more, I’ve got two podcast episodes for you to go back and listen to. Firstly episode 97, I talked about embeddable content. I think this is the easiest way to get multimedia onto your blog today. Some of you are listening to this and going, “Yeah, I do written word but I don’t know how to do visuals. I don’t know how to do video. I don’t know how to do audio.” The easiest way to get those different types of mediums onto your blog is to embed content other people have created.

You go to YouTube and find the best video possible. 99% of those videos on YouTube, you can embed onto your blog. That content creators wants you to embed that content on your blog and this is the easiest way to get these different mediums onto your blog alongside that written content you’ve created.

If you want to learn more about embeddable content, go back and listen to episode 97 of the ProBlogger podcast. It’s sitting there on iTunes or you can go over to the show notes as well. I talked about some of the different types content that you can be embedding onto your blog.

The other one that you might want to listen to is episode 134 which is one where I talked about how to choose which social network but also which medium is best for your blog. If you’re just starting out and you want to experiment with adding a different type of medium into your blog but you don’t know whether you should video or you don’t know whether you should do audio or you should do something else, that episode 134 is one that you can go back and listen to. It asks you some questions, it gives you some questions to begin to explore which medium might be best for you.

Hopefully, they’ll help you. That’s episode 97 and episode 134. Otherwise, dig into the archives. There are 186 previous episodes of this podcast. There’s plenty to listen to. Lastly, don’t forget to join the ProBlogger Facebook group. We’ve seen explosion of people joining that group out over the last little while. If you want to find us, I setup a redirect for you to make it easy for you to find, just type into your browser ProBlogger.com/group and you’ll be forwarded straight to that group.

Thanks for listening. I’m looking forward to chatting with you further of the ProBlogger Facebook group or over on the show notes as well. You can find today’s show notes at ProBlogger.com/podcast/187.

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