Nobody Reads Anymore; Are You Ready?

By Lubor Ptacek posted 06-13-2011 13:54


No, I am not accusing humankind of a lack of interest in literature. And I assume that you passionately follow your favorite magazines - from Wired to Cosmopolitan. What I am talking about is the decline in reading time at work. People don't read much anymore. Nobody has the time to read instruction manuals and long-winded policies. The white paper downloads are way down and if you write a long email, you can bet that most recipients won't read it past the first two paragraphs. We are becoming masters of skimming and the quick glance through when reading at work.

This is the result of information overflow and the constant disruptions, as Nicolas Carr describes so well in his latest book The Shallows. But if we are unable to read with concentration and if our brains are really becoming different as Mr. Carr suggests, how will we communicate? Not every message can fit into the 140 characters of a tweet and a lot of information requires more space and time to convey. The answer is rich media. After all, we already know that a picture is worth thousand words and a video is worth, well, at least 24 pictures per second.

Our communication is shifting towards rich media. What used to take a couple hundred pages of text in a manual can now be learned from a 20 minute training video. Instead of a long email to all employees, the CEO delivers his message in a video. Instead of cranking out endless data sheets and white papers, the marketing departments produce creative visuals and videos. Have you noticed that your colleagues use PowerPoint even for information that would be more easily created in Word? That's only the beginning. As we are embracing video telephony and tele-presence and as we are learning to take advantage of the now omnipresent recording devices - our smartphones - rich media communication will replace text more and more.

But as communication shifts from text to rich media, are we ready for this change? Rich media is different than text. Very different. For example, there is the question of data size and bandwidth. We need to understand all the formats, form factors, and codecs. How about something like search? Text search is hard enough in the enterprise but can you handle search for images or even video? How about the delivery of streamed media? Folders full of files won't cut it. And, how about retention and legal discovery for video content? Handling rich media requires a specialized set of solutions that have deep understanding of all these issues and that can handle them with all the requirements of an enterprise - security, integration, storage optimization, retention, scalability, etc.

But, there is another challenge with rich media. One that relates to the people who need to not only consume it but also create it. Today, creation of rich media is mostly relegated to professionals with a very specialized background and skill set. But in an era of mass usage of rich media communication, we have to expect that all of us will be creating rich media. Yet, most of us don't know how. The Internet is full of lousy pictures and terrible videos. That won't cut it in a professional world just as today poor writing skills won't make us successful.

Most of us were taught in school how to write with all the spelling, grammar, style, and structure requirements. We have not learned how to shoot a video or how to take well-composed pictures. That will have to change. We should expect that, in the future, our schools will teach more about lighting, composition, mixing, and yes, even those pesky copyright laws. Because rich media will be how we all communicate in the future.

#podcasts #video #blogging #governance