How To Choose The Correct Media

Comments: 13 Comments
Published on: 2014.11.10

(This isn’t about the news media, but about internet — mostly social media and blogs — and how people use it poorly.)


An example of an image file with text on it
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

Day after day, I see image files with words typed on them, links to YouTube videos for words and information, and worse. It boggles my mind. Yes, there are actually text-only YouTube videos (an ironic example). And yes, people create and post image files with only text (example).

The really ironic thing about this is how much easier it would have been to just type the text. Especially on Facebook or your blog where you have to have the text editor open anyway just to post the image file you typed on.

One thing I won’t complain about is YouTube videos that are really just audio files. While there are sites where you can host your own audio, few of them are incredibly well-known and none of them have the star power of YouTube. (But it was while searching for one of these that I decided to complain about the rest.)


Quick-and-dirty guide:

1. If all you have to pass along is text — words, numbers, symbols, punctuation — then use a text format for it. This could be a blog entry or Facebook post if it’s long, or a Twitter update if it’s short. You have one of these three already, and chances are you’re posting on one of them.

(Even if Twitter is all you have, and you need more than 140 characters, there are options besides text-only images: [1] multiple tweets, or [2] TwitLonger.)

2. Audio files are best for when hearing something would be better than reading it.

3. Image files are best for when seeing something would be better than reading about it.

4. Video files are best for things in motion, or when combining audio and images (musical accompaniment to a slideshow).


To accurately describe a video like Evolution of Dance in words, it might take a book. So a video is better. The same is true for babies laughing. Actually seeing video of babies laughing is much more funny (or irritating, depending on your temperament) than reading the words: “Some babies were laughing.”

Reading the words “Tonight’s sunset was crazy beautiful” doesn’t compare to seeing a photo:

Fire In The Sky
July 23, from my back porch
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

As for audio, it’s almost irrelevant in today’s internet world, other than music tracks. Even then, many people are just as likely to watch a video of their favorite song. If it’s just the spoken word, nine times out of ten it could simply be typed. Notable exceptions might be learning another language, a comic’s impeccable verbal timing, a child talking, or the funny sound your dog makes. Still, many of these are just going to be videos today, even if the visual aspects aren’t worth it.

I can’t understand why so many folks are getting it wrong today.

Just a note about the image at top right: The words alone are sad. But when they’re on the image, they take on a double-meaning that some might find humorous. That’s acceptable because it fits the definition of #3 above.


These thoughts entered my mind as I was looking for a suitable site to which to upload a few audio files I had. Sure, I could have made videos instead, but that’s a lot of bandwidth I didn’t feel like using for when audio told the whole story.


13 Comments
  1. As the years have passed, I have learned to be less and less amazed and discouraged by the fundamental illiteracy, willful ignorance, and grotesque inexpressiveness of the masses.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      Perhaps this is the lesson I should learn as well. I keep finding myself convinced that people would DO better if they only KNEW better, but I keep proving myself wrong. ;-)

  2. But it’s what makes this Mitch Hedberg great.

    “I was walking down the street with my friend and he said, “I hear music”, as if there is any other way you can take it in. You’re not special, that’s how I perceive it too. I tried to taste it but it did not work.”

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      Perhaps not relevant to your underlying point or my entry above, but of course there are other ways to perceive music. My three aunts who were born with 0% hearing ability can perceive music but cannot hear it and have never heard it. They can *feel* it if it’s loud enough or close enough, especially low-frequency sound. Deaf clubs have only woofers. And I’ve known quite a few musical geniuses who could perceive it on a piece of paper. One of my cousins, for example, can see a piece of sheet music for a song she’s never heard, and know already what it will sound like and whether she will like it.

      • (I feel like I run too far ahead and have to be pulled back by your comments.)

        The point I was trying to make with the joke was that people have different ways to try to engage in a conversation. Sometimes just stating the obvious doesn’t work. There are people who feel that words aren’t enough. They add musical soundtracks and special-effects to try to enhance what they saying. Greeting cards companies make big money by adding special fonts, clever folding actions, springs-loaded pop-ups, and music chips to their cards. Would you want a Birthday Card that just said Happy Birthday in a black and white arial 6em typefont? Maybe. But would it make you feel special? And that’w what these inappropriate post-ers are trying for. To show you by adding layers of senses to their message that it’s not just an ordinary statement of dubious quality; it’s more.

        Show them some love. At least they’re trying.

        (Did you hate or love Star Wars opening moments?)

        Back to the joke. Hearing music: Not special. Tasting music: special. Deaf: special. Musical genius: special. Not sure about your cousin. you decide.

        • Wil C. Fry says:

          “I feel like I run too far ahead and have to be pulled back by your comments.”

          That will happen often when conversing with me. :-) Sometimes I’m intentionally obtuse; most times I just missed the point/punchline…

          As for my reply, I knew it was irrelevant and tangential. My apologies for that.

          Your point stands, of course. Advertisers learned this many moons ago. Do you print on a placard: “This bottle contains chemicals that we mixed” or do you shout: “It cures what ails you! Arthritis, bronchitis, and the common cold will disappear within moments!”? The latter is of course more effective for sales, and has worked for generations.

          As for Star Wars, I only loved it in Episode IV, when it was a relatively awesome special effect, especially given the technology of the time. When the next film was released, it was a nostalgic reminder of the first one. Beyond that, it seems like a bad habit: “We’ve always done it this way, so that’s how we should do it.” :-)

  3. shari says:

    This isn’t entirely relevant to your point, but I see you are ok with that.

    Why is it that the ability to put word to video makes one an irrefutable expert in the field of discussion? As evidenced by people pointing to a YouTube post as proof of their pet theory. (Nice alliteration, yes?)

    Anyrate, I agree with your point. Besides your complaints, the speed of text videos is always wrong.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      Oh, yes, I absolutely hate that practice.

      1. Person A asserts something.
      2. Person B challenges the assertion.
      3. Person A links to a YouTube video. :-)

      Here’s when a video can be proof: You said Harry Truman once kicked a cat. Someone accuses you of lying. So you link to a video clip of Truman kicking a cat (assuming it’s a non-altered video, of course — most people don’t have the software or ability to fake that kind of video very convincingly).

      But usually the assertion is something like “global warming isn’t real” and the proof is “watch this video”, which is usually a slideshow of images with text typed over it. :-)

  4. I have been annoyed with editors over the years when they ask me to take pictures of signs with text. We’re a newspaper. We can just. Print. The. Words.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      Ha. Nice. I think the only reason I was ever asked to do so was in the case of a road renaming (SH 99 through Seminole has something like five names now, including US 377, Milt Phillips, and Jimmy Austin), and they thought the actual image of the new sign made some kind of point. Similarly, I hated the ribbon-cutting photos, when it would have been much easier to print in the paper:

      “Several people with more money than you took turns holding a three-foot pair of scissors to symbolize the grand opening of a business you won’t ever visit.”

      On the other hand, I often used photos as personal notes when on the job — making images of street signs, scoreboards, roster sheets, etc., when note-taking would require more time. But I didn’t publish them. :-)

  5. >>“Several people with more money than you took turns holding a three-foot pair of scissors to symbolize the grand opening of a business you won’t ever visit.”<<

    Wow cynical. In reality maybe something like, " 'Happy Hotdogs' Open Third Location," with a story.

    Also, the video response thing. I did that to you. Apologies.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      Okay, yeah I’m cynical. :-) Perhaps it was different in locations other than Seminole. For us, it was almost always a business I’d never have any dealings with: a senior assisted living center, a new pond at the college (this was a real ribbon-cutting, I promise), or a meat-packing plant.

      If you responded to an assertion of mine with a video link, I don’t recall it specifically. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that any such video must’ve been a good source. :-)

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