Fun with videos

I recently received spam email…wait, is “spam email” redundant? I’ve gotta ask Marcia Riefer Johnston about that one! Anyway, the spam was yet another “buy this stock now!” scam, which is all I seem to get lately. I don’t buy and sell stock, so I’m hardly the target market. I assume the target market are day traders who exist in a haze of constant sleep deprivation who have lost all higher cognitive functions and are unable to distinguish good advice from bad. Seems like a very niche market, but the spammers are certainly doing their best to reach it.

What was interesting about this one was that they really, really tried to prove their case, instead of the usual “You should buy this because it’s totally the best idea ever! No, really, an expert said so! Seriously!” Nope, this one made a lot of claims about the awesome power of video. Some of the claims are sort of correct, and others are ridiculous.

How about an example?

Here you go: “46% of customers take some kind of action immediately after viewing an ad.” Certainly possible, but that tells us nothing. Did they buy the product, or click “block this”? Did they look at the company’s web site, or did they close the video and find the cat videos they wanted in the first place?

And what did the other 54% do? Take no action whatsoever? Did they just stare catatonically into the relentless, howling void of their screens? Do online videos KILL 54% OF TOTAL VIEWERS?

Probably not, since this spam also makes the claim that “Each day one hundred million world-wide-web users watch an internet videos [sic].” First: “world-wide-web”! Isn’t that cute? I haven’t heard that in a while.

Second, I think someone would have noticed if 54 million people died every day while watching videos. So much for that theory.

Get to the point already!

Sorry, I’m just having fun shooting fish in a barrel. This is the “fact” that really amused me: “One minute of video is worth 1.eight million words.”

Imagine that! One minute of video is “worth” a little over 3 times the amount of words in War and Peace! Just imagine how many doc sets we could replace with a minute of video!

When I tweeted about this, Laura Lemay figured out that they’re basing that on the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” multiplied by frames per second, multiplied by 60 seconds. So this spam is figuring 1000 words per image (or frame of video), 30 frames per second, over 60 seconds. So, yes, 1.8 million words.

Which would make sense of every picture really was worth 1000 words, and if we could fully analyze and absorb meaning from an image in 1/30th of a second. I would argue that these numbers are, perhaps, somewhat dubious.

Getting a more accurate count

Based on a dozen videos that I’ve created for documentation (where I have the scripts at hand), I found that I average 143 words per minute. 93 words per minute at the low end, 170 at the high end.

So instead of being “worth” over 3 copies of War and Peace, a minute-long video is much closer to a short help topic.

And that’s exactly what I use them for: either to explain concepts that just work better in a video (I’ve found they’re great for troubleshooting steps that need a lot of text and screenshots to explain), or to enhance existing content. In most cases, I’m not trying to replace text content, but I use the video as an introduction, or to add more context. Maybe the video is the “getting started” piece, with enough information to let the reader start working with the application. And the text is the more advanced, conceptual or reference information that they’ll come back to when they need more help.

This means that whatever stock that spam was peddling is 0.008% as valuable as they claim. Which sounds about right for spam.

7 thoughts on “Fun with videos

  1. Perhaps somewhat dubious, indeed. Still, I’d argue that there’s about 0.008 percent of truth in what they said. Video is a great format for certain technical information — namely, the “show me how to do this” kind. And people are much more inclined and much better equipped to watch video than they were even 20 years ago. So it would be a mistake to overlook video entirely. (And to be fair, I don’t think that’s what you’re suggesting.)

    Put another way: while it’s true video didn’t kill 54 million people, video did kill the radio star. We mustn’t overlook that. 😉

    1. I did bury it in this post, but I really do like videos. I was surprised when I figured out the average words per minute, too. I guessed it was closer to 250 or 300 wpm, so I wasn’t expecting it to be half that.

      I’m actually using the next couple of weeks to re-record some videos to catch up to product name and UI changes. I’m going to take advantage of a quieter office!

  2. Aw, Neal, are you one of those tedious people who doesn’t believe that you can solve all the world’s communications problems with simple tools that require no talent or hard work?


  3. “One minute of video is worth 1.eight million words.”
    If I compare the budget of the Video guys in some of my projects to what our writers get that point might be accurate – at least on monetary level..

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