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Will Video Kill The King
 Text Content?

The answer is: yes and no . . . .

It's still impossible to build a website without grounding it in textual content, first and foremost. It doesn't matter how flashy your Flash menus, embedded video solutions, or audio tricks are if you don't have the basic content to back it up. Give web users some credit: they're not zombies, impressed by the latest flashy devices. They go to the Internet in the first place because they're interested in information.

If they're online in order to shop, they're going to want to know as much as possible about the product they're buying before they buy it. If all you give them is a well-crafted video of the product with stirring, high-quality music playing behind it, they may well be impressed by your audio-visual techniques. And then they'll leave without buying the product.

Textual content also has the significant advantage of being searchable. If you've sold products online before, you know that one of the key components of success is your page ranking on popular search engines. Having your page come up consistently as the first result on Google searches is similar to having a front-page ad in a major newspaper: the number of people you can reach is astronomically higher than it would otherwise be.

Google and other search engines archive their pages by sending "robots" to web pages to crawl through the text, to determine via sophisticated algorithms how relevant a keyword is to a page in context, and to then rank pages according to their relevance. If your page is full of images of your product--even images with lots of dynamically-generated Flash text or other informational diagrams--Google can't search it properly, and you're not going to get the page ranking you want.

Good, relevant textual content is still the key to promoting your products and services online.

And in the end, consider this: text is still faster and cheaper to transmit than any other medium. The difference isn't quite as dramatic anymore, but it's still significant compared to audio and video. An mp3 file of reasonable fidelity takes up roughly 1 MB of memory and bandwidth per minute. That's a thousand times more bandwidth cost than even a 1 KB image, which is itself a thousand times more costly than a word of text. In other words, audio files are millions of times more time-consuming and expensive to transmit--and video files are much more dramatically expensive still.

Your sales letter, whatever form it takes, is the key to succeeding with any direct sales site on the Internet. It articulates specific information about your product to help your customers make an informed decision, it allows you to include additional convincing details (testimonials, case studies), and it's a low-pressure approach to sales, which, believe it or not, is the right way to go when selling products online. And it's possible to completely override your traditional text-based sales letter with audio-visual content.

You might include a video testimonial from several satisfied customers, or a full hour-length infomercial on your product's features and the reasons for buying it. But by doing so, you'd be losing these three critical things: reader attention and credulity, search-ability by Google and other page ranking services, and low bandwidth costs. You suddenly have a harder time keeping your customers interested in your products, a harder time making customers aware of your products in the first place, and a harder time making bandwidth payments to your hosting service.

That's not the right way to run a business, and it's not the right way to use audio-visual techniques on your website.

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