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In Five Years, Words Will Be Obsolete. Seriously? Says Who?

Video-vs-text.jpgThese prescient words were uttered by none other than Nicola Mendelshon, head of Facebook’s operations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

“If I was having a bet," she said, "I would say: video, video, video... The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video. It conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information.”

Mendelshon offered these prophetic words recently at Fortune's Most Powerful Women International Summit Most Powerful Women International Summit in London on June 14, suggesting that the written word could be replaced by images and video on the Facebook platform within the next decade.

To some extent, it’s the job of people like Mendelshon to look to the future and make claims like words will be obsolete, giving the public a glimpse of where they see things heading.

Facebook has algorithmically promoted video and because of this, user preferences are driving this shift away from text. Not to be overly skeptical, but I wonder if this has anything to do with the boatload of revenue that video ads generate for Facebook?

I digress, but let’s step back just a few short years to when the digerati all but pronounced paper books as dead on arrival.

On December 25, 2009, for the first time in Amazon’s history, the sale of e-books overtook the sale of physical (paper) books.  Why, after all, would you want to have stacks of paper books scattered about your house when you could have them all on your Kindle or iPad?

Fast forward to January 2015 when the managing director of Waterstones, the UK’s largest chain of bookshops, said "The Kindle has disappeared to all intents and purposes. Sales of the Kindle have not just fallen off the cliff, they’ve hit the bottom.” Heck, Mark Zuckerberg, that other Facebook dude, made a New Year’s resolution to read a “real” book every couple of weeks. 

I think he’s referring to the paper version, not the e-book. In 2106 e-book sales industry wide have dropped anywhere from 1 to 7 percent, according to The Bookseller

The e-book story will continue to play out, but if anything, it shows that prophetic declarations that grab headlines and, dare I say, might be motivated less by altruism and more by dollar signs, don’t always hold true. E-books and physical books both have their places. Just as both video and text can tell wonderful stories and evoke emotions in different ways.

Before you bury the written word, consider your audience and decide which medium might be more effective than another or how too effectively utilize both.



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