The larger shift that is happening is away from reading and more toward visual storytelling, which includes images. One of the most popular image types is quote graphics: images with text layered on top. The visual age is forcing writers to get to the point. It is not, however, a great fit for a platform like Facebook, since Facebook’s algorithm does not favor posts with more than 20 percent text. If you want people to think and learn something particular, consider writing. Learning to write with the awareness of the context created by design will not only help your writing stand out; it will allow you to reach and impact many more people whose eyes are on the lookout for something visual. If you can be the writer behind meaningful videos and construct a story worth watching, your value will not be forgotten. When a viewer watches a video with subtitles, they are not only feeling the visual but reading the story as well—and the better the story, the more engaged they will be.
Scroll through your Facebook feed, and for every link to a long-form article, you will have to pass a healthy handful of viral videos.
Are they industry specific? Hardly.
Politics, entertainment, entrepreneurship advice, you name it, the verdict is clear: The preferred form is video.
According to a report by Cisco, total internet video traffic (business and consumer, combined) will be 79 percent of all Internet traffic by 2020, up from 63 percent in 2015. But the data points to a larger issue, and one that is scaring one of the longest standing crafts of all time: writing.
However, videos are only part of the equation. The larger shift that is happening is away from reading and more toward visual storytelling, which includes images. Content with images gets 94 percent more views than content without, cited another study. And according to a Citrix report, nearly two-thirds of the posts on social media are visual content.
The Role of the Writer Has Changed
Here’s what’s fascinating: Despite the data telling us that images and video are a consistently rising trend, this is not to say that writing, in itself, is dying—in fact, far from it.
One could say that writing is simply becoming more visual. Those images that get shared so often on social media? One of the most popular image types is quote graphics: images with text layered on top. Or the videos that fill your Facebook news feed? They are paired with banner text acting as headlines, piquing the curiosity of potential viewers.
So even though data shows the human brain processes images at lightning speed—13 milliseconds—and that videos are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text, this ignores the simple fact that potent messaging is what draws someone in to begin with.
Sure, reading long-form content requires a longer attention span and deeper cognitive efforts, but the act of reading will never disappear, since words are what give us direction. They tell us what we’re about to watch before we watch it. Therefore, the role of the writer isn’t vanishing. It’s evolving. High-performing images and videos are demanding that writing, if anything, challenge itself to be more condensed. Snappier headlines. Quick, meaningful quotes.
The visual age is forcing writers to get to the point.
So, how can writers stay relevant? And more importantly, what does a successful writing style look like in today’s digital world?