The Future Of Content Is Audio, But…
In the end, we only hear certain parts, and remember even less
Documentaries in general, and true-crime documentaries in particular, are my favorite genre on Netflix. I have already watched Kidnapped in Plain Sights, Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist and Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened and I keep browsing for more. However, I am the only one among my friends who like the genre, so when they are finally interested in what I am watching, I have to recreate the story for them. In other words, I need to re-tell the story and summarize it into a few minutes of monologue, without omitting any of the facts.
And guess what? I never succeed.
My friends will never know it, but the story they have been told is missing many facts and details, and sometimes even a coherent timeline. It is always after I am telling the story that I remember all the stuff I have left out. Just imagine what story my friends are telling their other friends when trying to reconstruct what I have told them, let’s say, about Wild Wild Country:
“It’s a TV series about this guy who convinced other people to follow him into the desert and being under surveillance and have a lot of sex”.
While it might be a true segment, it’s a very narrow part of the whole story.
This disadvantage of mouth-to-ear communication should be irrelevant when it comes to micro-podcasts. After all, we are letting a professional summarize the whole story into short digestible bits. The story will be later told to us in a clear loud voice when all the important details are included, while we are driving or doing our laundry. We can even discuss what we have heard with others as if we were watching a two-hour documentary. What can possibly can wrong?
I have two answers to that question. The first one is depth and the second one is bias. Let’s start with depth, and I don’t mean that every story is deep, but it probably has more layers than what you may have heard. Think about the summary you have read before submitting a book report in high school or the last time you received a bad briefing before an important meeting.
It’s not that people don’t have the patience to read and dive deeper anymore, it’s they don’t have the time. Except, time is money in more than one way. It can cost time you may invest in another activity, but it can also earn access to a more comprehensible story, one you can truly appreciate and enjoy.
The second reason I don’t always approve micro podcasts is bias. Researchers have found that when people hear information, they’re likely to remember only ten percent of that information three days later. Bias comes in when people are asked about the information they were exposed to, only to find out they can’t fully retain it due to the gaps in their memory. In that situation, many people might be tempted (even not consciously) to fill in the gaps using their own point of view of the events, one that casts their own subjective opinion on what they were listening to.
Personally, when I want somebody else to summarize a piece of content I can’t summarize myself (a meeting, a closed webinar, a legal document), I prefer to do it the old fashioned pen and paper, using bulletins and a hard copy I can hold in one hand and edit on the fly. That way, I can skim my way through the entire document (it may be very long) without missing anything, share, save for later and even add my own questions and notes. Once I have finished and want to save it for later use, I return to the modern age and use the Evernote app for backup and reference.
Audio content is still the future. There will be a time when it will be weird for you not to voice-search through Alexa or Siri, not to send recorded messages via WhatsApp and not listen to podcasts on the go. These services help you be more safe and productive, but in order to learn properly, you often need to be a thorough reader. Sometimes, it’s better to visit the ocean than swimming in the shallows of a pool.