Don't Tell Me About The Alligator

First, read the story story below. Or watch the video above. Your pick. We like to be empowering. But, seriously, do it. Done? Okay, now do the other.

Feel like we told you the same story twice? Well, kinda. But not really. Not at all, when you look at it. Whether or not you agree with the idea that “the medium is the message,” there’s a fundamental difference between text and video.

This is the point where you expect us to hail video’s engagement, talk about how it’s the new big thing, and generally go all hype man on it. (Through, ironically enough, text.) But this time, we’re not going to do that. We’re just going to tell you how we see the difference between video and text. In short, three questions.

Who’s in charge? How’s it eaten? What’s it feel like?

In video, you’re in charge. (Well, the video is in charge.) Because of the nature of video — “sit back and watch” — the viewer is more guided in video than in text. Especially today, when people tend to skim and scroll rather than step methodically through paragraphs. This has benefits for both — great to steer the audience where you want them to go; great for the audience to feel a sense of control — and it directly influences how each is consumed.

With video, the audience usually eats the whole thing. Video is designed to be singular, and because it’s leading the audience from start to finish, people tend to digest it all at once, not pause and come back for more. Text, on the other hand, can be nibbled at. People will return if they want — especially when they need it as a reference. Like, say, a proof point to show the boss.

Lastly, video makes you feel. You see it. You hear it. It’s sensory. This experiential nature makes it engaging in ways that text isn’t, especially when it comes to emotional appeal. But text has its sensory side too; it just has to come from the audience. Text, when well written and properly used, stimulates the imagination and gets the audience to engage in a more active way (without having to plug in headphones).

We like video. Obviously. But we like text, too. And we really like when text does its thing in a way that helps video do its thing.

Written by Chris Molnar and Eric Ankenman


Text Story

“Alligator.” The wildebeest had concerns about the object floating in the river.

“No,” said the wildebeest beside him. It wasn’t moving. “Log.”

“Alligator.” To prove his point, the first wildebeest plonked it with a rock. That would show his friend.

But it still wasn’t moving. Logically, it was more likely a log. Most relevantly and most importantly, it wasn’t moving toward them. Surely not an alligator. “Log.”

“Alligator!” Perhaps it was a stoic! This was even more dangerous. A log is exactly what a stoic alligator would resemble. Tricky and dangerous. But even a stoic alligator will react eventually. Repeated jabs with a hard stick would surely make it show its true self.

However, the object’s continued lack of reaction lent further support for the log hypothesis. Plus, the hard, hollow sounds of the stick on the object suggested it was, in fact, nothing more than a vaguely alligator-esque log. The second wildebeest restated his case. “Log.”

“Alligator!!!” And yet! The first wildebeest was dogged, determined, desperate to make the stubborn thing show once and for all that it was not any sort of log. He splashed it, pestered it, then stepped onto it and thrashed his wildebeesty rump until the heretofore inanimate object opened its jaws and ate him.

On the shore of the river, the remaining wildebeest admitted his mistake. “Alligator.”

“No,” said the wildebeest who’d come up beside him. It wasn’t moving. “Log.”