No one likes reading, right? I mean, why are you even reading this sentence instead of surfing YouTube looking at cat videos? As a culture, we often to gravitate toward passive entertainment–information flung at us without us having to do a whole lot of work in the process. More active entertainment, which can describe actual physical activity but can also apply to activities that require you to actually think, is harder. Reading long blog posts is hard, playing soccer is hard, learning to ride a bike is hard. Listening to some talking head on the radio is easy, but actually discussing what they were talking about with a colleague might require you to consider not only what was said, but how you feel about it, which is harder.
These “hard” activities are ultimately more rewarding than any kind of passive activity. Talking about things with other people (or writing about them) is an active activity that reinforces your own ideas on the subject (or helps you to consider new ideas). You might learn a lot about tactics and formations and how soccer is played by sitting in front of your XBox and playing FIFA, but it doesn’t make you a better soccer player until you actually go out and use your body. You learn some interesting new fact or information that you can use in the future, you develop muscles or skills you didn’t have, you engage with a compelling story, all are results of active activities.
One of the things that I do when I’m not writing code is produce training videos for a company called Pluralsight. Pluralsight specializes in online IT pro and developer training and has a library of thousands of videos. I’ve been doing this for about three years, so everything I’m going to talk about here comes out of things I’ve learned along the way through trial and error, user feedback, and conversations with other Pluralsight authors.
Generally speaking, screencasts (and many other educational video formats) are a form of active entertainment disguising itself as passive entertainment. You’re sucked in because they are often short (faster than reading the source material, anyway) and presented in a compelling way meaning that completely by accident you end up learning something. Studies have proven that when you’re engaged or particularly interested in the content, you end up learning more, for example Minecraft leading to better literacy skills in kids. If you’re writing a lot of documentation or content, using video might be a way to make that content more digestible to a larger audience.
Video is also extremely searchable. It’s been known for quite a while among those in the SEO and SEM fields that videos on YouTube are indexed by Google almost instantaneously, making them show up in search results much faster than blog content. When you upload a video to YouTube, you’re entering it directly into Google’s infrastructure, so of course it’s going to be able to add that content to search results faster than it would take one of their crawlers to find your site, even if you’re pinging Google when you publish new content.