It’s a big call to argue that audio is better than video for content marketing! But we have scientific evidence that proves once and for all that audio comes out on top in the battle of audio vs video. In fact, we’ve got five conclusive reasons why audio is better than video.
Your ears are more powerful than you think! They can transport you back in time, around the world and into space. All you need is to put on a set of headphones and close your eyes.
The special thing about audio is that you, as the listener, become part of the story. Your ears transmit information from the sounds you hear to your brain, where your imagination goes wild with the details.
When you listen to a podcast, your listening experience will be slightly different to what others experience. In fact, it will be unique. Don’t believe me? Why don’t you put it to the test?
Pick any podcast that doesn’t have a picture of the speakers in its marketing material and have a listen. Ask a friend to do the same, then discuss the mental image you’ve each created of the speakers in the podcast – and the stories they’ve told. I think you’ll be surprised by how different the details and nuances of your mental images are.
Now do the same thing for a video and I think you’ll find your experiences to be very similar.
Okay, while that’s a fun way to demonstrate one of the differences between audio and video, it’s not very scientific.
Here’s five reasons audio is better than video, with a bit more science behind them.
1. Audio is less complicated than video
The gear you need to record audio at a professional quality is actually part of the gear that you need to record video at a professional quality. While a podcasters kit will contain microphones, headphones and a recorder, a videographer’s kit will include all that PLUS a camera and lights.
Just look how cool, calm, and collected our own Serpil Senelmis is with her microphone, headphones, and recorder in the image below. Meanwhile, the camera operators in the background grimace under the weight of their cameras and lights.
A recent study from the US compared the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMD) in camera operators and office workers. The researchers reviewed almost 300 employees from four broadcasting companies and divided them into high risk and low risk. The high-risk group were almost all back-broken camera operators.
Audio recordings for podcasts don’t just require less gear, they are much simpler overall.
Think about a zoom meeting where you check your audio and video before a meeting. Improving your audio can be as simple as adjusting your microphone or moving to a quiet room. But how do you improve your video? If you’ve got one of those ring lights, you’ll be better off, but what’s the right colour temperature and brightness for your room and skin tone? Too much light will make you shine, so you’ll require some makeup – then there’s all that stuff behind you that you want to hide. Sure, you can use a background effect or image, but without a large greenscreen, you might look like a disembodied animation of yourself.
What this all means from a content marketing sense is that audio content is less complicated to prepare than video content. This can be a great relief for your subject matter experts who are likely to be far more relaxed and deliver more valuable insights.
When you focus on audio, you simplify the process. Your experts can concentrate on what they’re saying, and your audience can focus on your message.
2. Audio makes us more intelligent (or video makes us dumber!)
Video conferencing was essential during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, but as lockdowns become a blurry memory, some are questioning its effectiveness as a tool for collaboration.
Researchers from the University of California set up the ultimate video vs audio battle to find out which is better for our collective intelligence. As the name suggests, collective intelligence is our ability to solve problems together. The thing that underpins collective intelligence is nonverbal behaviours such as facial expressions as well as the intonation, tone, stress, and rhythm of speech.
Video includes facial expressions as well as voice, so you’d think that it would be better for our collective intelligence, right? Wrong!
The study found that video conferencing can actually reduce collective intelligence. The reason for the deficit is that the nonverbal behaviour of taking turns to speak was impeded. They were bumping into each other and speaking over each other.
When participating couples were communicating through audio only, they were better at taking turns to speak and to listen, which lead to greater collective intelligence.
So, when you listen to a great podcast you won’t be missing out because you can’t see the speaker that you’re listening to. This is important for content marketing where the emphasis is often on the perceived higher value of video.
Podcasts are not only less complicated to produce, but your audience is likely to learn more about your message than they would through video.
If you watch MAFS however, you might suffer a loss in collective intelligence – even though you can see the extraordinary visual cues. Maybe listen to a podcast afterwards to rebalance your brain.
3. Fake news video is more believable than fake news audio
Okay this one is going to test your values. Are you happy for viewers to believe without thinking, or would you prefer your audience to trust your message because they engaged with it.
A study of social media users found that people are more likely to believe a fake news story in video format than they are to believe a fake news audio story. When given the same news in both formats, 58 per cent believed the video version, while only 48 per cent believed the audio version.
A bonus statistic on this one is that only 33 per cent believed the fake news story when they read it. That’s why we put so much research into the writing we prepare in our Copywriting Services.
The researchers explained this behaviour as a form of engagement. When you listen to a story you use your imagination and lived experience to put yourself in the situation that is being described. It’s a form of critical thinking that gives listeners context and a deeper understanding of the message they are receiving.
The complexity of video was also highlighted in this study. Because there are many streams of information such as moving images, graphics, and text as well as audio, it’s difficult for viewers to concentrate on accuracy or verisimilitude.
If you have valuable, important, educational, or motivational information to share with your audience, then audio is going to connect with them more deeply than video.
4. Audio encodes memories better than video
Have you ever heard the beginning of a song and been transported back to a memory so visceral that you can feel, smell, taste and even see every detail? It’s a reaction that wedding DJs depend upon to fill the dancefloor when they belt out the retro hits.
As a contrast, have you ever settled in to watch a movie on your favourite streaming service and after about 10 minutes, half an hour, or just before the end you realise that you’ve seen it before? Once again, I’m sure this is a reaction that streamers rely on as they serve up nostalgic viewing experiences that we’ve forgotten about.
According to science, both experiences can be explained by the fact that audio encodes memories better than video.
A few years ago, researchers put consumers to the test by playing them the same advertisement for a movie twice – once in audio and once in video. When they asked participants to recall the name of the movie afterwards, memory encoding was 220 per cent higher in the audio group than the video group.
Podcasting really capitalises on the memory encoding power of audio.
The best length for podcast episodes is around 25 minutes, which is close to the average work commute for Australians. That amount of time allows us to develop an engaging story that conveys information in a format that is entertaining, easily digestible, and highly memorable.
We combined the memory encoding powers of audio and the ideal length of 25 minutes in the podcast we made for The Department of Education. ‘Classroom Adjustments’ provided teachers with adjustments they could make in the classroom to enable students with disability to participate in education on the same basis their peers. The series had over 211,000 listens and we were commissioned to create a second season to encode even more memories with impact.
5. We think that video is better, but we feel that audio has more impact
It’s not often you come across a highly researched article (like this one) that provides scientific evidence that audio is better than video. In fact, there’s plenty of articles that will tell you the opposite – based on nothing more than the vibe.
We get it. If you’re told something often enough, you might start to believe it, even if there’s no evidence. That’s what happened in a recent study that measured how people engage with a story.
After watching a story and listening to a story, study participants were asked whether they engaged more with the video than the audio. Most participants self-reported that they had greater involvement with video, but science provided evidence to the contrary.
Before watching and listening to the stories, study participants were hooked up to multiple monitoring devices. The study revealed that people had stronger physiological responses for audio stories including higher heart rates, greater electrodermal (electrical characteristics of the skin) activity, and higher body temperatures.
Despite the lack of visuals, there’s a magical quality in audio that gives it the power to impact both our thoughts and our feelings.
There’s something special about the human voice when it is injected directly into our ears. It’s like we make some sort of soul connection. That voice is speaking directly to us, and it conveys so much emotion.
Sometimes it’s just the change of pace or a pause that tells us something isn’t right. A voice can crack around the edges, ever so slightly, and long before it wavers to indicate that something is wrong.
It’s not just sadness that voices excel in expressing. Just try to keep the corners of your mouth from turning up when you hear somebody laughing.
And there’s more emotions that really shine in audio. Pride, jealousy, anger, sadness – and all different levels of enjoyment.
Good quality audio matters
Underpinning all the evidence that audio is better than video is that good quality audio matters. In fact, in the battle of audio vs video, this is one feature that’s relevant to both.
Researchers from Australian National University and The University of Southern California put the importance of good quality audio to the test. As part of a research study, they doctored the sound quality on audio and video recordings of experts speaking to make them sound worse. Study participants were then asked to rate the audio and video recordings on several criteria.
If you’ve watched a webinar recently, you might have quietly harboured similar thoughts when speakers were too far from the microphone, had broken audio from poor internet connection, or had too much background noise.
Unfortunately, the podcast world is littered with examples of poor audio that don’t do their speakers or their audiences any favours.
At Written & Recorded our approach to good quality audio begins with broadcast quality equipment and practices that capture the highest quality audio. Then we take things to the next level by editing out ums, ahs, fluffs, and false starts. In fact, we forensically edit our podcasts to improve the storytelling and deliver a listening experience that is obstacle free.
These obstacles cause what scientists call mental stumbles and they are the cause of distrust. If your audio or podcast is difficult to process, people will become distrustful.
Audio IS better than Video
When it comes to listening to audio, all you need is your ears. Your eyes can be watching the road, or whatever you’re cutting as you prepare dinner. Your body can be exercising, walking the dog, or just slouching on public transport.
We all want more value from our time, which is why audio wins the ultimate battle of audio vs video. You can put on your ear goggles and take it with you, or turn it up loud so you can hear it from every corner of the house.
If you want to engage your audience with memory encoding information that makes them collectively more intelligent, we want to help you do that with high quality audio.
We’re an award winning premium podcasting service that makes podcasts that get your point across in a way that audiences want to hear. Drop us a line in the contact form below or call 03 9523 6196 for a chat about how you can connect with your ideal listeners on the deepest level.