Of videos, infographics, and attention spans

I’m afraid I’m a little conservative when it comes to infographics, explainer videos and the like.

In an age when readers are less and less willing to read long-form pieces, one-minute long videos seem to water down journalism even more. If we can even talk of journalism, that is.

buzzfeed-skeleton

Err… Right.

However, this is just ol’ me being all grumpy and technophobic. Sure, the most “shareable” videos aren’t exactly masterpieces of critical theory. Nevertheless, even sites notoriously more on the entertainment side, like BuzzFeed, occasionally produce genuinely interesting works:

buzzfeed-electoral-college-biased

Truth is, even the most avid Financial Times reader may not have the time or the interest to read a full-length profile of a public figure in the time that it takes him to commute in the morning. Still, he may want to know the basic facts, so that he’ll be able to get in on the talk during coffee break. Well, that sounds just like a journalist’s job: give a clear and concise picture of a topic.

asma-al-assad-guardian

News is complicated. There’s no pretending that’s not the case. Our brain needs to schematize things in order to understand them. But is that a task we should leave to the reader? Well, at that point, we may as well give him Excel spreadsheets.

That’s where infographics come in truly useful. To get a grasp on things, we need a mental map, and journalism needs to provide it, now that it’s able to do so.

Would you rather read this as a two-page-long list? (from the European Commission website)

Images convey information quicker than words, there’s no denying that. And in an era where information needs to move faster than ever, lest it be stranded in oblivion, journalists need to make use of this new language.

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