Three years ago, Digiday reported that 85 percent of people on Facebook watch videos without the sound on.
Add to that:
- 28 million people in the United States are deaf;
- Foreign language speakers often have trouble understanding soundtracks; and
- Gen Z loves closed captioning
and I’m amazed — three years on — how many research-driven organizations still see captioning as an ADA requirement, instead of an opportunity to forcefully drive home their messages.
Now, an increasing number of organizations are exploiting that opportunity through open captions — text narration burned right into the video.
The trend makes sense:
- As Nielsen Norman discovered, more than 80 percent of all viewers will look at an overlay displayed on screen;
- Open captions remove the need for talking heads to achieve a near-professional level of skill at engaging their audiences; and
- Open captions allow you to start on message immediately — no need for throat clearing, introductions or cute openers, and less chance of losing the viewer to the 5-second rule of attention.
Instead, the caption leads the viewer, with the talking heads (if they’re there at all) getting the occasional glance.
For example: The World Economic Forum (WEF) now has a suite of 80-second explainer videos for Facebook.
- First watch this one on lab-grown meat that fed on grass cells, which has no narrator, no talking head.
- Then try to read the long WEF article delving into the same or even watch the accompanying talking-head interview with Dr. Marianne Ellis, who’s leading the research featured in the article. (Chances are, you won’t finish either.)
Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center is taking a similar approach to thought leadership summaries promoting his Project Syndicate essays — here’s a native LinkedIn video promoting a Lomborg column on what he calls “climate change exaggeration.”
Notice how both the WEF and Lomborg videos highlight key text in the captions, making it hard for even the distracted to miss the main points.
Maybe if every video looked like these, of course, video might be boring. But not as boring as another talking-head video.
Right now, there’s white space to experiment with captioning as the messaging avatar — maybe even with open captions/talking head combinations. I hear good things about Clipomatic if you’re shooting with an iPhone or iPad.
If thought leadership moves to video wholesale, we might look back at open captioning as the defining moment for the template.