Commentary
6/27/2009
08:27 PM
Allen Stern
Allen Stern
Commentary

Is Text The Only Way To Hold A Conversation?

Audio podcasts haven't seemed to take off like some expected. Video is great as a broadcast medium but it too hasn't taken off for conversations. Is text the only way to hold a conversation online?



Audio podcasts haven't seemed to take off like some expected. Video is great as a broadcast medium but it too hasn't taken off for conversations. Is text the only way to hold a conversation online?Earlier this week I attended an entrepreneur event in New York City where a number of startups presented their ideas and concepts. One of the new concepts is a service that the founder called the "voice Twitter". The service is named VoiceField and it allows you to record a message up to two minutes in length. The message is then posted on the VoiceField website and can be shared with a variety of social services.

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson was the guest concept reviewer and commented on the VoiceField product by saying that he gets his voicemails transcribed as he prefers text. I find text easier than audio or video to create, process and manage. When PR agencies call me to discuss the startups they represent, I tell them to email me the information.

Also this week, we learned that the Seesmic, which provides a video conversation tool, is shifting focus to their Twitter and Facebook application. Seesmic founder Loic Le Meur posted a video discussing his reasoning for the change (you can view the video and full text transcript here). The video tool will remain but the company will focus on their social software tool. He also noted that they were, "not getting any growth on the video conversation site". We will need to watch over time if the video message board service is added to the social software tool or if it will close permanently.

When we look back at the past 15 years, all of the online conversation platforms have used text as the medium. It's easy to say that video and audio weren't available a decade ago, but even with today's Internet access text is still king. From the early days of BBS and Compuserve/Prodigy/AOL chat rooms to IRC to message boards to today's Twitter, users seem to favor text. Text is easier than audio or video. Text is also searchable and indexable across the Web. With video, many people want to make sure they look, at least minimally, presentable. Both audio and video typically require some amount of editing and/or retakes. And it can be difficult to follow a video conversation between multiple people.

Will we see a new platform emerge as a leader that uses more than just text for conversation? Only time will tell.

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