Video and the Online Paradigm

First published March 23, 2006 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

Online interactions are generally ruled by the left brain, the logical side of our intellect. We interact in what is primarily a text-based presentation. We read, rather than feel. We assimilate words, rather than absorb sights and sounds. Any moves to bring the emotions of the right brain to the Web have been feeble at best. Generally, we interact with most Web sites the same way we did in 1996. We read text, we click on links, we glance at the occasional graphic. For the most part, our right brain is idling.

Next week’s OMMA show in Hollywood will be looking forward to the day when our emotions will rule how we interact online (among other things). It marks an oncoming convergence that is far more important than the combining of digital media and the Internet. What will be explored and debated in the meeting rooms of the HiltonUniversalCity is a medium that engages both the right brain and left brain, in equal measure, at the same time.

Video Search: The Tip of the Iceberg

Next week, I’ll be moderating a session on Video Search at OMMA Hollywood. In assembling the panel, my initial inclination was to bring the latest in video search optimization techniques to the audience, highlighting the tactics that could put you on top of the video search engines. But there was a deeper question here, and one that I wanted to explore.

I’ve written before about interactive video authoring. MSN is working on the technology, and they’ll be talking about it on the panel. After my column ran, other companies such as Vimation (also joining us), Videoclix and Click TV let me know about the work they’ve been doing in the field.

Defining Online Engagement

The whole question of how our brains engage when we act online fascinates me. How do our emotions kick in to frame the context inside of which we’ll interact with a site? How is that initial emotional evaluation (see the 50 Millisecond Judgment) impact our further, more logical interactions with the site, as we begin reading the content and assimilating it? Right now, it appears that in less time than the blink of an eye, the right brain renders an opinion of a site based on its aesthetic appeal, and that opinion is either reinforced by the content, or continues to be at odds with it, as the left brain digests that content.

This is the way we currently interact. One of the questions we’re struggling with in online marketing is defining engagement. My belief is that the most powerful medium for engagement is the one that most fully engages the senses. I believe we’re more fully engaged when our emotions rule us, when the right brain is in control. For my money, there is no more powerful medium than a truly superb movie, seen at a theater. For that reason, it’s appropriate that we’ll be wrestling with this question in Hollywood, the home of movies, in a venue a stone’s throw from Universal Studios.

This is not to say that words aren’t powerful. Novels can move us to tears. Words can find a connection through our intellect, allowing us to render tremendously engaging concepts, made all the more real because we visualize them internally. But the engagement is more subtle, and happens over time. A novel can’t assault our senses the same way a movie can, because the creators of the movie have hardwired the imagery and emotion directly to our senses, rendering the story for us (I leave aside the question of which is the more fulfilling experience). Also, we don’t read online the way we do a novel. We scan, we pick up snippets of information, and we don’t allow ourselves to be immersed in the act of reading. We are multitasking, and there are just too many other stimuli fighting for our attention.

Emotional…and Interactive!

As broadband moves real video online, we suddenly have a platform that engages our emotions in a way that scanning text online can’t. We create emotional connections to the content, the same way we do with movies or television. But what’s really exciting is that now we can make that content interactive. We can click to access more information, or to guide ourselves through a story. Linear narrative can now give way to hyperlinked multiple story threads. Advertising messages can be delivered with the full impact of a visual, emotional medium, then transition seamlessly to a logical information request. Now, we are engaging both our intellect and our emotions at the same time. That could change everything about the way we interact online. And, as always, search will be the connection to that experience. Hope to see you at the session!

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