L.A. Kennedy

Beyond the story

Will writing still be important in tomorrow’s creative landscape?

Emily Warna

Aside from speech, writing is the framework of our communication.

Back in the day, we’d physically write to finish our homework. We’d write to our friends and family via a postcard. We’d write a shopping list and attach it to our trolley.

Now, we write to update our followers — through social media and through WhatsApp.

In short, writing is what we’ve grown up with and it’s what we’ve always known. But it’s changing dramatically.

Today’s Changing Creative (and Digital) Landscape

Today, we zig-zag from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to Snapchat to LinkedIn. Each platform has its own style of content — one that changes weekly. Sometimes, it’s short-form video. Sometimes, it’s a thirty-minute vlog.

What remains consistent at the moment is all emphasis on visual. A photo (or video) is much more digestible than a one thousand word blog post.

Because of this, companies are ploughing millions into video metrics, data analysis, and six-second cut-downs — all hoping to taste a tiny slice of the digital content pie. And rightly so — the stats speak for themselves.

But companies are worried. The barriers to entry into video are lowering with the emergence of cheap and easy-to-use technologies now accessible to the masses. Competition between content creators is rife as unique and ‘innovative’ posts become harder to attain.

The role of writing has changed. We bloody love Netflix. We read fewer books because we have more choice — not necessarily because we value ‘written’ less, but because we’re swamped in content. We want to work out how best to spend what little time we have. But let’s not forget that Netflix starts with a script. So writing is still important.

We do still read, but we consume a lot of other media alongside. We read online blogs, newspaper articles and digital magazines. We read subtitles below videos. We read memes. Not books, but content still powered by writing. So again, writing still matters.

(I also think writing still matters because I headed into a rammed book store at the weekend. Hundreds browsing for Christmas presents).

Our creative landscape will continue to change. Communication will never go back to what it used to be. But we adapt. We adapted to the typewriter in the 1880s, so we’ll adapt to video in the 2010s. The transition is steeper, but the written word continues to breathe beneath its surface.

Why?

Practicality and Emotion

From a reading standpoint, written articles are practical. You don’t need a powerful Internet connection, and you don’t need headphones. You can read an article in a public place without needing a buffer period.

From a writing standpoint, again it’s practical. You have an idea for an article, so you write it down on a napkin. Mind-map it, scribble and jot. Let the idea explode from there.

The point is that ideas cannot (and do not) wait for WiFi or the latest editing software. There’s a reason Richard Branson carries a notebook around with him.

But let’s forget about practicality for a second. Writing is equally as important from an emotional standpoint.

There are certain messages that can only be expressed through writing. Wit, humour, sarcasm. Sadness, heartbreak, loss. Nuances possible to communicate through video, but so much better through writing. A subjective statement, of course.

For me, writing is a powerful medium that inspires and sparks creativity. Moonpig transformed the Greetings Card industry, but it never truly replaced the Greetings Card. Although card retailers are in decline, Christmas, Valentines and Birthday cards live on because there’s nothing quite like a few handwritten words on a personally-chosen card.

Final Comments

Twitter will push its new 280-character limit, LinkedIn will encourage users to post natively, and Facebook videos will feature subtitles. People will microblog via Instagram captions, and Medium’s open paywall will continue to be criticised.

But as we continue to cement ourselves in a digital world, writing is still important. Writing is still important because it has the power to add a light touch where video cannot, and it has the power to nuance.

Perhaps writing will not survive in the distant future, but for now it remains crucial.

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