The other day I sat in on a marketing Webcast and the presenter made the statement “1 minute of video is worth 1.8 million words.” He attributed this to no one. When I heard it I thought, “Woa- that is an interesting stat.” So I googled it, and indeed I found the quote all over the web and many people attributed it to Dr. James McQuivery of Forrester Research. I searched further because I wanted to find the white paper or report in which this statement first appeared. Alas I couldn’t find it. Nonetheless I tweeted it out. Shortly after a friend tweeted back on it and said “@gpbprince Wow, amazing! Do you have a link for that?” But I didn’t.
This statement had been quoted hundreds of times (maybe more), included in countless Powerpoints, a bullet point in gobs of marketing materials, used in ads, regurgitated by marketing pros who use it to back up their reasons why companies should use video to market their products…but the source is nebulous. For all the times this statement is used not a single one links back to the original statement. So I emailed Dr. James McQuivery of Forrester research and asked him to share. I am still waiting for a response (intermission music plays) and I’m still waiting.
I actually don’t like be part of the misinformation feed and when backing up my marketing, I do my best to use reliable resources. On my drive into SF this morning an annoying thought came to me. How could Dr. Quigley measure video in such a manner as to determine that 1 minute of video is worth 18 million words. What was his formula? Then it came to me. Duh!
It IS a formula. 1.8 million, 18 is divisible by 6 and 3. There are 60 seconds in a minute and a standard frames per second for video is 30. There is no research, there is no white paper, there is nothing. This statement is just an extrapolation of the statement ” A picture is worth a 1000 words.”
1 second = 1 picture in video media, 30 frames per second x 60 = 1,800 pictures x 1000 words = 1.8 million words
So the statement, often quoted, should be prefaced by the statement “If 1 picture is worth 1000 words, than …”
Even that statement is a made up stat that has been peddled since as far back as 1911. “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” appears in a 1911 newspaper article quoting newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane discussing journalism and publicity – Wikipedia
This statement had been used over and over to describe the strength of pictorials in marketing/publicity and advertising. Is it scientific – no! Does it sound believable? Apparently so, because since 1911 that message has been hammered into marketing statements and the public consciousness. We could make the argument that a picture (and symbols) relay ideas very strongly and indeed in a more concise manner than the written word. Why have a road sign that say “Drive slowly there are school kids crossing the street frequently at this intersection.” When we can post a silhouette of small stick figures and the word “school.”
So in a process of truth in advertising it is better to say “If a picture is worth a 1000 words, than 1 minute of video is worth 1.8 million words.”
This statement is clear and honest and most certainly makes the argument more believable than willy nilly stating that 1 minute of video equals 1.8 million words.
Of course if you are shooting at 60 frames per second and in HD, than one minute of video must be worth a heck of a lot more than 1.8 million words.