Is Listening the Same as Reading

Every Monday morning while getting ready for work I watch This Week In Tech with Leo Laporte on twit.tv. It’s been a part of my Monday morning routine for a few years now.

Audible.com is one of TWIT’s sponsors and Leo (a.k.a The Tech Guy) often makes the statement during the audible ad that he “reads” more since becoming an audible subscriber. Audible is an audio book distributor, and like many things it got me thinking - Is listening to an audiobook (or podcast) considered reading? 

Disclaimer: If you purchase an Audible book you are helping to support this website. We get a small percentage of your purchase and it costs you nothing extra.

I have purchased a few audiobooks from Audible and they were all well done. Audible hires great voice actors to read their books. Some books, such as World War Z, will have dozens of famous actors that read the different characters to help create a more immersive story.

A Brief History of Audio Books

The first audio book was in fact not a book. In 1877 Thomas Edison made the first spoken word recording with his phonograph invention. The “Phonograph books” were one of Edison’s ideas that would speak to blind people. The first words he recorded were "Mary Had a Little Lamb".

A decade later the Royal Institution in England recorded “Hey Diddle Diddle, the Cat and the Fiddle”, which established the beginning of technology’s connection to spoken literature.

Jumping ahead to 1931 the Adult Blind Project, the Library of Congress, and the American Foundation for the Blind started the “Talking Book Program”.

I would also argue that old time radio shows such as Superman, The Lone Ranger, and Dragnet, were broadcast versions of audio books. After all, they were telling stories. 

Fast forward to the 1970’s. Vinyl and cassette tapes were inexpensive and brought recorded literature to the masses. You could purchase them, or rent them from your public library and schools.

In 1979 the Sony Walkman gave us listening portability and provided people with another way to get information while doing other things. Now it was easier to carry an audio book with you while cutting the grass, washing the car, or walking the dog. 

Around 2005 audio book’s were being recorded in MP3 format, and this started the audio book mania we have today. With MP3 players you could carry an entire library in your pocket and play books on your iPod or computer, and later on your smartphone. 

Since 2004 the podcast has an ever growing medium for listening to the spoken word.  With all the many podcast aggregators, and websites like Audible, Barnes & Noble, and LibriVox books and the spoken word are available to both readers and non-readers alike, as well as the blind.

Similarities Between Reading and Listening

This brings us to the big question: Is listening to an audio book the same as reading text?

The quick answer is yes, it is reading for no other reason than you are taking in the written word. You are comprehending the thoughts and ideas of an author. The only difference is that you are consuming information through the ears rather than the through the eyes.

The reason I agree with Leo, that listening to a book is reading, is that listening and reading are similar cognitive processes with regard to comprehension. Learning to read begins at birth when we start to process sounds and turn those sounds into language. This process is completed somewhere between the 3rd and 4th grade when the transition takes place from learning to read to reading to learn. 

During this transition the cognitive processes of understanding the written word becomes similar to understanding the spoken word. To put it another way, those who can read well also listen well. Comprehension is the same whether listening to information or reading information. It’s all about understanding complex language.

What about Learning Styles?

The difference between reading and listening  however, is that auditory processes and visual processes are tied to perceived learning styles.  As a school psychologist I can't tell you how many times I've heard parents and teachers tell me about auditory and visual learning styles. Research however, tell us that learning styles are a myth

Instead, research on learning theory tell us that people have “preferred” methods of learning rather than innate methods of learning. This is an important concept when teaching children to read. Pigeonholing someone into a learning style will cause them to miss concepts that are presented in ways that are more effective with learning outcomes, but less preferred.

I think the learning style myth is espoused from the idea that people have certain innate abilities, also known as aptitudes. Adapting teaching modality to the aptitudes of the learner are known as Aptitude Treatment Interactions, or ATI’s for short. ATI's have little educational value.

The primary reason ATI’s have little educational value is that instructional outcomes don’t always correlate with learning outcomes. For example, when a child with ADHD says that he learns better when listening, or watching TV, what he is telling you is that he does not want to exert the mental energy necessary to sit and read, especially a book without pictures. It’s the old “reading is boring” routine.

When you present struggling readers with the written word through a spoken word medium you will not improve reading performance. Rather, it will feed into their preferred form of learning, which is auditory and will further feed their desire to avoid books. 

Regardless of the methods used to teach reading to children, everyone learns to read through five pillars. 

The Five Pillars of Reading

  • Phonemic Awareness - Notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in words. 
  • Phonics - Development of Phonemic Awareness in order to teach the correspondence between these sounds and the spelling patterns that represent them.
  • Fluency - The ability to read with speed, accuracy, and with the proper inflection.
  • Vocabulary - When fluency becomes automatic you assign meaning to words.
  • Comprehension - When the first four reading conditions are met then you are able to understand the information in what is read.
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Differences Between Reading and Listening

Reading text requires an active role in learning whereas listening to the spoken word is passive. Passive learning is less effective when measuring learning outcomes. Therefore, retention capabilities when reading text are greater with active learning when compared to passive learning.

When listening to audiobooks - or podcasts, music, and TV shows for that matter - you are often doing other things. And while you are doing other things your brain will shift its focus to the task in front of you instead of the spoken word.

We call this selective attention - we cannot consciously attend to all of our sensory input at the same time. The end result is that you focus your attention away from the audiobook and refocus back again, which causes you to miss some of the information.

Think of it like this. You are driving the hour commute home from work while listening to an audio book. What happens next? You can’t remember the last ten miles of the drive and wonder how in the world you made it to where you are in one piece - or the opposite - You are focused on the crazy driver in front of you and miss an entire chapter of the book.

No One Can Multitask Effectively

You may think you are great at multitasking, and you may be when compared with others who multitask. However, you will perform much better when you focus on a single task instead.

Research shows that multitasking lowers a person’s IQ by 10 points. It also lowers productivity by 40%, and inhibits the ability to think creatively, make effective decisions, and it negatively impacts memory. 

And right there is the underlying problem with audio books. While listening to an audiobook you are probably doing multiple things at once. Your attention is divided and when listening you are losing much of the information presented orally to you.

When you read text without any other distractions you are actively participating in the process of reading by using the five pillars outlined above. 

Yes, reading printed books and audiobooks are both considered reading. But I argue that if you take a serious interest in the material, you want to engage yourself in the story, and you want to retain as much of the information as possible then you are better off reading the printed word.  So visit our show notes

On the other hand, if you just want background entertainment while driving, or working around the house then listening to spoken word, such as Trailer Junkies Podcast, is a great way to pass the time.

Sorry for the gratutious plug there at the end.

Moana Explains Business

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Next to experience, storytelling can teach us truths beyond any lesson or lecture. This makes myth very powerful and while Moana is a fun, kid-friendly, music-ladened animated movie – it is also an allegory about big business at a crossroad between mature market and massive market disruption. There are lessons to be learned from this story, so let’s get Big Business into its submarine jammies and tuck her into bed and show her how Moana Explains Business.

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First, let’s start easy. The chief of the island, Moana's father, Chief Tui Waialiki, is a CEO of sorts. This makes sense, the Chief is the chief executive. Not a stretch. He is mentoring his daughter to take over the family business. The island business is well-established, thriving and mature. The islanders of Motunui work to tend the coconuts and fish to provide for the village. The difference of these tasks shows it to be a conglomerate of sorts. At first glance, Tui and Moana seem like very different leaders but it is revealed that Tui was once an adventurous leader like Moana. However, circumstances and experience have pushed any founder or start-up spirit out of Tui and replaced it with the status quo directive driven by the market and all those profiting from it.

When the water shows Moana that it is not yet her time by smashing her canoe and almost killing her another business symbol is revealed. Chief Tui takes Moana to the top of the island to share the ultimate goal of every CEO. On the top of the highest peak on the island, there is a moss-covered monolith. He explains that these slabs of flat rock are stacked by chiefs. In the modern business sense, the height of the island is the value of the company. It has been like this for generations. Moana feels the DNA of her ancestors pulling to the open sea but the current corporate culture has her father telling her to just put your flat rock on top and keep everything going and you will be a successful CEO, I mean chief. Tui explains this is your job – stability and modest growth.

While Moana defies Tui by repeatedly attempting to go beyond the reef, her boat is destroyed and she is almost drowned. All business activity has barriers like this reef. But this literal barrier ends up working both ways. It keeps competitors from coming into your market while keeping your business from venturing into new sectors. This is fine as long as your lifeblood, customers, stay healthy and within reach. In Moana, the food is the customer – the coconuts and the fish. Both are tended to and cultivated.

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This analogy extends nicely as well; the coconuts are older customers easier to reap but as they die off they are harder to replace. They are limited to the land of the island. In the media space, these are linear viewers set in their ways but also fixed in the ability to grow this part of their market. The fish within the reef are not endless but they are more plentiful but harder to hunt and keep.

We enter a montage of island life running the business of the island with a beautiful Lin Manuel Miranda song about the status quo. “We know who we are.” But the mature market of the island is aging badly. The coconuts are rotting and the fish are leaving. "Fish where the fish are." Such a simple idea. Still, Tui forbids his daughter from venturing beyond the reef. Moana needs the cooperation of an elder, her grandmother. This is what I call legacy corporate intelligence. As the current company culture has drowned out the knowledge of the founder’s culture the grandmother is one of the last links to the past success before island life. It is not lost on this viewer that the Heart of Tafiti is Jade-like. Some could say that the new business culture was jaded.

When Moana goes into the cave of her ancestors she has a vision of a chief from the past. But this was not an island chief. What was his business on ships on the high seas? The business was always the people, the employees. Startups are nimble easy to move where the fish are and a smaller complement of employees to support. This chief was an entrepreneur. When he manages success and decides to move to the island he transitions to a founder since the island is a more stable environment to increase supporting more employees to service more customers. Scale is a typical struggle for transitioning corporate leaders not used to the shackles of bigger sunk costs and when you have a house you have overhead.

Moana has this entrepreneurial spirit but in an established company that is not always appreciated (Let’s be nice and say “rarely” appreciated). Now she is armed with the knowledge of a long-forgotten trait of her tribe. The roots of the island’s past. I’m sure how Walt Disney moved and operated are a far cry from what Bob Iger needs to do today.

Now she is armed with the knowledge of the founder's path and tools. The fish leaving could symbolize a shift in the market. The rotting of the coconuts is the death of a sector. Rarely is it this so clean of a cut but this is a cautionary tale so it needs to have clear demarcations.

Water does so much heavy lifting in this film. It is a character in the movie so it claims allegorical space too. Water is time. As a child time is our friend. Only later in life do we find out that what we thought was our friend is actually indifferent to our wants and desires and has its own plan more powerful than the gods.

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So who is Maui? Don't laugh but Maui is risk, specifically unbridled risk, reckless risk. So regardless of how well-meaning he approaches you or your situation, your outcome will be amplified in either direction. Maui knows this about himself and when we meet him he's seeking the magic hook. This magic hook is calculation. Together they are calculated risk. This has much higher chance of success and a good idea for the most part.

Now Moana takes a calculated risk with the time and tools of the founder to seek out Tafiti and replace her heart, in the hopes it will kick start the consumer base and bring life back to the island. This would generate revenue for the island and purpose for the tribe. Here lies the most Stratecharian business concept. Life is never coming back to the island but no one knows it. They continue normal business operations in the hopes it will return but deep down Moana knows the island may support a smaller contingent of employees but the coconut way of life is dead. The faster they can accept and pivot away from it the better.

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I love Tamatoa, the Bowiesque giant crab, but Te Ka is the big antagonist of the film. As Moana faces off with her having spent all of her calculated risk just to get there, she is left to face her alone with only her cunning. Upon examination, Moana notices that the thing that will destroy the tribe, people, island, company, employees. So focused on Tafiti the people did not notice that which gave the company life is now set to destroy it. I always say that hubris and clinging to the past will down the mightiest of business giants. This is no different here. This is a slow process so Moana commands time to allow Te Ka to come to her. What a great power play! Too often the fear of corporate cannibalization freezes the company from the pivot that is needed. This turns your greatest asset into your biggest problem.

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Now Moana has restored the customer base returned life to the island and purpose to her people. So now it is time to return to island life and grow the company by the height of the slab she will place on the monolith - NO! She places a conch shell on the top capping the business of the island. It's functioning again and seemingly vibrantly so but she has her people on the water of the high seas where the real monstrous gains and risk traveling along independently but with his calculation tool restored.

The moral and my big business takeaway: if you have entrepreneurial people in your company foster it with tools that allowed the main company to lay down roots and roll with the successes and failures - in the aggregate the various businesses should have gains if your magic hooks are big enough and you manage to keep entrepreneurial people. Like I said earlier the hubris is too easy a trap to fall prey to.

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Nite-nite big business – don’t let Tamatoa bite!

Net Neutrality is Under Attack

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Company mergers and financial deals are often struck between major corporations.  One of the more notable deals was between Internet giant, Comcast and the streaming video giant, Netflix.  Not all financial deals are bad, but when they happen between content providers and the services that deliver that content to your home they can have adverse consequences.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Netflix agreed to pay Comcast for direct access to the Internet service provider’s (ISP’s) broadband network.  The terms of the agreement were not made public, which means that neither company admitted that money was exchanged in the deal.

If money was exchanged in this agreement (you can read between the lines, can't you?) it is the first known example of a company paying an ISP to improve connection speeds.

Similar agreements have been made with other companies in the past without cash exchanging hands in the interest of improving performance for both companies. This is not an uncommon practice and has always been done without payment.

Internet advocacy groups are concerned that Comcast will pressure content creators, companies, and websites that require higher bandwidth to pay for preferential treatment.

Both Comcast contracts were agreed to shortly after a January 2014 ruling by a federal appeals court stating that federal regulators could not prevent these deals from happening. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) argued that streaming deals between companies would give large, rich companies an unfair advantage in delivering content to consumers.  

In the United States the Internet is not currently viewed as a utility and therefore, is not subject to regulations banning these arrangements.  However, the Trump administration is pushing the FCC to regulate the Internet as a utility.

The argument for moving to a utility based service is that the Obama net neutrality regulations were so heavy handed that they stifled investment, stalled major upgrades to high-speed internet, and removed incentivizes for other innovations.

Whereas, the primary, and over simplified argument in favor of net neutrality is to treat all traffic as equal, so a small startup company with no money but a good idea can compete with the likes of Amazon, Google, and other Internet giants. 

How The Internet Works

The Internet, since the beginning, has operated as a free and open medium that allows equal competition between big and small content providers. This open and neutral model is what allowed websites such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook to develop and grow.

For the sake of this article I will use Comcast and Netflix in my simplified example of how the Internet works.  

Comcast delivers bandwidth to your home, but there are backbone companies that provide Comcast its bandwidth. One such company is Cogent, and they sell transit to Netflix.

When Netflix purchases transit from Cogent, Cogent is responsible for distributing the Netflix traffic to all the other places on the Internet. Therefore, Cogent must exchange traffic with all other network providers as no one company controls the Internet.

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These connections are known as peering and it is a point-to-point connection that does not necessarily guarantee passage of traffic beyond the two companies involved. This occurs without any money exchanging hands.

When the two companies sharing information across networks are of similar size and influence it often benefits both. That is, Netflix pays Cogent to distribute its content while the content consumer pays companies such as Comcast to consume the media they request. One gets paid for sending while the other gets paid for receiving.

Network Neutrality Simplified

When you log onto the Internet you take for granted the services you are getting. You assume that whatever website you visit you will be provided with the same services and speeds as every other website. That’s true whether you stream videos from YouTube, listen to podcasts through iTunes, or you are reading this article on our website.  

You also assume that you can attach all of your devices to your network such as computers, mobile phones, game consoles, and network attached storage (NAS) devices to enhance your online experience.

What makes all of this possible is Network Neutrality, which is the guiding principle that maintains a free and open Internet. A neutral Internet means that ISP’s may not discriminate and prioritize content from one provider over another. It guarantees a level playing field for everyone to include content creators, content providers, and other Internet technologies that deliver the websites you've come to enjoy.

This content is delivered to your home by a small number of cable and telephone companies that would love nothing more than to create a tiered system. If they get their way the telecom's will make their content and services, and the content and services of their partners a priority while everyone else would find themselves driving in the slow lane on the second tier.

If you pay to get your company in the top tier your site and services will run fast. If you don't, your site and services will be slowed to a crawl.

Imaging paying a fee to watch YouTube videos in high definition, or the music you enjoy from Spotify continually buffers more often than the music from iTunes or Pandora.  Perhaps you enjoy reading Right leaning political commentary about the NRA, but a Left leaning media company sensors or blocks information about guns that they do not agree with.  

These few ISP's believe that they should be able to charge website operators, application providers, and device manufactures a fee for the right to use their network. Those who don't make financial deals may be discriminated against with slower load times, lower quality video streams, longer buffer rates, and increased lag times. These companies may also block the content of a direct competitor, or slow them down so much so that their website becomes unusable.

Those in favor of dismantling Net Neutrality claim Net Neutrality is irrelevant, a solution in search of a problems, and that if blocking were to happen market forces would compel ISP's to correct course and reopen their networks.

In reality, many ISP's both in the United States and abroad have already violated the principles of Net Neutrality.  If given their way they would most certainly block content from from competitors to promote their own products and services.  This would be bad for two reasons.

  1. Prices would increase due to a lack of competition and
  2. Your service(s) would be terrible as you are stuck with a poor product that the blocking company is not obligated to improve as the result of muscling out the competition.

 Here are some examples of Net Neutrality violations that have already occurred. 

The Idea Behind The Open Internet

The Internet was founded on the principles of freedom.  It is an open medium that fosters the fundamental idea that every website and every service should be treated equal. This is the underlying principle that allows me to write this article and compete directly with The New York Times, CNN, and thousands of other bloggers, websites, and news organizations.  

The free and open model of the current Internet is what allows individuals the ability to create and deliver their content to millions of potential viewers without the barriers of the giant media companies.  It allows you to search for information that is most relevant to you rather than search engines showing you results from companies that paid the most money to reach you. It is FREEDOM!

Inherent Problems Behind A Tiered Internet

Network Neutrality ensures innovation. If you have a good idea you can create an app, a website to promote that app, or other content that can compete on an equal playing field with major companies such as Amazon, YouTube, or HBO.  

Anti-Net Neutrality proponents (i.e., large corporations, Republicans, and the Trump administration) want to crush this system and muscle entrepreneurs and startups out of direct competition.  In other words, Net Neutrality is a threat to the status quo.  

A tiered Internet would ensure that the content and services provided by their own companies, and their corporate partners would receive preferential treatment with faster speeds by providing customers with a better user experience.

This scenario is not just a David vs. Goliath scenario. It can affect other larger corporations as well. For example, Comcast owns NBC Universal, and is a direct competitor to ABC and CBS.  These and many other direct competitors would need to pay large fees to Comcast to have their content delivered to your home without discrimination. It puts ABC, CBS, and all of Comcast's other competitors at a financial disadvantage.

And if Comcast is not able to reach a financial agreement with one of its competitors they can block their content.  We already saw this happen when CBS blocked Time Warner subscribers from watching CBS content.

Why Does This Matter?

As the fall of Net Neutrality takes place the average user will likely not complain as their experience will be enhanced in the short-term.  On the other hand, I see this as a way of baiting users to buy-in, which will keep them complacent causing our freedoms to be eroded even further.

The long-term effect will happen years later when we live in a less innovative world as the Internet will be run by major players who can afford to bring their products to market while the smaller startup, blogger, or podcaster will likely not even try as the hurdles are too high.

If this happened during the late '90's companies and websites you use everyday like Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, and YouTube would not have had the opportunity to compete, and therefore would never have been allowed to grow, and disrupt the status quo today.  Instead, we would be stuck with Friendster, MySpace, and every other failed company that had more money at the time than the successful sites of today.

Another unintended consequence of a tiered Internet would be the increase in your monthly bill.  If these deals are allowed to continue we will see a “Pay-Per-View” Internet where once free websites will begin charging their users fees. 

Or websites with currently low fees such as Netflix will increase their prices to pay for streaming deals with ISP's. And services like Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts will charge fees for video calls between grandparents and grandchildren on top of the monthly fee that is already charged by the ISP.  You may also have to pay for more relevant searches in Google, Yahoo, or Bing as pay-to-play will be the name of the game.

The death of Net Neutrality is also a job killer as a neutral Internet is a job creator. There are countless companies, blogs, podcasts, startups, and others that were born out of an idea that was allowed to grow with a simple website, and grew into massive companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon (they were just a book reseller, remember?). The generations to come will have less opportunity for innovation all while the ISP’s and their corporate partners rake in even greater profits.

Finally, it’s quite possible in a future Internet you may not be able to read an article such as this because it has a dissenting point of view. You may not be able to find information from left or right political viewpoints if your ISP or one of their partners does not agree with the message.

A tiered Internet will crush today's Internet that brought you your favorite websites, apps, and services. You need to take a stand and contact Congress to make this an issue for future elections.

The recent content delivery agreement between Comcast and Netflix, and the Trump administration's repeal of the U.S. government's net neutrality rules late last year is evidence that the United States needs strong government leadership to maintain a free and open Internet.  For those who argue that government legislation interferes with the free market and is unAmerican my response to you is that the future web without Net Neutrality will likely create censorship and increase discrimination.

In a government of the people, by the people, and for the people we need government regulation to prevent the major corporations from creating barriers to competition that favors incumbents.

A country where everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others is un-American, and the same can be said for a restricted Internet.

Resources

http://www.savetheinternet.com/sti-home

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

https://www.aclu.org/net-neutrality

http://www.fcc.gov/openinternet

The Shifting Media Paradigm

The Shifting Media Paradigm

Media is changing and the moves streaming services are making to leverage this paradigm shift are broad, inventive and subversive. The marketing and release of Cloverfield Paradox is Netflix acting like ‘the Raptors testing the fences’ and the hubris of established entertainment execs might lead to their lose of focus, unless they figure out how to get ahead of the shifting paradigm and save their business.

Read More

TJP Blog Disclaimer & Primer

The Disclaimer

Views expressed are the authors' and the authors' alone and do not represent any insight or perspective of any company or agency we work for or with any capacity including Trailer Junkies Podcast.

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The Primer

TJP was established to bring Jim and my wit and witticism to the media marketing space. After a decade of bouncing startup ideas off each other and shooting them down, mostly due to startup cost, Jim joked about starting a #podcast about movie #trailers. The pitch was simple and tongue in cheek.

  1. We’ll never run out of material.
  2. We can watch it on @YouTube.
  3. We do it anyway.
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I took Jim’s joke to heart and while we crawled across #Lompoc (#SipLompoc 2017) #TrailerJunkiesPodcast was born. This was #BlackFriday and by the first week of December we bought mics and were recording our first podcast. I highly recommend this to everyone. Find something you are passionate about and grab a friend and a microphone (or record it into your phone’s voice recorder.) #sidehustleSTRONG