When YouTube’s Founders saw ‘Me at the zoo’ uploaded to the site in April 2005, you can’t imagine they’d foresee the platform taking on the behemoths of Spotify and Apple for the lion’s share of the podcasting market.
17 years later, we’re seeing telltale signs that YouTube already has their eyes firmly set on bridging the gap between their video-focused content and the audio-first world of podcasts.
So whether you’re years into your podcasting journey or yet to take the leap, here’s what the platform’s advances mean for your content strategy.
YouTube: Google Podcasts’ Big Brother
Google Podcasts’ share of podcast listeners pails when compared to the big dogs of Spotify and Apple Podcasts, sitting around 2.5%. So now that the Google-owned YouTube has introduced a new Podcasts section for US users, they’re undoubtedly looking to clinch the top spot in the market.
It’s not hard to understand why they’ve done this; Google has the power to tap into over 2.5 billion monthly active users on YouTube. For comparison, Spotify and Apple Podcasts are estimated to be reaching a combined 60 million users in the US. Only a company as large as Google with a platform as giant as YouTube could consider 60m users ‘small fry’...
Between audio-first listeners and video-first watchers (more on that distinction later on…), they’ll have a platform for everyone.
The Numbers Game
Let’s talk stats- WAIT, don’t scroll past the numbers just yet! I know statistics can often be the unprescribed cure to your maligned sleep pattern, but this time it’s different.
These stats might just convince you to jump on the YouTube bandwagon before it passes you by…
In a study by Cumulus Media, around 6 in 10 listeners (57%) prefer podcasts with video, whether that means watching actively (28%) or passively in the background (29%). That leaves 4 in 10 (43%) who prefer audio only.
It’s not cut and dry though, since ‘Podcast Pioneers’ (listeners who started listening to podcasts 4+ years ago), are most interested in audio only (48%) or background watching (25%). For those with longstanding listeners who began with audio only, video appears to carry less importance.
Bear in mind that this study had a sample size of just 604 weekly listeners, so while it gives a good general idea, the most important factor in finding out what YOUR audience really wants is to make that genuine connection, and find out directly from them.
I’m sure some of you saw numbers and still skipped the stats, or maybe just started to zone out, for which I don’t blame you. But if there’s one takeaway there, it’s that there’s no right or wrong way to listen to/watch a podcast. In which case, why not offer both?
Video-lovers among the podcast population likely already live on YouTube, and by appealing to them you’re not only attracting more listeners, but offering them richer content.
Using the visual medium conveys body language which supplements your message, and you have the power to show content that contextualises your conversation, like web articles or images.
For the audio purists out there, they might not be interested in the additional frivolities that video can offer - no problem. Plan your content right, and the audio version of your podcast shouldn’t suffer with the addition of video.
Why settle for one audience preference when you can have the best of both worlds?
The Biggest Names in the Game
We’re not just seeing bona fide podcasters transitioning to the platform. YouTubers who’ve built their following since the late 00’s have either dabbled in the podcast format on their channels, or have even made it their primary content on the platform.
Rhett and Link’s 14+ years as YouTube OG’s exemplifies this perfectly, but they’re far from alone in this - Logan Paul (Impaulsive Podcast), Ethan & Hila Klein (H3 Podcast), The Sidemen (SIDECAST), True Geordie (True Gerodie Podcast) and David Dobrik (VIEWS) all boast channels with multi-million subscribers, and have taken the plunge into successful video podcasts.
In addition to these historic names on the platform making that leap, more podcasters are gravitating towards YouTube and TikTok not just as additional content streams, but as platforms on which to solely exist. Jack Parsons’ My Duvet Flip is a notable example that only exists on those platforms.
One Episode, Infinite Content
If you’ve tuned into our fabulous ‘Power of Voice’ Webinar series you’ll have heard our MD Kelly Butler mention how one episode can provide limitless content to post (and if you haven’t, keep your eyes on our socials to sign up for the next webinar).
The natural pipeline is to take chunks from each episode as long or short as you like, post it to your social channels and bring people to the full episode. Now consider how much power you have when you detach yourself from platforms that prefer you to limit videos to 60 seconds…
Posting podcast content to YouTube gives you ultimate flexibility: you could post the whole episode, break it into a few 10 minute highlights to appease the algorithm, keep to the snappy 60 second snippets, or a combination of all three approaches!
Comments at the Core
Creating a community around your podcast is not just about numbers. Quality of interactions can cement listener loyalty, improve engagement, and encourage sponsors. It’s more beneficial to have 100 loyal, engaged listeners than 1,000 passive ones.
While Spotify only added tools to allow users to answer polls and ask questions last year, commenter interaction is at the very core of YouTube’s experience and has been since its inception.
That makes it the perfect platform to facilitate conversations around your content, so get chatting.
Ceding Control to Google
It’d be remiss to give all the reasons to look at YouTube as the hottest property in podcasting without at least considering its drawbacks, which could affect some creators more so than others.
As with many social platforms we’re all playing the algorithm game, but it’s a particularly complex game when it comes to YouTube, and this problem stretches back a number of years.
From the 2015-16 rush to 10+ minute videos in the hopes of more ads, to 2016-17’s ‘Adpocalypse’ and beyond, it’s clear that each time there are changes to the algorithm, the content that tends to perform best significantly shifts.
There have even been controversies suggesting that the platform’s monetization model demonstrated bias against LGBT+ content, with such allegations surfacing around 2019.
In spite of all this, there are obviously a number of highly successful creators still making challenging and boundary-pushing content, so one shouldn’t consider this a deal-breaker. However it’s worth noting that continued success on the platform is never a guarantee, which is why many creators spread themselves across the internet, effectively ‘hedging their bets’.
Buzzsprout Global Stats
60m US Users for Spotify and Apple Podcasts
2.6bn YouTube Users (2022)
Cumulus Media Podcast Report Spring 2022