When Is A Podcast No Longer A Podcast?

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By Nik Gandhi, Senior Marketing and Account Executive

Podcasts are increasingly releasing video, and rightfully so. After all, YouTube is the most-used podcasting platform, with 59 percent of people surveyed in a Cumulus report saying they ‘watch’ podcasts. This was all without even trying to become a pioneering podcast platform, and now the video giant’s attention has actively turned to podcasting. As we discussed in the September edition of the Listen newsletter, YouTube has doubled down and is rolling out ‘YouTube Podcasts’ which will be accessible from the explore page and will feature popular episodes, playlists and recommendations.

So, what’s the harm? Well, some fear that a video-first approach might see podcasting lose something that makes the medium so unique – the immersive nature of audio. They are, ultimately, completely different crafts in their own right. I would completely agree with this and personally, I don’t watch many podcasts. That said, it would be a joy for some of my favourite podcasts to be available to watch (especially for the die-hard fans of your show – I would love to be able to watch video content of Off Menu). Likewise, some of my favourite YouTube shows would make pretty good podcasts (Tom Scott – hit us up)!

Different shows are now using different strategies – and I’m not saying any one of those is the correct way of doing things. The area of focus for the show can be entirely different depending on the genre of podcast and the audience it’s trying to engage. One show aimed at a Gen Z audience, for example, could have more attention on the short form content across TikTok and Instagram compared to the long form audio edit. These formats will obviously have a very different editorial focus to each other, with the social content more focused on creating awareness of the podcast brand.

Other shows likely get far more views on YouTube than they do downloads on Spotify or Apple (or wherever you get your podcasts), so would naturally put more effort into the video format.

This all begs the question:

When does a podcast stop being a podcast, and start becoming… something entirely different?

This is something I can absolutely, with 100% certainty… not answer.

But what actually is a podcast by definition?

James Cridland, of Podnews fame, refers to a podcast as “audio referenced by an enclosure tag in an RSS feed” whereas other sources use wording such as “broadcasts” or “digital formats”. These are all accurate, in my opinion, as more and more podcasts are taking multiple forms.

First though, let’s take a very brief look back at the origins of podcasting and some of the oddities found in its history. For example, did you know that the term ‘podcasting’ was just made up to pad out the word count of an article so it would fit the page? The article was written by Ben Hammersley, a British author and journalist, and was published in The Guardian in February 2004. This was the first time the term had ever been seen in print but it wasn’t until September of that year that Dannie J Gregoire, a blogger, used the term “podcasting” to describe the automatic download and synchronisation of audio content. Several other bloggers picked up and used the term to describe the same process, and “podcasts” were born.

The future of podcasting

As the times are a changin’, video content as part of a podcast is becoming key. Not just because tech giants like Spotify and YouTube are providing the service, but because audiences are increasingly watching podcasts. My view is that video podcasts are still podcasts and that by providing this additional content, you’re delivering further value to your audience.

Does this mean that video is essential for every podcast made? Absolutely not. Adding video is no small task and should be carefully considered before jumping into it (disclaimer: I’m not talking about just uploading audiograms onto YouTube, which is still a great way to take advantage of the medium), I wouldn’t blame any indie podcast for not including video, but there is a lot of value in using video to spread awareness of your podcast.

By including video, you are tapping into a completely different market who consume that type of digital content over audio-only. Add to this that social platforms such as TikTok and Instagram are engineered for video content, which is highly engaging and shareable, so discoverability (one of the biggest challenges in podcasting) becomes ever so slightly easier.

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