Steve Goldstein: Podcasters Are Grappling With How To Make YouTube Work

Steve Goldstein’s Amplifi Media works with media companies and podcasters in developing audio content strategies. Goldstein writes frequently at the Amplifi blog. Steve can be reached directly at 203-221-1400 or sjgoldstein-at-amplifimedia-dot-com.

Last week’s Hot Pod Summit in Brooklyn had many great sessions, but among the most valuable was a packed afternoon workshop focused on video and podcasts. It brought together a broad spectrum of the podcasting community, including representatives from iHeart, Ted, Vox, Audacy, Signal Hill Insights, video promoter Headliner, children’s podcast producers, independent producers, and international creators. Notably, Kai Chuck, YouTube’s head of podcasting, was also in the room.

The session revealed a palpable frustration over the slow pace of audience growth, which often seems insufficient to offset the considerable costs and efforts involved.

I took great interest in this session. It was like a live focus group follow-up to our Podcast Movement keynote in August 2023, in collaboration with Coleman Insights, where we jointly unveiled “The New Rules of Podcasting,” a significant study highlighting YouTube’s opportunities for podcasters.

We’ve seen a diverse response since last summer, with some podcasters diving headfirst and others tentatively testing the waters. However, a common thread among creators is the daunting challenge of balancing the need for visual content with the investment of time and resources it demands and skepticism of the role video can or should play.

One podcaster told the group about her frustration sinking a lot of her own money on equipment and editing with no momentum. The session also highlighted confusion about what video needs to look like, ranging from highly produced to an informal TikTok style and the big enchilada: whether every podcast needs video.

The session revealed a palpable frustration over the slow pace of audience growth

It was mentioned in the discussion that early on, several organizations, including NPR and some advocacy groups, tried and abandoned video when the meter didn’t move.  Those positions have changed as more data on YouTube and podcasts comes to light.

Despite these hurdles, there was a hopeful dialogue about YouTube’s evolving policies, including discussions on RSS feed integration. Kai explained to the group that while RSS feeds are not aligned with YouTube’s ad-centric business model, they are now part of the YouTube Music feed. He also reminded podcasters that “baked-in” ads are fine and made the case for the rich analytics of the YouTube platform.

The transition to video is undoubtedly complex, with YouTube’s algorithm favoring video-centric content over audio-only, making visibility a formidable challenge for new entrants. Yet, there’s a perceptible shift in mindset among podcasters, from initial reluctance to a cautious embrace of video’s potential.

What should podcasters do?

Podcast consumption is happening on YouTube. Just look at Rephonic’s YouTube charts to see some of the action. We advise podcasters to approach this transition with strategic planning and patience. Here are some key considerations we presented in August that I reinforced during the Hot Pod session:

1.    YouTube is eating the podcast space – It is the top source for podcast search in our study and several subsequent research reports.

2.    The definition of a podcast is changing – Many consumers, but not all, expect video. At the least, offering a video version is often expected.

3.    One out of four YouTube podcast consumers can’t find their favorite podcast there – Podcasters need to fix that. If your product isn’t on the grocery store shelf, people can’t buy it.

4.    Start small – Experiment with video by adding visual elements to segments of your podcast that are most likely to benefit from visuals. A map, a short bio, a picture of the crime scene, etc..

5.    Video will work better for some formats – Interview podcasts should have a video strategy. News and narrative might be more difficult. The Daily had 34k views during last week’s cast about Alabama’s ruling, and they simply used the show’s artwork optimized for the video format. NPR’s Fresh Air uses a custom graphic featuring each show’s guest.

6.    Optimize for YouTube  – Tailor your content to engage with YouTube’s unique audience and algorithm, considering factors like video length, engagement, and SEO.

7. Get your shorts on – Use short form video on YouTube Shorts and TikTok to generate awareness and sampling. In our study, 40% of the respondents told us they saw videos promoting podcasts on YouTube Shorts.

Embracing video as a podcast creator is filled with challenges but hopefully great potential. With thoughtful strategies and a focus on your unique audience, you can navigate these hurdles and hopefully move the needle as video becomes an integral part of many podcast plans.

Thanks to Scott Newman (Work x Work ) and Ariel Shapiro (Hot Pod) for putting on a valuable day.

Steve Goldstein