Video Killed the Podcast Star? A Reality Check

The impact and importance of video podcasts have been widely discussed in the podcast community during the recent months. The debate was sparked by Spotify announcing video podcasts coming to their platform. But let's be honest here: nobody in the podcast community actually believes that video podcasts are going to play a bigger role anytime soon. Here are a few reasons why.

The Power of Audio-Only Podcasts

There's something magical about audio-only content. It creates an intimate and personal connection with the listener, fostering a one-of-a-kind bond between the podcast creator and their audience. Audio-only podcasts are versatile and convenient, allowing people to consume content while commuting, exercising, or doing household chores. Moreover, audio-only podcasts promote deep listening and active imagination, as our minds fill in the gaps and create vivid mental images.

Audio-only podcasts are so powerful and unique because they work in situations where screens cannot. In this day and age, people have reached "peak screen time," which means that there just isn't any more time left during the day to add even more screen time. I would argue that many of us are tired of constant screen-watching, be it for work or entertainment. We are already glued to our monitors, smartphones, and TVs! So please, tell me how creating a video podcast will give you more visibility.

The Un-Podcastiness of Video Podcasts

From a practical point of view, video podcasts are less portable, less versatile, and reduce multitasking opportunities. They lack the very advantages of audio! They do not really fit into the same consumption patterns as their audio-only counterparts do.

Video podcasts can be expensive and complex to produce, limiting accessibility for new creators and demanding greater resources from established ones. This is a huge danger of video podcasts that goes underappreciated. Do not underestimate the additional overhead of producing and distributing video. It is time-consuming, it detracts from content creation, and it is costly to store, edit, and distribute.

At Podigee, we have discussed video podcasts many times in the past. And while we support exporting podcasts automatically to YouTube, we do not want to go down the video podcast route. We just do not see the benefit for podcasters nor is it an affordable or sustainable feature for most of our customers.

Just think about it this way: how many times have you recorded a podcast dressed in a way that you would not leave your home, even to go to the cheap convenience store at the corner? Now imagine you want to record a video. See where this is going?

Video podcasts place an overemphasis on visual elements, which can distract from the core content and encourage superficial consumption. The magic of podcasts is that listeners get their very own version of the content. Sure enough, the audio is the same for everyone, but the pictures in their heads aren't. Podcasts (the audio ones, the real ones!) as an experience are closer to reading a book than they are to watching a movie.

Big Tech Gonna Do What Big Tech Need To Do

It seems ironic that Spotify would use video podcasts as an exclusive feature only available to podcasters using Spotify's own tooling, eg. the service formerly known as Anchor. This makes video podcasts, as they are understood by many, very un-podcasty. Spotify reinvented the wheel here by only supporting video podcasts through their proprietary distribution mechanism instead of using the good ol' RSS feed (which, by the way, has had support for video podcasts for two decades!).

I feel like the push for this kind of feature exclusivity is just a desperate attempt at making their millions of investments in the podcast space worthwhile. Or to make the company even slightly profitable. Considering the fact that since the beginning of their very existence, Spotify has not been able to make a single dollar of profit (compare that to our little business here at Podigee, that is cashflow positive, profitable, with no external investors). I wonder if they even know how to become profitable at all. And as long as they can burn investors' money, they will have to grow and expand no matter the cost, even if it goes against the open ecosystem of podcasts.

Elon Musk on video podcast smoking a cigar

Are Video Podcasts Any Good?

Of course, there are great video podcasts; there's no need to deny that. Some of the podcasts I listen to and follow have a video version. But let's be honest, most of the time, it's just a couple of people, interviewer and interviewee, sitting at a table, speaking into the microphone. It only ever gets interesting when they get Elon to smoke on camera providing great meme stuff. Heh.  

But I must confess that I consume video podcasts sometimes. Usually on a weekend, when I'm in the kitchen cooking some food for the kids. I will put the podcast on my iPad and play it in the background. Honestly, I don't even watch the video all that much; it's just there while I'm focusing on making the most amazing ragu bolognese.

Can video podcasts be helpful with discovery? Maybe, but most likely, they suddenly stop competing against other audio podcasts and start competing with video. I'm pretty sure that's not the way to go for most podcasters.