Audio vs. video podcasts – benefits and shortcomings
You’ve been hearing and probably using the word podcast a lot lately, but do you know what it means? It has little to nothing to do with video, yet a very high percentage of listeners consume this format via video platforms these days. Peculiar, since podcasts originated from audio and radio formats. Somewhere at the beginning of the century, any digital spoken-word record available for download was considered a podcast. Before that, dating back to the 80s, the name audio blogs would often appear on the subject.
And that’s what podcasts remain today – audio shows, either streamed or downloaded. It is a media on the rise, which many statistics you can find online prove:
- It is estimated that there are over 2 million podcasts available right now (compared to what Apple reported in 2018 – 550 000, it is a huge jump);
- There are over 48 million episodes as of April 2021 (compared again to 2018, when that number was 18.5 million, another immense difference);
- Back in 2017, famous audience-driven data agency, Nielsen, confirmed that podcasts are listened to in more than 50% of US households;
- 49% of podcast listening is done at home and 22% while driving;
- Comedy, education, and news are the most popular podcasting genres.
As you can see, you do not need a video feed to listen to a podcast. So why is that kind even more popular, and should you have to choose between the two, which one to pick? Not to point cursors, but… The main suspect is YouTube. Following the logic: if it fits I sits, several content creators found it fitting to upload their podcasts with a video to that growing platform. The momentum was there, so some of them ended up in the spotlight, like the Joe Rogan Experience.
Let’s assume you would like to start your podcast. How to choose between audio and video? My favorite answer to everything: it depends! What do you wish to achieve with your podcast? There are several factors to take into consideration here.
Video is far more complex and demanding to make. It is gonna cost you more. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it yourself or ordering it from someone. It will take more time, energy, and thus, money. It is obvious: video podcasts will require more equipment. Other than microphones that you would need anyway, count in at least one camera and several lights. You would need to know how to operate those or someone who does. Finally, after recording the vodcast (video podcast), editing video on top of audio is more time-consuming than focusing on just the sound. You will have to implement additional software in your process and, if you don’t know how to use it, learn or find someone who does.
But that’s not all. If you desire to be a host or a recurring guest on your vodcast – you’re gonna have to suit up and clean up your room (Jordan Peterson would be proud of me)! When it comes to participating in an audio podcast, you may as well do it in pajamas and a room that looks like an abandoned bunker (as long as the acoustics are good). You can check out these two podcast services to see for yourself how user-friendly the process of recording just the audio podcast can be:
Platforms like these offer the possibility to fully produce your podcast – from recording to editing and publishing. All by yourself – one-man show. Sorry vodcasts, the audio takes the first point for its simplicity.
Humans are tactile beings. It is easier to connect with a story if you employ more of your senses. Even if nothing is happening in front of you for 3+ hours other than several people talking, it is more attractive to look at that than just listen. The popularity win of vodcasts over classic podcasts in the last decade proves this. But what are the effects of this phenomenon?
First, more audience means more content, and more content means stronger competition. Second, more audience means more people, and more people means it’s harder to organically connect with them. I believe audio podcast creators have a stronger and more genuine connection with their audience than video podcasters. But ironically, it’s harder to keep track of all those people on audio platforms than on video, which has significantly higher numbers.
There is a simple reason for this: the distribution system. Audio podcasts are uploaded on a domain that shares them across several platforms, leaving you clueless when it comes to details and metrics about your audience. You can’t possibly know who heard your podcast on Pocket Casts, Spotify, or Soundcloud. There is no way to determine that, due to the decentralized distribution system. There are lists like Podtrac Podcast Rankings and the iTunes Top Podcasts List, but even their numbers are estimates. So if such big names in the industry work off estimates, imagine what is left to you as a single podcaster? You can read more about it here.
An even bigger issue is the lack of comment sections on these platforms, so you’re unable to connect with your audience. YouTube solves both these problems singlehandedly. Not only that you get in-detail information about your audience, but you can also directly interact with them! This is a big plus when trying to build a community around your idea or a brand.
And boy, what a large community did YouTube manage to gather. Just check some of these astonishing numbers:
- More than 2 billion logged-in monthly users;
- It is the second-most visited website and a social media platform (the first website being Google, and a platform – Facebook);
- People watch more than a billion hours of video on YouTube daily;
- On average, viewers older than 18 spend 41.9 minutes on YouTube each day;
It seems that the video evens the score! Compared to the millions of audio podcasts daily listeners we mentioned at the beginning, respectfully, these numbers can make you dizzy.
Imagine you just left your home for work, and a long commute is ahead of you. You plug in your earphones and want to listen to a podcast. You open up Spotify, and there is your favorite audio podcast already waiting for you – the next episode queued and ready to go. It is as simple as plug-and-play.
On the other side of the globe, a person similar to you leaves their home for work, plug in their earphones, and open the YouTube app. They have to scroll through or search to find the next episode of their favorite podcast because the recommended feed is flooded with suggestions. Then they have to skip several ads and carefully put their phone in their pocket or their purse since the screen cannot be locked. Due to that, somewhere mid-episode, the show gets interrupted because their phone accidentally called their aunt. Instead of finishing the podcast, they are stuck in a conversation they hadn’t quite planned.
Listening to an audio podcast on a preferred audio platform is way less of a fuss than doing it on YouTube. Even if you wanted to devote yourself to watching it, still, an audio podcast allows you to finally mown that lawn while you listen to it. Vodcast requires you to engage in a complicated workaround (piracy or YouTube premium) to listen to the show with your phone securely locked. Studies have shown that people don’t actively watch a whole video podcast. They usually behave like it’s an audio one. So having a video in this format is more of a commodity than a necessity, making things unnecessarily complicated. Audio, touche!
By the looks of it, the audio would be a clear winner here, wouldn’t it? Well, it still heavily depends. Sure, it’s easier and faster to make audio podcasts. It’s even easier to listen to them, but what about the audience? It’s not a factor to be so carelessly overlooked. If you’re reaching for a local audience with whom you can connect on other platforms, like a website or social media, audio is probably a way to go. You can develop more organic relationships, not sacrificing much. But if you want a broader reach, more discoverability, and an opportunity to monetize your work, vodcast may be your path.
Keep in mind that someone else can help you increase the production value of your podcast, especially if you choose to include video. You can hire a professional equipped with a high-quality camera and lightning, and possibly editing skills. That all together will improve the overall technical quality of your content. The same goes for audio. Although it seems it is less work than video in post-production, it’s more delicate. When you have video, you can occasionally turn a blind eye to a fault in audio quality, no pun intended. But when you solely work with audio, it’s needless to say that every imperfection made during editing, mixing, or mastering will be heard by your audience. It only seems logical since they will be sharply focused on the sound.
The downside when working with professionals is some possible creative differences you may run into during your project. It’s up to you to either follow up on their ideas or fight for your own. They have more experience and skill, and you know your idea better. There are no wrong answers here. Also, the obvious one, it costs more compared to you doing all the work.
In the end, only one thing matters: if you have something to say, find a way to be heard.