The value of video for podcasts

Even though Youtube is a video platform, it has one of the highest listening times for podcasts, too.

The value of video for podcasts
YouTube better watch out. Spotify on Tuesday announced the introduction of “video podcasts” on the music-streaming service — so that instead of just hearing beloved personalities talk about preferred topics, fans can also see their faces and observe their behavior and surroundings.

The so-called “vodcasts,” available to Spotify free and premium users alike, will offer visual material from podcasts including The Morning Toast, Fantasy Footballers, The Rooster Teeth Podcast, and Book of Basketball 2.0.

“We know that many listeners also enjoy watching their favorite podcasts,” Lauren Jarvis, Head of Content Partnerships at Spotify, tells Rolling Stone. “This new feature brings an audio and visual experience to fans, deepening how they connect with their favorite podcasters on Spotify.”

For now, only select podcasters will be able to upload video podcasts, but every one of Spotify’s 250 million worldwide users will be able to access that content. Videos will start automatically when a user presses play on an approved podcast. And ignoring the video won’t stop the conversation. Multi-tasking users will be able to toggle between apps and lock their phones without interrupting the audio stream, which will continue in the background regardless.

Podcasts with videos are kind of strange at first sight. After all, you're listening to someone. Why do you need to see them?

But then you go to Youtube and see that pretty much all successful podcasts are represented.

The Tim Ferriss podcast on Youtube

They all use this tactic of separating long interviews into smaller clips (look at the screenshot above). The first time I wrote about this was in "Joe Rogan's brand value":

The strategy Youtubers like Rogan use is to split long content, mostly interviews, into separate clips to better address specific interests of their audience. Whereas a long-form interview might scare some users away, a highlight or clip can work much better. They’re easier to watch and share. According to the Verge article, those small clips often attract more views than the long ones.

And it's not even new. Talk shows like Conan O'Brien,  Stephen Colbert, or Jimmy Kimmel are doing the same thing. And that gets us to the point.

Getting people to listen to a 3-minute podcast clip is much harder than a 3-minute Youtube video. The platform has something about it that makes it easier for people to consume short clips: an attention flywheel. Ever got soaked into Youtube? That's what it was built for. Spotify wasn't.

The spectrum of audience connection

Modern platforms like Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, are all about engagement. The more you engage with certain content, the more you get of it. Makes sense but comes with a bag of downsides: rabbit holes, filter bubbles, bias.

Vlogcasts on Spotify
Vlogcasts on Spotify

Spotify wants to recreate that kind of experience.

Engagement also comes from connection. Seeing the host builds a connection with the audience. But there is a whole spectrum of how to connect a creator with an audience.

Text < audio < video < face-to-face

That's why the big creator platforms all compete with each other on some level: Twitch, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, Medium, Substack, Twitter, Linkedin, ... and also Spotify.

They democratized content creation and unbundled the TV, radio, and newspapers:

  • Spotify = radio
  • Youtube = TV
  • Twitch/Instagram = live TV
  • Substack/Medium = newspapers
  • Twitter = breaking news

Obviously, there is more to the content on these platform than the bits and pieces of "old media" I listed up.

And there are so many formats left:

  • Trash TV/tabloid talk shows
  • Documentaries
  • Game shows
  • etc.

Same format, different medium. It always works.