Are Video Podcasts Back From The Dead?
Beyond a few pockets of interestingness, video podcasting never really became a thing, and audio reigned supreme. But all of that could change in the ‘20s, and it’s the pandemic’s fault.
Without going into the full history of things, trust me when I say that podcasting and video were never a perfect fit. Video podcasting been tried and mostly failed for years. In the very early days of podcasting, Apple’s podcast listening app (then called iTunes) featured an entire video podcasting section. But then YouTube happened.
Some audio producers who pre-date podcasting -- radio personalities -- have had accompanying video programs for some time. Big names you’d recognize, like Imus, Stern, and Platt, have made it possible to “see” them recording their show. And while the numbers of viewers were dwarfed compared to the number of listeners (at least for the nationally syndicated radio shows), one could argue that it was the video show from these radio show personalities that gave them a bigger chunk of our collective cultural awareness. Even if we never listened or watched.
That fact wasn’t lost on the first wave of OG podcasters (Hi, Todd!) who’ve built video recording into their podcast production processes. And while I know that some of the video shows of podcasters are rather successful, video podcasting never really became a widespread thing.
Insert Lazy Buggles Reference Here
Unless that is we podcasters are purposely creating video content designed to be consumed in video places, ala YouTube. When we do tailor our video efforts specifically for video channels, it can work fairly well. Though do keep in mind my 90/10 rule of podcast video that says 90% of your audience will stop watching your talking head video before 10% of the content has played. I encourage you to check the retention rate on your own videos to see if that holds true for you as well.
There’s also outside pressure form live video services and platforms. Not just Twitch, but also live video on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and just about every other social platform. Live video has become its own platform, so of course podcasters are dabbling. They already have quality equipment to make themselves sound really good. Some of them have invested serious time, energy, and money to upgrade their video equipment and their video environment to make sure where they’re shooting from looks great on camera.
But all the while, those podcasters that dabble in video are treating these new platforms as something different than their podcast episodes. Videos are often used for short promo clips or as a way to engage with fans when the podcaster wasn’t behind the microphone. With a few notable exceptions, successful video efforts from podcasters took something more than just turning the camera on while they recorded an episode.
The COVID Connection To Videos Newfound Appeal
Then the pandemic hit, and normality went out the window for most of us. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have jobs that we could work from home suddenly found ourselves on or watching video quite a lot.
Some live video platforms, either serendipitously or opportunistically, quickly rolled out features like virtual backgrounds that might have seemed frivolous in normal times. Now, instead of your cluttered kitchen in the background, you could make it look like you were dialing into your conference call from anywhere. Though arguably more fun for the person with the cluttered kitchen than the others on the Zoom call, it encouraged people to dabble.
And we podcasters are people. And we love to dabble.
People also like to talk about things they are seeing, and quickly the pop culture buzz was about which celebrity, news anchor, or commentator had the best background in their broadcast-from-home setup.
Side note: I'm assuming there is at least one interior design firm that has started in the last few months that helps you pick out the perfect “set” for your home recording environment. Of course that's happening. I’m not even going to look, because I know it’s there.
Big, Swingin’ Spotify Energy
The proverbial pump had been primed if you will. A few weeks days ago (time is dilated), big- spender Spotify continued their efforts to upset podcasting’s Apple cart when they announced a select group of their original Spotify-exclusive podcasts would be available in video. I hesitate to call it a “video version” of the podcast episode… because that's not really what it is. The video and the audio are two sides of the same coin. They aren’t versions, per se. They’re kind of the same thing. Whether you watch the episode or you listen to the episode, you get the same experience from the episode.
More interesting is the seamless switching between watching and listening. If you start watching at home and then get in your car (like you have anywhere to drive to in the middle of a pandemic), the episode seamlessly switches to Spotify’s in-car app, but only with the audio, exactly where you left off. And when you arrive at your destination and want to resume watching the episode, it just works.
Yes, I know you can kind of do that with YouTube today. But this is subtly different. This is something Spotify has done that keeps the audio file and the video file in sync, rather than just suppressing the visuals. This is different from both a technology and a content side.
I’m not qualified to speak on how complex the tech puzzle really is. But I am qualified to tell you that it’s really, really hard to make content that works well both audio and video form for those of us who have the option of using our eyes and our ears or just our ears. Don’t believe me? Watch a new movie with the brightness turned all the way on your big screen. How’s that work for you?
The Rise Of The Video-Friendly Podcaster
But we podcasters are getting better at video. Many of my podcasting friends (Hi, Scott!) have started regularly-scheduled live video shows once or twice a week. They're using new (to them) software and finding creative hardware solutions so that their video sessions are more than just static shots of talking heads, which evidence proves few people want to see.
They usually have two or three different cameras set at different angles to capture more of their recording environments. They use software like Wirecast or OBS to relatively easily switch cameras on their own without having a dedicated video switcher. And like anything, they’re getting better at it and starting to make compelling video content. Yes, we podcasters are doing that.
Maybe these new efforts will (finally?) allow video podcasts to come back from the dead.
if so, you might want to clean up your studio/recording space. I made some new purchases that should be here at the end of the week, so next week's videos (yes, there's a video version of this and all episodes of Podcast Pontifications) should look a little better.
You should also try out the software I mentioned earlier. You might need new hardware (which may be hard to find, as demand has skyrocketed in the last few months). But most importantly, please stay focused on the quality of your audio. Oh, and it’d be nice for you and your viewers if the video you make is compelling. Good luck with that. I’m certainly no role model here.
I’ve recently started some nice perks for those who go to BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra and become a member, not just a supporter. Hey, I’m happy to take the support!. But membership has its privileges, with some special perks when you become a member at any level.
Finally, if you found this episode compelling, I really would appreciate it if you would share it with one podcaster you know who may not know about the program. Send them an email, a text, or record them a video! (Kidding.) I appreciate you helping spread the good news of Podcast Pontifications.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.