Just like globe chamomile is taking over yards, fields, and alleys of Phoenix right now, the perennial topic and the existential crisis of making the pivot away from audio podcasting to favor video is back!
I’m not surprised. As we struggle through lockdown, video is playing a key element. There seems to be a perfect storm brewing, and much of is pointing straight to online video.
The Podcast Outlook Is Cloudy
The data on podcast consumption during the crisis is mixed, highlighting some uncertainty around download numbers. Depending on your data source, downloads are either up a bit, down a bit, or flat. Listening might be down as well. And we’re pretty confident that when people consume podcasts have shifted.
Because we're not commuting. We're not going to the gym. We're not doing the things we used to do when we used to listen to podcasts.
But Video Seems To Be Booming
Then there’s the impossibility of going through a day without catching a reference to Zoom. Since we can’t leave our houses, online video conferencing apps are everywhere. Chances are you’ve been on one today. You can’t scroll through social media without seeing a group video call screenshot. Heck, even Saturday Night Live was shot via video conferencing tools last week. No wonder Zoom’s MAU (monthly active users) are seeing something like a 200% (or was it 200X?) increase recently.
Add in the launch of Quibi, a much-lauded and finally launched short-form video-based entertainment app. I’m not sure I’d have launched something that audacious in the middle of a pandemic, but it might play out well for them. Qubi, in case you missed the news, is a new form of entertainment creation and delivery -- mobile device only -- that’s backed by Hollywood talent and money.
Top all of that off with a huge uptick in YouTube consumption. I credit a lot of that to the fact that YouTube is integrated on almost every smart TV or whatever device powers that big TV in most living rooms. That makes it very easy to watch YouTube on a big screen TV. In fact, it's a lot easier to watch YouTube on your TV than it is to listen to a podcast on your smart speakers.
So yes, this looks like a perfect storm. These reasons and more seem to indicate it might be time for podcasters to make the switch to video.
But looks can be deceiving.
The 90/10 Rule Of Podcast Videos
Most podcast episodes make for terrible video content that most people don’t want to watch. This isn’t idle speculation on my part. It’s a measurable phenomenon you can test yourself, and I call it the 90/10 Rule Of Video:
90% of viewers are gone before they've watched 10% of the video.
So if you turn your 30-minute podcast episode into a video, most of your viewers will have stopped watching before the three-minute mark. That’s depressing.
I’ve yet to find a consistent exception to this rule. I’ve worked with several podcasters who post video versions of their podcasts’ episodes to YouTube. In every case, they discover a tiny, tiny retention rate when they dig a little deeper into their “view counts”.
I’ve also interfaced with some big video stars and have more than a few friends and acquaintances who’ve made careers out of posting YouTube videos. These people grok YouTube and are rewarded for it. But still, when they post a single-camera video of them sitting at a desk recording a podcast, the 90/12 Rule applies.
When these YouTube stars post a video that’s nothing more than the audio of their podcast playing under some un-moving episode artwork, the 90/10 Rule applies.
When they post the “live recording” video of their podcast -- after all, they made a big investment in video equipment and are recording the podcast episode from the same place they record elements of their video so why not turn on the camera and make that available as well on our YouTube channel -- the 90/10 Rule applies.
You should not be surprised by that. They should not be surprised by that.
Podcast Episodes Make For Crappy Videos
Successful video producers know the importance of making visually-compelling content. With very few (if any) exceptions, an un-moving video shot of one or two people talking is not visually-compelling.
That’s why the podcasters who are successful on YouTube don’t use single-camera un-moving shots. They typically have a three-camera setup, switching from shot-to-shot during the episode to keep it visually engaging for their viewers.
Sure, Twitch stars often have an un-moving camera stuck on their face. But they also have their gameplay on the screen, which provides the compelling-portion of their video content.
Our brains, which are attached to our eyes, need near-constant changes to stay stimulated. Our brains aren't good at watching talking head videos. (Not videos of the Talking Heads, which are all great.)
If you're thinking of making the pivot to video, please understand you have to do something more than stare at a camera and talk. No, getting a second person on camera via Zoom isn’t what I mean by “more”. That’s just two different talking heads, and it’s equally as boring to the visual processing center of our brains.
If you feel compelled to try your hand at video, podcaster, then by all means: go for video! But please do something compelling, interesting and amazing with that video. That's the only way you're going to make video work for you.
Should Video Producers Pivot To Podcasting?
You can help reverse the trend. With so many people trying out new things, you might already know a struggling YouTuber who’s unwilling to make the investment in cameras, switchers, and all of that post-production work that's much harder in the video than in audio. Why don’t you suggest to them that they make the pivot to podcasting? And if having them listen to an episode or twenty of Podcast Pontifications helps you make the case, great!
Share Your Lockdown Stories
I really do want to hear your story of how the novel Coronavirus is impacting your world as a podcaster. Right now, if you can, please record a minute or two where you tell me how your world is impacted by the pandemic. Load the .wav file up on Dropbox, and then shoot me an email with the link to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In fact, I will share some stories from other podcasters on tomorrow's episode of yet another Podcast Pontifications.