- Michael Mignano is the co-founder of Anchor and was Head of Talk at Spotify for almost four years.
- COVID-19 has turned podcasts into multimedia productions with Zoom recordings building on past trends.
- Mignano predicts that podcasters will shift to video and breaks down why it could be more profitable.
If you’re a regular podcast consumer, you may have noticed a change in recent years: many of the world’s most popular shows, and perhaps some of your favorites, have begun to include the ability to watch rather than simply listen.
Although video podcasts are not a new concept, they are quickly becoming mainstream and will soon represent the majority of podcasts worldwide.
As the co-founder of Anchor, the world’s largest podcasting platform, I’ve been paying close attention to this growing trend over the past few years.
Why is this happening?
The podcast format has long supported video. In fact, RSS, the standard by which most podcasts in the world are distributed, has always supported an option that indicates to platforms that an episode is a video file.
However, the lack of seamless support for shows that feature video and audio has prevented most creators from using this option, preventing most major platforms from going all-in. Despite this limited demand until recently, several major podcasters, including some of the most influential in the world – such as Joe Rogan – have been publishing video podcasts for years.
Now, it seems almost all podcasters are at least thinking about switching to video. But why?
COVID-19 and social distancing
Before COVID changed the way we all live and work in 2020, many of the world’s podcasts were recorded in real life.
For shows with multiple hosts or guests, podcasts were often recorded in a studio or physical space, with the creators huddled around a few microphones.
Once COVID hit and we were all forced into social distancing, people naturally started using more web-based download tools to record their podcasts.
Products like Zoom have not only allowed us to hold virtual meetings, but have allowed podcasters to record podcasts remotely as well. In addition, Zoom and other dedicated podcast download products such as Riverside.fm included additional features that standard podcast recording tools lacked: video download.
Almost overnight, people who previously recorded audio-only podcasts in a studio were getting videos of themselves, their co-hosts, and their guests as a byproduct of social distancing.
Once podcasters had video along with their audio, it opened up a world of new possibilities for distributing their shows.
It no longer made sense to just publish their podcasts on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Now, they could also distribute to platforms like YouTube and fit their content in-house alongside an ocean of other videos, many of which didn’t look too different from their podcasts. Additionally, they could capture video episodes and cut them into promotional clips that were easily shareable on social video platforms like Instagram and TikTok, giving them even more reach.
For creators, this potential exposure to millions of new fans who weren’t using traditional podcast consumption products.
But it wasn’t all about distribution. Creators quickly learned, as platforms did years ago, that video drove greater engagement.
People not only listened, but when their eyes were free, they also watched, investing even more of their attention in their favorite shows, creating an even stronger relationship between fan and creator. And perhaps most importantly, it generated more revenue for creators and platforms, given the relative value of video to audio for brands and marketers.
What happens as a result?
The transition from audio to video for podcasts is accelerating. Just a few weeks ago, YouTube announced more dedicated support for podcasts. And Spotify has recently expanded video podcasts to more creators around the world. But what happens next?
The podcast opportunity is going to get much, much bigger
Podcast revenue is expected to surpass $2 billion in 2022. YouTube, on the other hand, generated nearly $29 billion in video ad revenue in 2021 alone. In other words, the video market is much larger than the market for podcast. As more podcasters turn to video, more revenue will be unlocked for their shows.
The opportunity for podcasters to generate substantial revenue and capture a piece of the overall video market will increase significantly. This should be welcome news to any creator in the podcasting space. It has long been discussed how difficult it is for podcasters to monetize ads due to the limited tools, data, advertisers, and infrastructure to support a significantly larger podcast ad market. But since podcasts are part of it video buy ads, all boats must rise.
Products will evolve to meet demand
More and more tools will adapt to the ever-changing world of podcasts. You are already watching this game in real time. Before I left Spotify (where I led Talk’s audio business) earlier this year, Anchor tweaked its product to better support video and expanded the availability of those features several months later. Descript podcast editing software seems to be making a big push in video. Podcast video recording platform Riverside recently raised $35 million in venture capital.
Following the steady trend of all other forms of media online, the friction to create video podcasts is likely to decrease dramatically in the coming years, allowing many millions more people to participate in the medium.
Content will evolve
Just as products will evolve to meet the new demand for video, so will content creators. Podcasters will look beyond the limitations of audio only to create shows that may not sound like podcasts at all. After all, what’s the difference between a video podcast with people talking to each other and a traditional talk show? Not much.
Major media platforms are starting to move away from social media and more towards recommendation media (which I wrote about recently), which favor engagement over friendship graphs. And video engagement has proven much more valuable in this new distribution model. As a result, creators who want their content to be discovered will likely find themselves producing more videos over time.
All of this begs an important question, will podcasts go away?
In a world where every podcast includes video, every platform supports video, and video-first broadcasts are more engaging to users and therefore more valuable to creators, it’s fair to wonder if people will stop making “podcasts” like we know today.
Today a podcast is an episode of audio content that features people talking. Tomorrow, it looks like a podcast will look a lot like the talk shows many of us grew up watching on TV – and many watch on platforms like YouTube today.
While this idea will likely annoy some readers, consider the potential benefits for the medium. Podcasting has been largely limited as a business since its inception nearly 20 years ago. The vast majority of creators are still not making money. Few podcasting businesses (hosting platforms, content studios, etc.) have been able to generate significant revenue for a consistent period. And many millions of listeners have yet to be exposed to this incredibly rich and exciting format.
If podcasts disappear in favor of video, it will likely be a result of:
Most consumers prefer video over audio
Therefore, most creators prefer video over audio because it increases distribution and engagement
The podcast ecosystem as a whole will generate much more revenue for podcast creators and businesses
I’ve been part of the podcast ecosystem for almost a decade. For as long as I can remember, everyone expected podcasts to become a bigger business and fairer for all concerned. Video can be the key. Podcasts may be going the way of video, but they can actually be very good for everyone involved.