Video in podcasting: what is it and does it matter?

There’s a real frenzy around ‘video podcasting’ right now.

I’m something of a convert to the idea, after long having reservations about the whole concept. I mean, what does ‘video podcast’ actually mean? I’ve heard several people have quite different understandings.

We need to begin at the beginning. Let’s start by defining ‘podcast’. By the way, you might be surprised how many people tell me that they’re not entirely sure what a podcast is. They’re usually quite embarrassed to say it, but there’s no need. You only know what you know, and I think the definition has become muddled over time.

Essentially a podcast is an audio file. Some are long, some are short. Some are simple, some are highly produced. But regardless, they are all audio files. Of course, audio files are nothing new, so what is the difference between say an MP3 song stored on your computer’s hard drive, and a podcast?

Not everyone will agree, but I think for something to be a podcast it needs to meet two main criteria.

1. It has to be portable. I might choose to listen to a podcast while I’m out having a run, or driving to work, or doing the ironing. A podcast needs to be accessible to me in all those situations

2. It needs to be where I expect it to be. For me, I tend to listen to podcasts through the Apple Podcasts app on my phone. Some people prefer Spotify. There are dozens and dozens of other apps and platforms other listeners favour. I expect it be available to be on my own terms. If your podcast isn’t on the platform I use for listening to podcasts, it ain’t getting listened to. It’s that simple.

And that’s pretty much it. Length, format, recording quality, number of hosts/guests, release regularity – pretty much everything else can be a variable. They are my two non-negotiables.

Now let’s consider where video fits in and you might start to see why I’ve had a bit of a hard time adopting it..

Firstly, in terms of portability, video just doesn’t share the same characteristics. Where an audio podcast is low impact, a video is high impact. It demands my attention. I can listen to an audio podcast while driving or jogging. Doing either of those things while watching a video is at best stupid, almost definitely dangerous, and at worst highly illegal.

Similarly, where do I go to watch your video? It’s most likely going to be YouTube, but that isn’t universal. Some videos live on social media, or perhaps Vimeo. Plenty of people choose to embed a video on their own website and hide it on its original platform. In short, where I can just tap Apple Podcasts on my phone and find whatever audio podcast I want, I have to go off searching for a video.

At this point, it’s really important for me to say that I don’t hate video. Far from it. What I’m trying to get across here is what I see as quite clear differences between audio and video consumption. As soon as I was able to fully appreciate and understand those differences, I was able to make my peace with the concept of ‘video podcasts’.

What does all this mean? Well, quite simply, we have to understand that creating an audio podcast and creating a video are different things.

“Yeah I’m going to start a podcast and I think I’ll do it as a video podcast” is still a sentence which makes me worry.

If you are creating a podcast, it needs to be PRIMARILY audio. You can of course also stick some cameras up and video the whole recording, and from that footage create a video VERSION of the podcast. If it’s a remote recording, you’ve got some really smart software options now like Squadcast, Riverside and Streamyard which allow you to capture each person’s video feed, and again create a VIDEO version of the podcast. In all these cases – and I’m sorry that I have to keep repeating words here but it’s important for clarity – you have an audio podcast, and a video version of it. The audio is distributed to the usual platforms mentioned above and I can consume it wherever I want, thus fulfilling those two conditions. The video version you can then do whatever you want with – stick it on YouTube in full, chop bits up for social media clips, embed it on your company website, etc. This whole scenario is what I call ‘audio first, video second’.

There’s a second scenario. That’s where what someone is creating is primarily a video. First and foremost, it’s all about the video. I’ve actually had discovery meetings with potential clients and ended up referring them to video producer contacts of mine. It became clear that they’re much more passionate about creating visual content. They’d been calling their idea a podcast, when actually it really wasn’t. In their situation, it’s better to work on it as a video project, and then afterwards look at stripping out the audio and repurposing it as a podcast. This, I call ‘video first, podcast second’.

Neither of these scenarios are bad. In fact, they’re both great. If there is a bad scenario, it’s usually when someone doesn’t really know which of those two camps they fit into. That’s when they can end up creating content which doesn’t particularly satisfy either format.

Now, let’s rewind. The title of this article also asks whether video in podcasting matters. So far I’ve spent a long time defining things, but barely touched on that question.

In short, yes. It matters. I have no doubt that video is increasingly important for anyone looking to make a serious impact with their podcast. Giving people the option of consuming it in video format is a wise move and the options for doing that are more and more within reach.

I’m not convinced that every podcaster needs to putting out a full length video version of their show (in fact for many it’s a bad idea, as my good friend Mark Asquith gets across brilliantly here). But crafting some clever shorter videos which can bring your show to life on social media is by far one of the best ways you can market your show and increase its reach. Or a summary video that’s entirely separate to your podcast. Or a follow-up video that expands on the themes discussed.

I’m a big advocate of seeing your show as a brand rather than just a podcast (read this if you want to know why) and so being across visual platforms is really valuable. And I can only see that going one way and become increasingly important.

I haven’t touched on audiograms here, which is a simple, easy but highly effective ways of using graphic motion videos to promote and enhance your show’s presence.

The ultimate answer to all of this comes back to my favourite word in the world – strategy, Where video fits in around your whole podcast plan needs to be thought out, considered, tried and tested. The right answer for one podcaster won’t be for the next. But without strateging, you’re really just taking a stab in the dark.

And if there’s one thing that doesn’t work as either audio or video, it’s a stab in the dark.

* If you need help with a podcast strategy, whether you’re just getting started, or an existing podcaster who isn’t sure which way to turn next, help is on hand. It’s what we specialise in at Sound Media. Book yourself a discovery call straight into my diary here – no obligation and no hard sell. Trust me, I’m rubbish at selling, you’re quite safe.