Video podcasting is harder than you think

Don’t be fooled by social media appearances - the learning curve is steep

If there’s one subject that seems to come up in more conversations around podcasting than any other at the moment, it’s video. Video seems to be the word on everyone’s lips, and those who aren’t actively exploring it already are asking themselves why not.

Whether it’s social clips on TikTok or full filmed episodes, video podcasting seems to be a trend that most podcast publishers and networks have at least one eye on, and it’s easy to see why. Podcasters are keen for anything that can give them an edge in terms of building an audience, and the data indicates that Gen Z in particular is mad keen for video

However, what some still fail to understand is that, while audio production has a relatively low barrier to entry, video is actually surprisingly difficult to do well. While many YouTubers and social media stars have built their image on a kind of DIY aesthetic, more often than not, this is actually achieved by a team of video editors and producers working behind the scenes.

AI tools like Descript and various plugins for Adobe Premiere Pro are making video editing workflows for podcasts markedly easier, but they’re still far from perfect, and adding video will increase the editing time for each episode exponentially. Even if all you’re doing is chopping out clips for Instagram, the process can take a full-time worker around two days.

On top of that, most of the conversations podcasters are having about moving into video seem to gloss over the actual work that has to be done before you’re even ready to start rolling. If you’re recording remotely, you’ll need to ensure you’ve got a decent background set up for each host, as well as a good camera and lighting, and that’s before we’ve even mentioned having to worry about the video quality of your guests.

With this in mind, you may think it’s easier to just record in person, but that has its own problems. Firstly, you’ll need a multi-camera studio space (with proper lighting) that can capture a variety of angles and allow for interesting, creative editing, and whether you rent time in an existing space or build your own custom studio, this can be an expensive endeavour.

Then you need to get everyone into the studio to record, which can be tricky for always-on podcasts with lots of guests. Not only does the addition of travel time make diary management a harder task, it also restricts you pretty heavily in terms of which guests you can get on. People in other countries are out, and it’s likely to be much harder to secure time with those who live more than a certain distance from your studio, or those who have responsibilities such as childcare which overlap with your recording times.

There are also likely to be those who are just simply less keen to come on a podcast which has an element of video recording. As someone who spends most of their life in a permanent state of semi-dishevelment, for example, I don’t relish the idea of having to make sure I’m camera-ready for every recording.

In short, expanding your podcast into video means introducing a whole host of plates that you have to keep spinning - but once you have the footage, what do you do with it? While platforms like Spotify are increasing support for video podcasts, it’s the lure of YouTube’s massive userbase and established revenue potential that’s glimmering most brightly in the eyes of publishers. 

Unfortunately, YouTube is a journey more than a destination, and achieving success on the platform is about more than just sticking your video up and crossing your fingers. It requires crafting a specific content strategy, creating unique thumbnail assets, and tailoring titles and descriptions to capture the attention of the audience (and the algorithm). In short, it’s a full-time job, and most YouTube creators will tell you that predicting which videos will break through is often a complete crapshoot.

Then there’s the other big platform that’s tempting podcasters to branch out beyond audio: TikTok. The short-form social video app has taken off like a rocket over the past few years, and is firmly positioned as ‘the next big thing’ in terms of digital marketing, with big potential reach figures for those that can leverage it effectively.

However, that reach is contained within TikTok’s orbit, and successfully convincing users to move from viewing 60-second videos to 65-minute podcasts is an inexact science at best. TikTok has (for obvious reasons) declined to offer robust tools for driving users off its platform and over to a podcast app, so you’re relying on users seeing your content, and then being motivated to look up your podcast in their player of choice. TikTok is supposedly rolling out its own on-platform podcast player at some point this year to help meet this need, but it’s unknown whether that will help creators leverage their audiences on the platform more effectively.

This may all sound like I’m set against video, but none of this is to say that video can’t or shouldn’t be part of an organisation’s strategy, even if they’re not throwing vast amounts of resource at it. 

However, what I am saying is that content producers need to think very carefully before adding video to their strategy; what additional creative or revenue opportunities is it bringing you? Do you have the flexibility and bandwidth to produce video content effectively? Remember, when it comes to video content, it’s not just rivals in your niche that you’re competing against, but everything else on a user’s feed that might be more diverting in that moment.

If you can identify what specific and measurable goals a video strategy is aiming to achieve, along with a realistic plan for how it’s going to do so, then fantastic - it sounds like you’re ready to start experimenting with video content. If you can’t, however, it may be time to take a step back and examine whether you’re just thinking about adding video because everyone else is, and you feel like you should too.