Light, camera, inaction: Resisting the lure of video podcasts

Video is a hot trend, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should be doing it

Over the past year or so, there's been considerable debate about what a podcast actually is - specifically, whether video podcasts are an evolution of the format, or a separate offshoot of it. The conversation has been driven by a rise in the popularity of podcast video content, with seemingly everyone talking about the importance of video.

I've heard multiple podcasters fretting about whether they should be doing more with video, trying to identify the most effective ways to use it and launching pilot projects for a greater video presence. It's understandable; the size of the potential audience on platforms like YouTube and TikTok present a tempting proposition for podcast creators, and many trailblazers have found success with them already. 

Podcasters are constantly grasping for anything that's going to give them a greater advantage in the constant fight for listeners, and no one wants to miss the boat on a hot new trend. I understand that - but before podcasters scramble to think about how best to introduce video to their strategies, it's really considering whether they need to in the first place.

For instance, you may feel that your energies are better spent on putting on a live event to engage with your core audience on a more intimate level, or producing more bonus content to bolster a subscription offering. Both are equally valid, and may offer benefits which are more impactful than video depending on your strategy.

Part of the reason publishers might be wary of video is that it's an extra time investment. Setting up the studio for video - getting the lighting right, adjusting camera angles and so on - takes longer than prepping for audio, and not every guest is happy to appear on video, which adds more time in terms of planning and logistics.

Many also feel that video podcasts work best when all the participants are in the same room, which immediately limits podcasters to guests within a reasonable travel distance, who are willing to take time out of their day to come down to their studio. While the technology exists to support remote video podcasts, and many have used it to great effect, it means that you also have to think about backdrops and visuals, which guests may not be well-equipped for. 

One also needs to think about their business goals and our target audience, and how video podcasting meshes with that. The significant potential reach offered by YouTube and TikTok may initially sound attractive, but that’s only really relevant for general-interest audiences in genres like entertainment or true crime. For more specialised podcasts, such as those covering a specific industry or aimed at a specific group, that added reach may not overlap that much with your own target market. 

Of course, that’s not to say that one should turn their back on video for good; there are areas where I could see video working well for creators outside of the big platforms, assuming they balanced their resources effectively enough. LinkedIn and Twitter, for example, may not be as fashionable as TikTok but may be much more likely to allow you to reach those who have a higher chance of converting to new listeners.

If publishers do decide to explore video, I can tell you where the easiest place is to start; the most approachable way to begin is by filming key episodes (particularly those with notable guests) and then cutting them down to release key moments as social teasers throughout the week after the episode is released. If that goes well, you can potentially look at scaling up to full video episodes, but only with caution, and after much planning. 

I’ve been burned before by leaping into an overly-ambitious video strategy which didn’t have enough thought or resources behind it, and it’s not a fun experience. Video can be a fantastic tool for podcasters seeking to build connections with their audiences, but it needs to be handled carefully - and it’s not right for everyone. In fact, in the rush to video, we should be careful not to lose the intimacy that makes the audio medium so special.