Podcasters view YouTube’s latest announcement to soon add podcasts to its YouTube Music app as an opportunity to find more listeners, according to conversations with four podcast managers – at a time when listening has slowed.
While YouTube said it was integrating RSS feeds into the platform to allow podcasters to automatically download new episodes – the company hasn’t announced when the feature will launch – the focus will be focused on improving the listening experience of existing video podcasts. The idea is that someone can watch a video podcast on the main YouTube platform and then switch to listening to it on their phone on the YouTube Music app on the go.
But one podcast manager – who traded anonymity for candor – wondered what would stop a listener from switching to listening to a podcast on Spotify or Apple instead? YouTube would need a feature that allowed for “seamless integration” to keep a listener on the app, the exec said. YouTube has yet to announce whether such a feature will be part of the rollout.
But the announcement of support for audio-only podcasts in YouTube Music means that podcast networks that haven’t invested in fully produced video podcasts (such as those that upload podcast episodes with a static image or a sound wave-like graphic or with a video that shows a basic live recording of an interview) will have a lower barrier of entry to reach YouTube audience (or at least Youtube Music listeners). And the hope is that YouTube’s algorithm will help bring more podcasts to those people.
“People who listen to podcasts understand that if you film a podcast, it’s not going to be very high quality. And they traditionally didn’t expect it. But if you’re trying to get people who watch videos on YouTube and get them involved in podcasting, I don’t know if they’ll have the same understanding. And they might see that lower quality and be a bit put off by that,” the podcast’s first lead said.
YouTube’s decision to accept podcasts as its first audio medium by soon integrating them into the Music app signals the platform is getting more serious about the podcast space, executives told Digiday. It also brings healthy competition to the platform wars between Apple and Spotify to attract listeners, they said. After years of steady double-digit percentage growth in podcast listening in the United States, listeners will grow about 5% year-over-year in 2022, according to eMarketer’s Insider Intelligence. By The Infinite Dial report recently released by Edison Research – which surveyed 1,500 people in the United States in January 2023 – 31% of people aged 12 and over in the United States have listened to a podcast in the past week and this group, on average, has listened to nine episodes podcast during this week.
“Competition is always good,” said Steve Wilson, chief strategy officer at podcast network and production company QCode. “More competition for publishers’ attention as platforms try to grow market share and engage audiences is a good thing.”
Reach YouTube users
YouTube’s value for podcasters is the platform’s search function and reach, executives said. YouTube announced that it has over 80 million Music and Premium subscribers (its video subscription offering) last November.
“YouTube is generally considered a very popular place to discover podcasts,” said the podcast’s first manager. In August, the platform launched a podcast explore page to help users find new shows.
Eric Sandler, vice president of marketing at audiobook and podcast company Pushkin Industries, hopes podcasts on the Music app will bring “more scale, more audience and more discoverability” and “give us the ‘opportunity to reach people who don’t necessarily identify as podcast listeners’. ”, in particular thanks to the power of YouTube and the search functions of Google.
Sandler sees an opportunity for the YouTube algorithm to push podcast episodes that feature guest musical artists, based on that listener’s music history.
“My hope for the platform is that someone listens to an Iggy Pop track and then connects with [Rick Rubin’s interview with] Iggy Pop [on his “Broken Record” podcast]. That would be my dream, and that’s the benefit of an algorithm-based system,” Sandler said.
Monetization will come later
Execs told Digiday that the ability to monetize podcasts with YouTube ads is less than the opportunity presented by the platform’s large user base.
“I’m looking for audience growth wherever we can find it. And once we have that audience, we’ll find the next piece. We’ll figure out how to sell ads effectively and dynamically, we’ll figure out how to distribute that ladder and all those other pieces. In my mind, finding an audience is the biggest piece of it all,” Sandler said.
It remains to be seen whether podcasters will be able to keep their sold ads directly in the audio file when uploading podcasts to the YouTube Music app. Podcast CPMs are significantly higher than YouTube CPMs, executives told Digiday. (Although all of the podcast executives declined to share by how much, Sandler said the difference wasn’t “significantly” greater and that YouTube’s scale might make up for those lower prices.)
“I always look at everything: what is the revenue opportunity? What is the marketing opportunity? And what is the value between these two – the opportunity costs? What if it’s disproportionately a great audience discovery mechanism? It’s OK,” said David Spiegel, Chief Revenue Officer of Betches Media. “If I can get new audiences, I’m not going to sit here waiting for the platform to monetize.”
Despite the general optimism among podcasters about upcoming podcasts on the YouTube Music app, other platforms like Google Play and Facebook have dabbled in creating audio products and features without much impact on the audience. industry as a whole. YouTube’s lack of new features specifically geared towards podcasters – at least, for now – also means the announcement wasn’t exactly earth-shattering.
“They haven’t shared any aggressive tactics that they really plan on trying to force their way into this space in a more meaningful way,” the first podcast manager said.
Sandler added, “At this point, we’re thinking of it as a complementary platform.”