YouTube wants your podcast
In the ever-changing landscape of the creator economy, one principle holds true: evolve or die. This sentiment is deeply felt by content creators keeping up with hashtags, trending audio, smart collaborations, and the like. Soon, the podcast world will have its own shift.
In August, YouTube announced a dedicated podcast homepage for its US users. The page exists on the platform’s explore page rather than in the sidebar navigation, evidence of YouTube’s intention to invest more seriously in podcasts and the ad revenue they could generate.
The significance of this announcement is massive, and here’s why: YouTube is the second-largest search engine after Google. Google owns YouTube, so it’s highly likely that Google will prioritize YouTube search results. Furthermore, YouTube has its monetization model down. With over 12 billion minutes of videos online and over 2,000,000 creators, they’ve perfected the process for creators to make money from their videos. A quick how-to lays out four steps: become a member of the YouTube Partner Program, select the videos you want to monetize, select monetization and the type of ads you want to run, and hit save. The longer the podcast video, the more ads creators can place.
For a podcaster that’s already hustling monetization by way of tips, subscriptions, affiliate marketing, ad revenue, and fan donations, uploading videos on YouTube can potentially increase the podcaster’s income significantly without having to give up other revenue streams. Sponsors don’t have to go away, and neither do advertisements within the podcast.
YouTube launched in April 2005 with a video titled “Me at the zoo”—the same year Apple introduced podcasts to its iTunes 4.9 directory (with the standalone app to follow in 2012). Despite being the same age, YouTube’s numbers in users and hours vastly outweigh that of Apple Podcasts. With YouTube positioning itself as a podcasting platform, podcasts could eventually become video-first content.
Instagram’s evolution from 2010 to now is evidence that early adoption bodes well for platform users hoping to build an audience. Shows featured on YouTube Podcasts have the potential to stand out more as opposed to other platforms like Spotify, Apple, and Amazon.
Recent years have seen major changes from platforms adjusting to the rise in competition for listeners. Attuned to the market, Spotify launched its video tool in 2020 in hopes of pushing streamers past music to boost its profitability (and likely to ward off competition from YouTube).
Even Twitter got in on the audio action when the company launched Twitter Spaces in 2020 (likely in reaction to Clubhouse’s meteoric rise and subsequent fall). While social audio has risen with offerings like Twitter Spaces, Instagram Live, and LinkedIn’s Audio Rooms, the growth of social audio pales in comparison to that of the podcast industry. Maybe it’s unfair to compare the two, but the common denominator is evidence of the need for connection and community in today’s digital-heavy world.
Spotify reaches approximately 32.5 million listeners monthly, while Apple Podcasts reach only 28.5 million monthly. These numbers are higher than last year’s, and several reports state that the podcast industry is just hitting its stride. With the upcoming addition of YouTube Podcasts, Insider Intelligence reports that podcasting will be a $94.88 billion industry by 2028—a 31 percent compounded annual growth rate from its $11.46 billion value in 2020.
“We are looking at a future of the metaverse where our communities are no longer the neighbors next door, but the faces and voices on our device screens,” says Abby Orchard, founder of Foto Co. & Creative. “Podcasting on YouTube can give all podcasters and content creators a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be one step ahead of the online population by bringing their work to life.”
The impending growth of the podcasting industry is encouraging, to be sure, but it comes with challenges for creators. Since most podcasts begin as a side hustle, few podcasters have the resources and stamina to establish the consistency required for success. Targeting an audience and fine-tuning the content of the show is just the beginning.
"Podcasting on YouTube can give all podcasters and content creators a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be one step ahead of the online population by bringing their work to life."
Taking a podcast idea to fruition in today’s world includes money spent buying equipment, monthly hosting, and distribution fees, as well as time spent curating content, booking guests, editing audio, and consistently producing episodes to build a listenership. Add video to this side hustle, and the barrier to entry gets far too high for anyone without a preexisting platform to get their foot in the door.
Today’s podcasters can earn anywhere between $300-$5,000 per episode, according to Riverside.fm, based on 10,000 listens per episode. But the potential for earning can improve if the creator can both market and monetize the show in creative ways. Potential revenue streams include selling digital content, charging for educational courses in the show’s specific niche, implementing subscriptions with Anchor (a Spotify company) or Patreon, and more.
“The biggest challenge I’ve seen with creators transitioning from the podcast to video space is not understanding the importance of pre-production and commitment to consistency over time that it takes to get your voice heard in a sea of creators,” says Trevor Haugen, founder of Temple City Studios, a Utah-based production company. He’s worked with video creators for over 20 years and has recently seen an influx of podcasters seeking the studio’s help in creating video content to stay relevant. “After a few videos and very little engagement, most begin to doubt the idea and lose excitement about doing it,” Haugen says. “The question is: Is your idea good enough to make it worth that time? That’s where planning, pre-production, and incubation of the concept become vital and is typically where the concept lives or dies. This focus on pre-production is challenging but absolutely necessary in order to win in this ever-growing and changing space.”
As an audio tech, content creator, and creative business owner, one of the most important things to Orchard is ensuring that her media will reach the desired audience. “The way we do that in the media industry is by tagging, monetizing, and curating videos to reach the desired algorithm,” she says. “We see this through the statistics of Instagram, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Tik Tok, etc. However, Youtube has the ability to surpass these streaming platforms by a landslide just based on the exposure and analytical data.”
What makes all of this especially tricky is the double-edged sword creators face while trying to stay relevant and circulated. Media platforms create an almost impossible problem of creators having to be forward-thinking enough not to fall behind the trends but complicit enough to give into the algorithms imposed upon them in order to be seen. Influencers used to push the platforms, but now it seems to work the other way around.
As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change.” As we watch YouTube hedge its bets to turn podcasts from audio-first to video-first, we’ll also count on the continued push-pull dance between creators and the platforms they use and see innovations from every player in the game.