Podcasts hope to find new listeners in the YouTube Music app
YouTube’s latest announcement that it will soon add podcasts to the YouTube Music app is an opportunity to find more listeners, according to conversations with four podcast hosts — at a time when listenership has slowed.
While YouTube said it is in the process of integrating RSS feeds into the platform so podcasts can automatically upload new episodes — the company hasn’t announced when the feature will launch — the main focus will be on improving the listening experience for existing video podcasts. The idea is that someone can watch a video podcast on the main YouTube platform and then switch to listening on their phone in the YouTube Music app on the go.
But one podcast host—who trades anonymity for honesty—wondered what would stop a listener from listening to a Spotify or Apple podcast instead? YouTube would need a feature that allows for “seamless integration” to keep listeners on the app, the executive said. YouTube has yet to announce whether such a feature will be part of the rollout.
However, the announcement to support audio-only podcasts in the YouTube Music app didn’t put full-fledged video podcasts (such as podcast episodes loaded with static images or sound wave-like graphics, or video that features a basic live recording of an interview) lower entry will be limited to YouTube audiences (or at least YouTube Music listeners). And YouTube’s algorithm hopes to show more podcasts to those people.
“People who are podcast listeners understand that when we shoot a podcast, it’s not going to be very high quality. And this was not traditionally expected. But if you’re trying to get people who watch videos on YouTube and get them to podcast, I don’t know if they’re going to get it. And they might see that lower quality and be a little bit put off,” said the first podcast host.
Executives told Digiday that YouTube’s decision to embrace podcasts as an audio-first medium and soon bring them to the Music app is a sign that the platform is getting more serious about podcasts. It also brings healthy competition to the platform war between Apple and Spotify to attract listeners. After several years of steady double-digit percentage growth in U.S. podcast listenership, listeners will grow 5% year-over-year in 2022, according to eMarketer Insider Intelligence. According to Per Edison Research’s recent Infinite Dial report — which surveyed 1,500 people in the U.S. in January 2023 — 31% of Americans ages 12 and older listened to a podcast in the past week, and that group averaged nine podcast episodes that week.
“Competition is always good,” said Steve Wilson, chief strategy officer of podcast network and production company QCode. “It’s a good thing that platforms are trying to increase their market share and engage audiences as competition for publishers’ attention increases.”
Reaching YouTube users
According to executives, YouTube’s value to podcasters is the platform’s search functionality and reach. Last November, YouTube announced that it had more than 80 million music and Premium subscribers (its video subscription offering).
“YouTube in general is a very popular place to discover podcasts,” said the podcast’s first host. In August, the platform launched a podcast discovery page to help users find new shows.
Eric Sandler, vice president of marketing for audiobook and podcast company Pushkin Industries, hopes that podcasts in the Music app will provide “larger scale, a larger audience and more discoverability” and “give us an opportunity to reach people who might not necessarily identify as podcast listeners. ”, especially with the power of YouTube and Google search functions.
Sandler sees an opportunity for YouTube’s algorithm to trigger podcast episodes with guest musical artists based on a listener’s music history.
“I hope someone listens to an Iggy Pop track and connects with it [Rick Rubin’s interview with] Iggy Pop [on his “Broken Record” podcast]. That would be my dream, and that’s the benefits of an algorithm-based system,” Sandler said.
Monetization comes later
Execs told Digiday that the ability to monetize podcasts through YouTube ads is less important than the opportunity provided by the platform’s large user base.
“I look for audience growth wherever I can. And once we have an audience, we come up with the next play. We’re going to figure out how to sell ads efficiently and dynamically, figure out how to distribute that scale, and all the other elements. I think the biggest piece of that is finding an audience,” Sandler said.
It remains to be seen whether podcasts will be able to retain their directly sold ads in the audio file when podcasts are uploaded to YouTube Music. Podcast CPMs are significantly higher than YouTube CPMs, executives told Digiday. (Although all the podcast hosts declined to share how much, Sandler says the difference isn’t “dramatically” larger, and YouTube’s scale may make up for the lower prices.)
“I always look at everything: what is the revenue opportunity? What is a marketing opportunity? And what is the value in between – the opportunity costs? And if it’s a disproportionately great audience discovery mechanism? That’s fine,” said Betches Media Chief Revenue Officer David Spiegel. “If I can get new audiences, I’m not going to sit here and wait for the monetization of the platform to come.”
Despite podcasters’ general optimism about podcasts coming to YouTube Music, other platforms such as Google Play and Facebook have jumped in to create audio products and features without much impact on the industry as a whole. YouTube’s lack of new features specifically tailored to podcasters, at least for now, also means the announcement wasn’t exactly earth-shattering.
“They didn’t use aggressive tactics that were designed to really try to get into that space more significantly,” the podcast’s first host said.
Sandler added, “Right now we’re thinking of it as an additional platform.”