If I Watch/Listen to It on YouTube, Is It Still a Podcast?

Sometimes, research raises more questions than it answers. Like this April, when the Today’s Podcast Listener: 2019 National Survey Report from Futuri Media and the University of Florida was presented at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. Among the findings was that YouTube was “the #1 destination for podcast consumption.” That raised a big question for a lot of folks in the podcasting industry, namely “What’s THAT all about?”

So, when we sat down to plan our third annual Canadian Podcast Listener study, we figured that would be one of the questions we would try to answer.

A little background first. The Canadian Podcast Listener, co-produced by Audience Insights Inc. and Ulster Media and supported by The Podcast Exchange (TPX), is an in-depth look at 1,500+ monthly podcast listeners aged 18+ in Canada. One of the main findings from the study’s first two years is, not surprisingly, that podcast listeners in Canada are a lot like U.S. podcast listeners. So, it’s fair to say that much of what we’re learning about Canadians using YouTube for podcasts would also apply stateside.

The Canadian Podcast Listener Study 2019 is now out of field. We’ve been slicing and dicing the data to get ready for a September release and, in the process, we are learning some interesting things about “podcast listening” on YouTube.

This one’s easy. The answer is “yes,” with a few qualifications:

  • YouTube is indeed the leading platform for past year usage among monthly podcast listeners. More than 4-in-10 (43%) say they went to YouTube for podcasts in the past year, ahead of Apple Podcasts/iTunes at 34% and a strong showing from the new arrival, Spotify, at 23%.
  • YouTube and Apple Podcasts are effectively tied as the platform listeners say they access most often, with 24% naming each platform.
  • Meanwhile, among heavy podcast listeners, Apple retains a clear lead over YouTube as the primary podcast platform. Among the segment we call “power listeners” (listening to 5+ hours/week of podcasts and accounting for as much as 3/4s of total time spent listening to podcasts by weekly podcast listeners), Apple Podcasts remains the most used platform at 31%, followed by YouTube at 19%, and Spotify at 14%.
  • Most YouTube podcast “listeners” also use other platforms, so you can reach most of them elsewhere. But some listeners who have gone to YouTube for podcasts in the past year — slightly more than 1-in-4 — didn’t report using any other podcast platform.

Listeners who say YouTube is their primary podcast platform — let’s call them “YouTube primaries” — are a bit of a different breed. Indexed to the general run of monthly podcast listeners, they are over-represented among listeners who:

  • are aged 18–24 (127 Index) and those aged 55–64 (116)
  • access podcasts on a desktop/laptop computer (151)
  • live in a household with income less than $50k/year (137), and
  • have high school education or less (125)

And, as you might have guessed, these YouTube primaries are BIG Joe Rogan listeners, accounting for more than half of those listeners who say they watched/listened to the Joe Rogan Experience in the past month.

Reflecting YouTube’s big footprint across not only video but also music streaming, the #1 reason YouTube primaries give for accessing podcasts on YouTube is that it’s their “go-to place for entertainment.” Watching as well as listening and the ease of finding podcasts aren’t far behind, while the social, interactive aspect of YouTube (ratings, comments) is much further down the list.

Slide showing why people use YouTube to listen to podcasts.

There are some very real challenges to converting YouTube views into ad dollars.

First, there’s the obvious issue that YouTube views aren’t included in podcast download counts, and podcast ad servers are not connected to YouTube. YouTube views/listens simply aren’t part of the current business model. (Of course, that’s not to say that business model might not change in the future. These listeners/viewers are after all additive to what the industry is already counting.)

Second, the potential advantages of video ads (e.g., sound and motion) are not a slam dunk for podcasts on YouTube. Even YouTube primaries say that 35% of the time they access podcasts on YouTube they are only listening to the audio and 12% say they never watch the video of the YouTube podcasts they listen to.

Nor, at least at this point, do we see any evidence to suggest that clickable ads are ringing the cash register. YouTube primaries are no more likely than other podcast listeners to say they have gone online to get more information on ads they heard on a podcast.

The good news is that we were able to answer some key questions about podcast listening on YouTube with The Canadian Podcast Listener 2019.

We’ve heard from the listeners, but we are still left with some thorny questions for the podcast industry as it moves towards greater growth:

  • If a listener calls it a podcast, is it a podcast?
  • Should the industry broaden the definition of a podcast to be more than an RSS feed?
  • How can podcasters and publishers go about monetizing this added listening/viewing?
  • Is podcast listening on YouTube growing faster or slower than podcast listening overall?
  • What podcasts are drawing them to YouTube vs. other platforms?
  • Can YouTube “listens” help drive listens on other platforms?
  • Are people listening to “ripped” versions of creators’ podcasts?

What we’re learning about podcast listening on YouTube could create some strategic opportunities for podcast networks and content creators. It certainly broadens our overall understanding of the podcast ecosystem. But, one final question — does it change much for brands and agencies who value the premium audience that podcasts on platforms like Apple, Spotify, Google Podcasts and others? Podcast listeners who don’t watch/listen on YouTube are more likely to be millennials with higher incomes and education levels. They continue to be attractive and targetable consumers.

The Canadian Podcast Listener study is conducted by Audience Insights Inc. in partnership with Ulster Media and with the generous support of The Podcast Exchange (TPX) and seven other sponsors/subscribers. The main online survey was in the field in late June/early July 2019 using a representative sample of 1,538 monthly podcast listeners aged 18+ from Canada’s premier online access panel, Maru Voice Canada.

This year’s final report will be released to subscribers in late September. For more information on The Canadian Podcast Listener 2019, please visit canadianpodcastlistener.ca.



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