Want Your Audience to Actually Consume Your Content? Give Podcasting a Second Look (or Listen).

Since Facebook Live launched a few years ago, I’ve been asked too many times “Why should I go through all the effort of Podcasting when I can just pick up my phone, go live on Facebook, throw fifty bucks on a boost and reach thousands of people with my message?

It’s all about market-to-message, right?

I’ve also heard too many people say “Video makes a better impact than audio.” Another colleague tells me with all the conviction in the world that “I want to go to where the people are. They’re on Facebook, so that’s where I’m putting my content.”

Honestly, I’ve been thinking the same. I even wrote a book about the power of live video promising to show you how to “expand your reach with live video.

I know, I know — this might seem like shameless self-promotion — we produce Podcasts for a living after all. But no one was more excited than I was at the promises and possibilities of Facebook Live. It’s like podcasting, only easier! Think of the reach, the potential revenue, the impact!

The problem is, at Podcast Partnership, we don’t just look at the numbers of viewers for any given episode … we track results. Results are a way of looking at the numbers that measure their meaning — or impact. Instead of simply looking at how many viewers you had, we ask: Is this media actually accomplishing what you hope it will? Is it prompting your customers to take action (if that’s your goal)? How long do they watch? Are they even paying attention?

What we’re finding over and over again is that these numbers just aren’t telling the story that we thought they would.

Surprised? Honestly, I’m not sure I would have seen it myself until fate intervened and I had that “Aha” moment that made me take a closer look. It’s easy for anyone to get carried away with all the hype surrounding “Live.” We all get pumped up by the thrill of seeing the numbers of viewers climb during a live event. Let me tell you a story…

How Microsoft Made Us Look At Things Different

Like so many Podcasters, I’m a big fan of Microsoft’s Skype for remote guest recording.

When Skype recently turned on “cloud recording,” it looked like remote interview recording would become even easier. Since additional software to record interviews was no longer necessary, there would be less of a possibility that something could go wrong. We’ve all experienced those awkward moments waiting to continue while software loads or freezes. Not fun. Finally, recording in the cloud also had the potential to grab the best possible recording. Thank you, Microsoft!

Like a good disciple of the ”power of live” I went live to my Facebook audience to talk about it. It wasn’t just a phone and a quick chat, it was a live broadcast from our studio and lasted about 11 minutes. I gave the pros and cons of the new service — short, sweet and to the point. It went well, I felt great! The audience appeared to love it.

A live broadcast to an audience of podcasters about a favorite tool’s significant upgrade seemed like the logical thing to do, right? Live is better, right? The ability to interact on Facebook truly makes for new media, right? 2 billion people on Facebook, this is the perfect place to publish, right? What could go wrong?

Being the good multicaster that I am, I took the same video content from my Facebook broadcast and saved it to YouTube. With seven thousand plus subscribers of my own, they deserved the content as well. After that, I stripped out the audio with no enhancements whatsoever and published it as a bonus audio episode on the Podcast Report feed.

Then, after a few weeks of play, we decided to look at the results. Oddly enough, it turned out, that on Facebook live, to an audience interested in my topic and who have specifically liked my page, the average watch time of my 11 minute and 37 second broadcast was only 22 seconds — just 3% of the video. Now, these are averages, but … wow. I never expected them to be so low. 22 seconds! That’s not good any way you measure it.

Next, I looked at the video on YouTube. Average view time on YouTube was 36% versus Facebook’s 3%. On YouTube, viewers tuned in over 11 times longer on average than they did on Facebook. Why would a static platform like YouTube yield longer viewers than an interactive platform like Facebook for live video?

When I moved to Apple Podcast to see how well this video translated to audio, the numbers amazed me.

On Apple Podcasts, the audience listened to a whopping average of 94% of the episode … more than 31 times the percentage on Facebook and slightly less than 3 times the percent on YouTube. Unbelievable!

Again, this is a look at consumption rates only. By consumption I mean how long did my audience listen to my message? By far, my audience is consuming exponentially more of my message by listening to a low-tech, low drama audio podcast than anything else.

At least in this single instance.

I needed to find out if this was just something related to me and my “face made for radio,” or something else?

So It’s Not Just Me … Is It You?

I wondered if this was just an issue with live video versus posted video. I checked in with Austin Beeman (Facebook | YouTube | Apple Podcasts), who runs a great short-form Podcast about wine. It’s about as far from my topic as you can get. He also puts his Podcast content on Facebook and YouTube. Here’s what he found:

His Podcast content as a Facebook video saw only 4% watched on average.

The same content to his YouTube audience saw 47% (more than 11x as much).

The same episode as an audio Podcast saw an average consumption of 56% … 14 times that of Facebook …

Was it just Austin and me? I wondered if this a problem with just us “smaller” players?

I asked Mike Stelzner at Social Media Examiner (Facebook | YouTube | Apple Podcasts) about their results. They who have more than 532,000 Facebook followers and a weekly show called The Social Media Marketing Talk Show that airs every Friday morning on Facebook Live. He generously shared his stats with me, and here they are:

Mike’s LIVE episode on Facebook, to social media experts, about Facebook Live, saw only a 1% average consumption of the video. 1%!

Yet the same video on YouTube saw a 10:43 average consumption — or around 11%. YouTube performed 11x better than Facebook.

On Apple Podcasts, the audio version had a 64% consumption rate — that’s 64 times greater than Facebook! Seems a bit ironic for a show about Facebook broadcast live on Facebook to have a better consumption rate in an audio Podcast, doesn’t it??

We wondered if the secret to social was shorter content — so we started looking at those numbers. If the live broadcast is shorter, do viewers stay tuned in longer? That’s the nature of Facebook, right?

I stopped including YouTube results in this article, but I have them.

Is it just us and these niche topics? What about something very “nerdy?” Gary Leland was kind enough to share the stats from his popular 4-Minute Crypto show with us. (Facebook | YouTube | Apple Podcasts). We found the same pattern held up — even a super short four-minute show about a hot topic gets significantly higher consumption rates as a Podcast over Facebook Live.

Facebook gave him an average of six seconds on a two minute and three second show — that’s effectively 0%.

Yet, as an audio Podcast, the same episode shows 107% consumption. People are actually rewinding Gary and listening again — yet they won’t stay to watch him for 7 seconds on Facebook.

What about people who are great on camera? Paul, you haven’t mentioned people who pay to get their stuff on Facebook?

I may have saved the best example for last.

Our client and long-time internet marketing expert Frank Kern (Facebook | YouTube | Apple Podcasts) spends close to $100k a month in Facebook advertising (not a typo). His audience is far larger than anyone else we’ve had access to, yet even Frank can only get about 8% consumption on his Facebook videos.

Take the same video, with its crazy marketing budget, make it an audio Podcast and you have an average of 96% consumption.

I could go on and on… but I think you’re getting the idea. EVERY SINGLE PERSON who sent me their stats for this little research project had essentially the same results: Facebook (live or otherwise) content gets a drastically smaller percentage of consumption in comparison to the podcast versions of each show. YouTube did better, but could not come close to Podcasting. Anyway we looked at the data, it all yielded the same results. Big audiences, small audiences, long content, short content, people already proven to be great on camera, people with tons of experience in going live, people with massive marketing budget — Podcasting pulled significantly better results than Facebook, every single time.

I love Podcasting.

What does this mean?

I really don’t think it’s all that complicated to understand why this is happening. Social Media is where we go for the quick hit. If you think about it, most people don’t go to social media to consume content. They go to check in for the quick hit: they check for messages on a break or scan their feed during a traffic light. (I know we’re not supposed to, but we all do it). Admit it, when’s the last time you spent more than 30 seconds on any one single element of Facebook? If you happen to catch someone live, you’re not likely to be in a position to sit and watch, even if you wanted too. That’s just not what Facebook is designed for.

Listening to a Podcast is more purposeful. You could call it intent-based consumption. Most of us don’t scroll by a Podcast and listen to a few seconds before we look at the next thing in the stream. We’re more likely to put on a Podcast when we have some time to consume — think your daily commute, folding laundry, exercising, paying bills. Usually, people have already used search to find something specific that will hold their attention for a sustained period of time. Anyone who has subscribed to your content has essentially told their Podcatching platform that they want to know the second you’ve released something new. It’s already a targeted audience!

In comparison, your social media audience is random. Even if they are interested, they might not be in a position to watch. And the way Facebook “feeds” things, they are not likely to find it if they go back later, if they even remember to. Social moves on.

Let’s Get One Thing Straight

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say this is a scientific study — or even close. Too many in this space notice a trend and call it fact. I have no goal of doing that here. We’re just friends sharing some interesting trends.

But…if all these very different markets are seeing 30x and greater consumption on Podcasting over Facebook video, maybe Podcasting is worth a closer look?

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Now

Am I Defining Myself by my Platform? You’re not a YouTuber, Live Streamer, Podcaster, or anything else. The platform doesn’t matter. Get your message out there the best way you can, on whatever platform is most likely to reach your audience.

Am I Testing or Just Guessing? Find the things that work best with your audience and then, do more of that.

What Metrics are Important to Me? Define your own metrics and then track them. Don’t waste time looking at irrelevant statistics. As you saw in this report, the “view” metric can be really misleading. Decide what it is that you want your audience to do — then track if they’re doing it.

Am I Serving My Audience Effectively? Once you figure out what your audience wants — give it to them! It’s that simple. If one platform is better than another — that’s where you go. Even if the cool kids are somewhere else… or plain old boring audio. Know your audience, give them what they want, in the way they are most likely to listen. It’s not complicated.

Should I Consider Podcasting? With Podcasting, you own your audience, your content, your feed, your domain and everything else and you can leverage that to your benefit. Throw in that your audience consumes the content exponentially more there the other options and, at least in our opinion, you have an option worth considering.

Paul Colligan is CEO of The Podcast Partnership, host of The Podcast Report and author of the Amazon Bestseller “How To Podcast.”