“Putting podcasts on YouTube is a joke.”
This was a reply I saw recently under a tweet highlighting Ashley Carmen’s excellent article in Bloomberg, Massive Podcast Networks Put Their Shows on YouTube But Nobody is Listening.
The write-up describes how NPR, Slate, and even the New York Times are struggling to gain traction on YouTube with their audio-only podcasts.
These are titans in the podcasting industry. True professionals with polished and engaging content and millions upon millions of downloads under their belt, so why no luck on YouTube? And does this mean that “putting podcasts on YouTube” is truly a joke and just a waste of time? After all, if NPR can’t find an audience then what hope do the rest of us have?
I’ve got my own theories as to why so few people are flocking to YouTube to listen to the aforementioned networks but the numbers don’t lie — they’re not doing well at all.
And if you just simply repurpose your podcast on YouTube with zero extra effort, you’ll likely do just as bad or worse.
I’m very bullish on podcasters making their content readily available on YouTube, even if it’s just in the form of audio and a static image. To me, it’s a no-brainer to place your show on a platform with over 122 million active daily users.
That said, let me clarify my position — I do not believe that being on YouTube is some sort of magic trick that will cause your numbers to skyrocket. Matter of fact, the opposite is likely true. Statistically, nobody will consume your podcast on YouTube. And not just because it’s audio-only with a static image.
You can invest in the best lighting and camera equipment money can buy and chances are your videos will still flop. Why? Because it’s fucking hard.
And guess what? So is podcasting.
If I’m reading the stats from Buzzsprout correctly, 50% of podcasts get 32 or fewer downloads per episode in the first 7 days. 32. That’s shockingly low. So low, in fact, that I consulted another source. Per Libsyn, it’s a little better but still discouraging. If your episode gets around 150 downloads in the first 30 days, you’re in the top 50%.
Does that mean podcasting in and of itself is a joke? On second thought, don’t answer that!
Speaking of low numbers, what about iHeart Radio? According to the most recent data from Libsyn, iHeart accounts for less than 1% of all downloads. Likewise for Amazon and Stitcher and Samsung and many other destinations.
Dismal numbers aside, we still dutifully check all of the boxes and make sure our content is available everywhere, as we should. Audible, Google, Castro — everywhere.
Why is YouTube any different?
Once more I’d like to clarify that I don’t think YouTube is some sort of miracle cure. While I have been lucky enough to see some decent growth, it’s certainly not a guarantee and it doesn’t happen overnight. And yes, videos will always outperform audio only on a video-centric platform like YouTube.
But let’s be real. Chances are your show will be a flop on every platform. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the business. Creating a podcast is extremely easy. Creating a good podcast? That’s a different story.
With all that in mind, why do so many people just flippantly dismiss the world’s second-most popular search engine?
YouTube doesn’t suck for podcasts, you just suck at optimizing your podcast for YouTube
I stole that sentiment from Gary V, but I’m sure you get the point.
It’s very simple to pair your mp3 file with an image, convert it to an mp4, and slap that bad boy up on YouTube. Likewise, it’s also very easy to record a podcast on your phone, forgo any semblance of editing, and hit publish.
But you don’t do that, right? Chances are you put a lot more than the bare minimum effort into your show. After all, you bought a quality microphone, learned how to properly use a DAW, carefully craft each episode’s title and show notes, etc. And what's more, you’re patient! You know it takes time for a show to gain traction and develop an audience so you keep chugging away, making improvements as you go with each new episode.
So why do you put minimal effort into YouTube and then — when it predictably flops after just a few months — loudly proclaim that it’s Youtube’s fault?
A little extra effort goes a long way. If you want your podcast to have a fighting chance on YouTube, you should at least learn a little about the algorithm and take the extra few minutes to optimize your show for the platform.
This means creating a unique thumbnail for each episode, properly formatted for YouTube. This means going into YouTube Studio and turning on captions and adding keywords. This means learning what an End Card is and uploading a trailer and even adding a banner to your channel’s homepage. And, if you’re prone to giggling with your cohost over inside jokes for the first 15 minutes of each episode, this may also mean altering your show’s format.
Optimizing your content for YouTube comes down to four factors. Your thumbnails, your titles, your video description, and your content.
Your episode titles and descriptions need to be written in such a way that YouTube — and your prospective audience — clearly understands what the episode is about and who it's for. This is how the algorithm knows who to share your content with.
Your thumbnail needs to be eye-catching and compelling. This is what drives viewers to click play. Study how the top performers design their thumbnails and start practicing on Canva.
Finally, your content is what keeps viewers on your channel. If your episode is about the Mandella Effect and you have a really cool thumbnail but you spend the first 10 minutes discussing a movie that you and your boyfriend watched over the weekend, your AVD (average view duration) is going to plummet and the algorithm will stop sharing your content.
In contrast, if your show immediately pulls the listener in, delivers what the title and thumbnail promised, and keeps them engaged, they’ll spend more time on your channel and thus YouTube will begin sharing your content even more.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
And neither was Mr. Beast.
Dude is clearly an outlier and an extremely talented individual. He’s also been at the game for over a decade and still — to this day — obsesses over his content. And if you’re anything like me, you likely never even heard of Mr. Beast until a year or two ago. If it took him years to gain traction on YouTube, what makes us think we can just haphazardly repurpose our podcast and instantly gain subscribers?
Confession: I’ve never seen a single video produced by Mr. Beast. That’s no shade on him, it’s just not my thing. And guess what? It’s not my audience’s thing, either. They come to YouTube looking for an entirely different sort of content and I’m more than happy to provide it for them.
There are 7.8 billion people in this world, nearly 4 billion of whom utilize YouTube in some fashion. Why not give them what they’re looking for?
In short, yeah — you can find an audience on YouTube even with static image audio-only podcast. My show, with over 18,000 subscribers, is proof. Mr Beast I ain’t, but if over 2 million views and an engaged, growing audience is a joke, it’s one I’ll happily laugh along with.
If you’d like to carve out your slice of the pie or learn more about how I optimize my own podcast for YouTube, feel free to hit me up. Full disclosure, though: I have no secrets other than what I wrote about in this article. Learn how to create compelling thumbnails, practice writing clear and engaging episode titles and show notes, and constantly tweak your content in a way to instantly grab and maintain your audience’s attention.