The Rise of Video Podcasts

What the seemingly paradoxical format tells us about the state of the podcasting industry

Richard Yao
IPG Media Lab
5 min readMay 3, 2024


Who wouldn't want to watch Dua Lipa interview Tim Cook? Credit: BBC Sounds on YouTube

In a somewhat ironic twist, podcasting, a conventionally audio-only medium, has embraced video as an increasingly popular extension of its format.

Blame the ongoing TikTok-tization of digital media — both in terms of the video aspect and the bite-side length of its content — but podcasting is a long-form audio medium that is fighting an uphill battle against the craze around short-form videos.

As the adage goes, if you can’t beat them, join them!

Citing data published by Edison Research, the New York Times reports that out of the top 30 most popular podcasts in the final quarter of 2023, 16 of them were also available as filmed videos, compared to just 7 of the top 30 from that same period two years earlier. Now, it is common for new podcasts to launch with video on day one, while some of the established series — such as “Las Culturistas” and “Planet Money” — have also added video supplements.

Moreover, the Times pointed out that the recent surge of interest in podcasts on YouTube has made it the top platform for podcast consumption in the U.S., overtaking both Apple Podcasts and Spotify:

According to a survey published last fall, 28 percent of podcast consumers now do so on YouTube most frequently, compared to 15% who use Spotify and 12% who use Apple Podcasts. Those results are the reverse of five years ago, when 29% of consumers used Apple Podcasts and just 15% preferred YouTube.

Why are video podcasts gaining momentum among creators lately? Besides the obvious reasoning of “giving the audience what they want,” the forces pushing more and more podcasters to turn on their cameras are trifold: the explosion of celebrity-led podcasts, the deployment of short video clips as lead-generation, and the need for diversifying revenue streams. Let’s look at them one by one.

Video Killed The Podcast Stars?

Firstly, celebrities are increasingly turning to podcasts as a side-hassle that helps build a loyal fanbase while also extending their sphere of influence. From pop stars like Dua Lipa and Jessie Ware to athletes like the Kelce brothers, more and more celebrities are eager to connect with their audiences, and unlike most podcast hosts, these folks are not exactly camera-shy. As intimate as the audio format can be, being able to see the beautiful faces of the stars, along with their facial expressions and body languages, certainly adds to the experience.

This is also partly why of all the podcast genres, the interview shows were the first to adopt video as part of their offerings, given how natural and cost-effective it is to simply film the interviews. Interview-driven podcast series like “The Joe Rogan Experience,” “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” and “Drink Champs” have all reached millions of subscribers on YouTube and Spotify. In contrast, it’d be much harder to visualize narrative-driven fiction or nonfiction podcasts (think true crime podcasts), as those are closer to audiobooks than talk radio in terms of the content.

Given how much of the digital culture is fueled by memes, and taking into consideration the inherently visual nature of memes, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the most infamous podcast moments are taken from video podcasts, immortalized as reaction gifs floating around the internet. Of course, having a celebrity’s face attached to it helps with recognition, but it is not a prerequisite. In contrast, it’d be much harder to turn an audio clip into a meme.

Podcast Discovery Still Kinda Sucks

Secondly, podcasts are also embracing video to leverage the algorithmic feeds of short-form video platforms, be it TikTok, or Instagram Reels, or YouTube Shorts, for better discovery and lead generation. When paired with algorithmic feeds, soundbite-heavy video clips can serve as an effective marketing tool that enables podcasts to reach a wider audience and attract new listeners. There is simply no such equivalent on most podcast platforms, which Spotify is arguably trying to create with its latest TikTok-inspired UI revamp.

Given video podcasts’ increasing popularity, it’s unsurprising that YouTube and Spotify have both added podcast-friendly in recent years to boost the medium. Last year, YouTube added features for podcast content, including uploading podcast playlists and tracking performance data, and it just debuted more podcast-friendly features for YouTube Music last week; Meanwhile, Spotify added support for video podcasts in 2020. Over 500,000 episodes of video podcasts have been uploaded to its platform during the first four months of this year alone, Adweek reports.

Always Take the Extra Money

Lastly, podcasters are also expanding into video out of necessity for a much welcome, potential new revenue stream. Both YouTube and Spotify have been talking up video podcasts as a growth era for the somewhat stagnant industry since the 2022 VidCon.

Now, to be clear, the podcasting audience is still growing steadily. The latest Infinite Dial report by Edison Research found that 47% of the U.S. 12+ population has listened to a podcast in the last month, up 12% year over year. However, the pace of growth has slowed down from 16% in 2022 and 21% growth in 2021, not to mention the higher YoY growth rates during the mid-to-late 2010s when podcasting was an emergent medium.

Source: Edison Research via Pew Research Center

Moreover, the podcasting advertising market, which drove much of the industry’s commercial growth, has faced some headwinds. Major podcast advertising players like Spotify and Amazon have scaled back on podcast-related acquisitions and investment. Some analysts suggest the podcast ads market may be oversaturated and struggling to keep up with ambitious pricing expectations. Fewer people are creating new shows, networks are having difficulties recouping investments, and longtime podcasters are on the hunt for ways to keep their shows sustainable.

In this context, embracing video as a value-adding extension of the conventionally audio-only medium spells new opportunities for the industry. For one, video ads still command a higher rate than audio in general. For another, adding videos allows podcaster creators to tap into the established and mature monetization tools on platforms like YouTube and Instagram to help diversify the revenue streams.

Of course, adding video to an audio medium comes with additional production costs that will impact the profit margin. And then, there’s still the question of how podcast creators can stand out in the cutthroat, luck-driven universe of viral video.

Ultimately, expanding into video won’t be the cure-all solution to the issues that the podcasting industry faces, but at least the creators are trying something new and it seems to be working.

Although in concept, the oxymoronic nature of a “video podcast” seems to be a form of self-negation, surrendering the aural experience into the algorithmic-driven churn of online video mills and losing its unique differentiation in the process. However, for podcast creators equipped with an established fan base, minimal overhead costs, and a readiness to leverage video’s interactive features, there exist intriguing opportunities to establish their presence and carve out a distinct niche within the oversaturated video landscape.