Whether you're a new or experienced podcaster, you may face the decision of whether to be in audio or video podcasting. Here are the pros and cons of each format, and things you should consider.
I'm omitting “enhanced AAC” because it's a quickly dying format with limited compatibility and few practical needs that can't be met with effective show notes.
This topic was inspired by Steve Hart's feedback.
Do you know of any research that helps establish if people prefer video podcasts over audio only podcasts?
My feeling is that people are more likely to listen than watch, particularly if the video only features ‘talking heads'.
Would be interested to see any stats or research into this area.
1. Widely consumable
The most powerful thing about audio podcasting is how easy audio is to consume in various environments. You can listen to podcasts while cooking, driving, playing games, mowing the yard, and even working. It's easy to listen to one thing while doing another.
2. High quality for low cost
The Audio Technica ATR2100-USB (Amazon.com | B&H) is only $50 and produces acceptable quality for any audio podcast. You can plug it straight into your computer (or many mobile devices) to record without expensive equipment.
3. Easy production
If you can cut, copy, paste, and delete text on your computer, then you can edit audio! It's easy to remove sections you don't want, and clean up dialog without leaving any noticeable signs of editing.
4. Popular choice
Only six out of the top one hundred podcasts in iTunes (as of March 3, 2014) were video. Even Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech has only the audio edition in the top 100, but not the video edition.
This, alone, doesn't mean it's the best option, just that more top podcasters chose audio, or their audio formats are more popular.
5. Supported by all podcast apps and directories
You can play MP3 audio files on almost any device or media app. Even old flip phones can playback MP3!
There are several apps that support audio and video podcasts, but many popular apps (such as Stitcher, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio) support only audio.
1. Difficult to share
It's hard to make audio go viral. Some media hosts, such as SoundCloud and Audioboo, have partnered with Twitter or Facebook to automatically embed media players for direct links to media files. Aside from these couple exceptions, audio is far less common for sharing or embedding.
2. Low accessibility for hearing-impaired
Audio can't be consumed by the hearing-impaired. You can help this by having your episodes transcribed, or by writing great show notes (my recommendation).
3. Visual subjects don't communicate well
Try to review paintings in audio, describe a beautiful scene, or train on software or hardware. While these are all possible to do, if you can communicate well, they take a lot more work and time than simply showing something. This is why nearly all of my one-on-one consulting sessions involve video (webcam or screenshare).
4. Doesn't engage well on YouTube
Many people want to be on YouTube because it's a massive social network and even a search engine of its own. It's possible for you to publish your audio to YouTube with just your cover art or a slide presentation. This kind of “hacking the system” it's far less effective and will probably turn away potential a potential audience.
1. Prominent media players
When you go to a website with an embedded video, you know what to do with that video. It's often more compelling to click play on the video than to read through the written content.
This is a problem that can be helped in audio podcasting, but it needs more support.
2. Easy to communicate visual subjects
Instead of spending time describing something in order to discuss it, video allows you to simply “show and tell.”
I do recommend being more specific than simply saying, “here” and “this,” but you don't have to be so descriptive to say, “In the upper-right corner, just to the left of the logo, are two red and white RCA inputs and outputs.”
3. On-screen aids to help accessibility
Video also makes the easy things even easier to communicate. Instead of saying, “Email feedback at My Awesome Podcast dot com,” you can just say, “Email me,” and display the email address on the screen.
This works for many details, and even allows for commentary, corrections, footnotes, and more. Consider how I added a footnote to my video “How to add or change your podcast cover art.”
4. Engaging and shareable
We're humans and we relate with other humans. Showing your face in video allows your audience to get to know you even better than just hearing your voice. They can see your expressions, read emotions, and learn to recognize your appearance. This can result in more engagement.
(Side tip. Unless you're doing drama or interviews, always have the subject look directly into the camera (or near it) instead of off-camera.)
5. Free “hosting” and leverage on YouTube
YouTube is social network of its own. I think the quality and usability of comments has increased since Google+ was integrated. Being on YouTube can help you reach a whole new audience.
When you upload your videos to YouTube, they can live there forever without any foreseeable hosting expenses.
You even have the opportunity to monetize your videos more easily on YouTube than finding a sponsor for your show.
6. Search-engine optimization (SEO) with YouTube
Many people will even search YouTube for things before they search Google.
Being on YouTube also gives you more opportunities to appear on the first page (and higher position) in Google search results.
7. Great longtail
Because publishing video lets you get onto other platforms and be more shareable, you'll find a larger “longtail” for video content than audio. “Longtail” is how much your media is consumed over time. The timelessness of your content greatly affects this.
I see many of my YouTube videos continue to receive more weekly views than their equivalent audio podcast episodes.
1. Expensive for high quality
Getting good video means you need a great microphone (which should not get in the way of your face), good lighting, and decent camera—in that order. Even with cheap options for each of these needs, you'll still spend several times more for video than audio.
2. Complicated production
Editing video is a lot more complicated than audio. You need to learn about color correction, composition, video codecs, resolutions, frame rates, and more.
In video, it's not good to try removing every verbal crutch because this leaves noticeable edit points in your production. You can sometimes cover these up with B-roll footage (other relevant video or images, such as a second shot of the product you're reviewing), but this means more stuff you have to find or record. Watch how I use my own B-roll footage to cover up my edit points in my review of the Electro Voice RE20 microphone.
3. Hard to consume
Try watching a video while driving, mowing the hard, or using deadly cooking utensils. Actually, don't. I want you to stay alive with all your body parts.
Watching video requires a lot more attention than audio. This is a good reason to keep Internet videos short, so that it's easy for your audience to watch the whole thing without the commitment they'd have to give a movie or TV show.
4. Small support by podcast apps and directories
Many new and popular podcast apps don't support video podcasts. Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn are just a few. But it does seem like a growing trend.
In-car entertainment is also likely to support only audio for driver safety.
Why did you choose your format?
What made you choose audio or video? If you publish both, what kinds of growth do you see for either format.
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