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What YouTube’s official entry into podcasting means for the industry
The video platform is finally dedicating real resources to growing its podcast offerings.
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What YouTube’s official entry into podcasting means for the industry
Today’s question comes from Marilyn
I have a simple question: with YouTube launching podcasts, what do you think this will mean for Google Podcasts? Does it create a conflict in any way or is it irrelevant because Google Podcasts hasn't secured any significant market share? Finally, does YouTube's entry to podcasting mean the podcasting industry is closer to dynamic ad insertion and a YouTube Partner Programme type of monetisation style?
Let’s start with some context so everyone is caught up to speed: For several years, Google has maintained an official podcast app. It’s pretty standard, operating in the same way as other mainstream apps like Apple Podcasts and Overcast. Its one point of differentiation is that Google built out a special podcast carousel for its search results, and if you click on a podcast within the carousel, then it opens up the Google Podcasts app. From all the available data I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem like the Google Podcasts app is all that popular. It makes up less than 1% of my podcast’s downloads.
Then there’s YouTube. Without any nudging from the platform itself, famous YouTubers started building makeshift studios in their own houses and recording long conversational podcasts. Today, some of the most popular podcasts in the world — including the Joe Rogan Experience, Impaulsive, and H3 — have a video component, and some surveys have put YouTube right behind Apple and Spotify in terms of total podcast consumption.
Again, all of this happened organically, which means it probably took YouTube staffers a little while to wake up to the fact that they’d accidentally captured a sizable portion of the fast-growing podcast market. Then in 2021, the company hired its first executive solely devoted to podcasting. That led to the August launch of a dedicated podcast tab at youtube.com/podcasts.
So now that we have that context out of the way, let’s get to answering your questions and a few others that naturally spring forth:
What does this mean for the Google Podcasts app?
I doubt Google has dedicated serious resources to its podcast app, and it’s probably running with a skeleton crew of engineers. I think Google benefits from having a podcast app on its Android homescreen, so it’s unlikely to close down the app completely. But you won’t see Google signing major exclusivity deals with podcasters to lure them onto the app; nor will the app feature much innovation beyond its current offerings.
Is YouTube’s new podcast tab a game changer?
Not currently. It’s really little more than a landing page that promotes popular video podcasts. There’s a section that claims its recommendations are based on my interests, but that didn’t seem to be the case. I couldn’t even navigate to the tab from the YouTube homepage, which means that very few people are even landing on it.
So how could YouTube move the needle for podcasts?
In her question, Marylin asked whether “YouTube's entry to podcasting means the podcasting industry is closer to dynamic ad insertion and a YouTube Partner Program type of monetization.”
Well, YouTubers who upload their podcasts already have access to dynamic ad insertion through the platform’s Partner Program. Most of the major podcasts have programmatic ad breaks peppered throughout the video versions of their shows.
But what about the audio versions of those shows? What if someone decides to use YouTube as a standard podcast listening app with the mobile screen shut off?
Well, currently background listening isn’t even allowed within the YouTube mobile app, at least for users who don’t subscribe to YouTube Premium. It’s going to be difficult for it to launch an audio advertising product under those conditions.
But it probably will open up its app to free background listening soon. It’s already done so in Canada. Once that happens, then I definitely foresee it launching an audio-version of its Partnership Program that allows brands to upload ads specifically geared toward listeners. And given that Google is arguably the most successful ad tech company in the world, then there’s a good chance that this will one day drive significant revenue toward podcasters.
What about RSS feed distribution?
Currently, if you want to have your podcast carried on YouTube, you have to upload each episode manually. It doesn’t function like most other podcast apps that automatically pull in new episodes via RSS feeds.
If YouTube wants to become a default podcast listening app, then it needs access to the millions of shows that are distributed via RSS. According to some leaked documents, it is developing RSS features, so it’ll likely launch that functionality eventually.
How will YouTube figure into the podcast streaming wars?
Currently, companies like Spotify, SiriusXM, Audible, Amazon Music, and iHeart are collectively shelling out billions of dollars to acquire podcasting talent and tech, but given YouTube’s massive user base, impressive adtech, and already-existing podcast audience, I think it should have no problem muscling its way into the space. This is still a tiny industry that’s poised to get much, much bigger, and YouTube has a chance to play a significant role in that expansion.
What do you think?
I surveyed my readers a few weeks ago
I wanted to get a sense of what industries they worked in. Here were the results:
Media/journalism/Creator Economy: 64%
Venture capital/finance: 1%
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