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Is there such thing as a video podcast?

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The first “video podcast” I saw was… well, I can’t remember, but I do remember that, waaaaay back, some podcasts had video (and Spotify is about to bring them back). In fact, regardless of the fact that most people don’t do it, RSS, still today, can deliver video files to podcatchers (err, podcatchers that have the ability to parse and display a video file, not sure which those are… but theoretically it could be all of them). For whatever reason, though, podcasting didn’t take off as a video-centric medium, it took off as an audio-centric one. Why? Who knows, but my guess would be because audio is easier. Easy usually wins.

But there has always been some contingent of podcasters who podcast primarily with video, usually, if not always, delivered over video platforms like YouTube. These “podcasters” create their programs on YouTube, rip the audio from those videos, and publish the audio alone as a podcast — now if that doesn’t suggest something we’ve all come to accept as true, I don’t know what does: podcasting is an audio-only medium (but… well… it’s not — just sit tight, I’m getting there.).

Is a podcast a podcast because of how it is delivered?

The technical side of the house is going to probably answer “yes” to this question. If your media, be it audio or video, is delivered over an RSS feed to an application that can parse it and display/play it, that’s a podcast. So the video podcast delivered via RSS is a podcast, the “video podcast” delivered to YouTube isn’t a podcast… but the audio ripped from the “video podcast” delivered to YouTube which is then separately published to an RSS feed is a podcast.

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But let me ask you a question… about books.

Remember when people would say “Dave, that’s not a book, you’re not reading a book, you’re listening to a story” when trying to sort out the difference between audiobooks and print books? Well, let’s apply the same line of reasoning to books as we do to podcasts:

If Audible started releasing videos of old men sitting in leather chairs in front of crackling fires reading a book to you… what would that be? An audiobook? If not, why not? Certainly Audible is an audiobook platform, is it not? So if it started releasing books on video, then those videos would be audiobooks… right?

I don’t know how you’re answering but if you think podcasts are the delivery method, then you’d be hard pressed not to call videobooks audiobooks. And maybe you’d be 100% correct! Maybe a videobook is an audiobook and maybe an audiobook is a book, but notice that we name these things differently and that we don’t say “well it’s all delivered via a book platform, so it’s a book” or “it’s all delivered via Audible so it’s an audiobook.” We don’t define these creative mediums by their delivery mechanism — we define them by their form.

So then, it’s a podcast, but we should be sure to call it a video podcast?

Prior to the pandemic, video podcasts were mostly non-existent (if we’re defining them as “video productions delivered through RSS”) and YouTube channels which called their video productions “podcasts” and which published their audio to RSS were certainly not uncommon but they also weren’t overwhelmingly prevalent.

During the pandemic this changed. I blame Streamyard and LinkedIn

Everyone wanted to stay visible, and Streamyard really hit its stride among LinkedIn users right at the head of the pandemic, and we began seeing a litany of livestreamed Streamyard discussions that everyone started calling podcasts.

That was the last nail in the coffin as far as “do podcasts have video?” because it was the moment video-inclusive podcasts went from being this thing some podcasters did to this thing that you had to do in order to have a podcast — at least that was the expectation it set, and that drove the nail.

I owned a brick and mortar recording studio at the time and so overwhelming great was this change that I went from producing precisely ZERO video-inclusive podcasts to producing NOTHING BUT video-inclusive podcasts. I had to stand up a solution quick as hell and it wasn’t pretty. Below is the “set” I was able to scramble together in the time I had to pivot.

And this became the norm. Podcasts HAD video, there was no point in attempting to debate it or explain the differences in costs or complexities to a client, podcasts were no longer just audio in the business world, they were video.

That podcast, The Boulos Beat (which is great btw and you should listen to it) now looks like this:

Tell me video isn’t becoming the primary asset with a set like that? When renewal for that podcast came up, and I was asked if I could provide something like that… I had to say no. Video production isn’t audio production, they’re two completely different animals.

And that is where I think this discussion matters most.

We should be using a naming convention which helps set expectations for all involved.

A book is called a book, and we all know what a book is by now. An audiobook is called an audiobook because we know it is not the same as a book and we need the name to suggest a certain set of expectations to the creator, the engineers, the publishers, and the consumers. We do not call all of these things “a book” because it would create a situation where everyone was unsure what sort of “book experience” they were signing up for and, relevant to podcasting, it would cause the creator to be confused about all that was required in order to produce “a book.”

That last part is my biggest thing. “I want to start a podcast!” Okay, well, what do you mean when you say that? Rather, what have you been lead to believe you mean when you say that? If you’ve been lead to believe a podcast is video-inclusive, and I don’t operate from the assumption it is, and you don’t realize it doesn’t need to be, well we’re going to have all sorts of surprises and bumps along the way. And also, do you understand that creating video for video’s sake makes creating great audio more difficult and more expensive — or, for that matter, makes the entire undertaking more expensive? Do you care about that? Do you even know enough to consider whether you care about that?

I don’t think a podcast is audio-only, but I think that’s how we should be speaking about podcasting.

Podcast, videocast, and livestream — these are the words we should be using so as to avoid confusion and to create a normalized vocabulary around the various sorts of media creation that have come out of, or were directly influenced (in terms) by podcasting. A podcast is a pre-recorded, non-live, audio production with no video. A videocast or vidcast is a pre-recorded, non-live, video production. A livestream is a live-to-tape video production. And, because they’re now a normal thing with “social audio”, an audiostream is a live-to-tape audio production with no video.

When you say “audiostream” you suggest a certain outcome. When you say videocast, livestream, or podcast, you, likewise, suggest certain (different) outcomes… and that is how we have always named things throughout the entirety of history. We don’t call a truck a car. We don’t call a boot a shoe. We don’t call all boats sailboats. We don’t call all forms of speech yelling. We call things that which best describes what they are.

The word which best describes the thing that is archival audio being listened to on-demand, through an internet connection, and for the purposes of information, entertainment, or education, is a podcast.

The word which best describes the thing that is archival video being viewed on-demand, through an internet connection, and for the purposes of information, entertainment, or eduction, is a videocast.

And so on and so forth.

So, is a video file delivered via RSS to a podcatcher a podcast? Sure. But stop being pedantic, it’s not helping anyone get their minds clear about what they’re doing, how they should be doing it, and how they can be successful in doing it because, and that’s something I haven’t even touched on: all these forms of creation require wildly different strategies in order to be successful and wildly different technological setups to be produced. But that’s a discussion for another day.

That’s my two-cents. I don’t care where you spend it.

Take care.

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