Audio-only podcasts are struggling on YouTube

By 05/09/2023
Audio-only podcasts are struggling on YouTube

YouTube‘s big podcast push might not be paying off.

Bloomberg reports that in April 2023, two of YouTube’s prominent podcast partners–the New York Times and NPR–racked up 111 million and 168 million episode downloads, according to data from Podtrac. Slate, meanwhile, told the outlet that in 2022, its podcasts were downloaded 190 million times.

But on YouTube, Slate’s podcasts average 75 views per episode. NPR? 179 views. The New York Times fares better than its comrades, with 1,000 views on average per episode–but that still doesn’t compare to the numbers it’s generating elsewhere.


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YouTube is definitely behind the grind when it comes to long-established podcast hubs like Spotify, but Bloomberg points out there’s probably another cause for these major outlets’ lack of listeners: They aren’t uploading video versions of their shows.

Instead, the Times, NPR, and Slate all tend to upload video podcasts with just static images or gifs–so when people click on the video, they’re probably expecting footage of the hosts, and might be turned away by getting nothing visual.

Bloomberg found that when the Times/NPR/Slate did include studio footage of hosts, their views jumped. For example, episodes of NPR’s series Life Kit netted 3,000 views on average when studio footage was included.

So, does this mean podcasters have to have video to succeed on YouTube? Does it mean YouTube should give up on podcasts altogether?

Our personal answers: Maybe, and probably not. Podcasts–unlike Clubhouse–aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

YouTube’s answer is to point out that it is the second most frequently used service for weekly podcast listeners in the U.S., according to Edison Research.

“It’s still early, but since its launch, we’re seeing podcast usage and adoption growing in YouTube Music,” it said in a statement to Bloomberg. “We’re excited to continue developing this experience including enhancements to podcast discovery.”

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