Invest in video; podcasts, not so much

Will Sullivan links to a post by Vanessa Fox who says newspapers are investing too much in video and not enough, apparently in podcasts.

Here’s the problem with her argument: Nobody listens to podcasts.

Any news site manager who has tried podcasts and video need only look at the download stats. Video wins. Podcasts snooze.

Fox argues that podcasts work better in a our multitasking lives. I think the opposite is true. To really absorb a podcast, you must LISTEN. Personally, if I’m going to multitask, I want music blasting out of my iPod, not some pundit pontificating. I’ll save that for when I have time to listen, and I never have time to listen.

Sure, video demands my attention. It isn’t as conducive to multitasking, which is why I save video for those times I have time and want to take the time for just video.

If a podcast is on, I find it hard to sit still and just listen. Video can engage me more fully and quiet my compulsion to multitask.

Video, as I’ve discovered, is great on an iPod, and I subscribe to several vodcasts now, because it becomes video entertainment I can carry with me and use in airports, on planes, while waiting on things when there is otherwise nothing else to do but wait.

The other advantage of video is that it is more portable — it can be watched on computers, televisions and moble devices. The same could be said of a podcast, but it doesn’t work quite as well on TV, and getting IP video on TV is a pretty significant step forward for online video.

No, video is definitely where newspapers need to be investing multimedia resources.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged by . Bookmark the permalink.

17 thoughts on “Invest in video; podcasts, not so much

  1. Hmmm. I think I’m going to disagree with you slightly on this.

    I think podcasts are good for some times. I really like listening to podcasts when I’m in the car on a long drive, for instance. Instead of hoping to catch NPR programming at the right time, I can listen to On The Media or This American Life when I’m ready. I can see those types of situations being applicable to people with long commutes, or people who are stuck on an exercise bike for 30 minutes.

    The problem for newspapers is that they don’t have brand recognition or the resources to devote to really generating a great podcast. However, if they had a specific target audience in mind, and the wherewithal to pull it off, i think a podcast would be a good investment.

    that said, it’s certainly not for everyone and every time. neither is video, for that matter. If I had limited resources, i’d be training people to use video, but be aware of the times when audio might be a better medium.

  2. So, you’re talking about doing a podcast to appeal to a special audience. Under current audience metrics, that niche audience is made smaller since only about 1 percent of them are going to listen to a podcast regularly.

    How do you make money off such a small audience?

    And podcasts time time to create. The equipment isn’t necessarily expensive, but the time can be. And to do great podcasts, as you suggest, you need great people, which means you’re using your best poeple to do something that out of the box you know has limited appeal — limited appeal with no proven growth path.

    Video, on the other hand, has a proven growth path, is being widely and quickly adopted by audiences, and can be factored to appeal to broad audience segments.

    Podcasts have been around for what, two, three, four years? By now, if they were going to catch on, they would have. They’re not. They won’t. Or at least we need to assume that they won’t (when it comes to making business decisions about them) until proven otherwise.

  3. Podcasts are video, as well as audio, text and a myriad of software programs, PowerPoint presentations and widgets available for download. Everyone keeps associating the word podcasts with only audio, which is a mistake.

  4. Hi Howard,

    Just wanted to mention that my post wasn’t about newspapers at all, nor was I advocating podcasts over video. I was simply saying that it’s much easier for me to get information from the written word (blog posts) than from video, due to my hectic, multitasking day. I briefly mentioned that podcasts were at least doable for me, but they weren’t the point of the post. (And as I mentioned in a previous post, I find Britney Spears to be the best choice for my ipod at the gym.)

    Video definitely has its place on the web, and certainly some things are better suited to video than to anything else. And video seems like a great medium for newspapers to explore — especially as online distribution gives newspapers more options for content types than the printed page.

    But, as I mentioned, that wasn’t what my post was about. It was simply about how with my busy days, I’m much more likely to read something that watch. I like your idea of subscribing to videos though, so they’re available for viewing on planes. I’m on a lot of planes these days, so I may give that a try.

  5. In markets with more commute time, audio podcasts make sense. Commuting from Santa Cruz to Silicon Valley? Hello, 45-minute podcast.

    There are plenty of folks advertising in podcasts, but the model obviously works better the more people listen, or the narrower the niche.

    A weekly podcast about Dining Out In (Your Town Here) could easily bring in a paid 15-second spot from a local restaurant, or could be sponsored by a downtown business association. Get some listeners first, though, so you have an audience to sell them.

    But don’t just podcast the headlines – if anyone wants to hear that, they’ll turn on the radio.

  6. I agree with Ryan — while driving to western Virginia last week where there were few radio stations of interest to me, my iPod was a lifesaver (or at least a major boredom preventer). Of course video is important for Web traffic to newspaper sites, but video is not always practical for people who drive long distances either daily or less often. I also agree with Ryan about not just podcasting headlines, which are old by the time most people get around to hearing them (if they haven’t heard them on NPR already). Niche content and some of the newspaper’s personalities/columnists are still good for podcast material.

  7. Howard, when you write about video’s proven growth path, are you talking youtube?

    And when you’re talking multimedia dollars, do you include photo galleries? Because for time invested, or heck, even on their own, the clicks I see on photo galleries beat the tar out of video clicks.

  8. There’s the observable explosion of video on the web, such as YouTube and several other video sharing sites. Where’s the YouTube of podcasting?

    There are the surveys that show people adopting video usage at a faster rate than podcssts.

    There is the rapid growth of online revenue for newspapers from video.

    Photo slideshows — I can’t say I’ve seen them get that much traffic. I don’t buy that photo gallaries get more visits. Further, to do a good slideshow (and they’re few and far between — most are boring, boring, boring) takes a hell of a lot of work and talent. But we’ve been all over that argument on this blog before.

    As to the arguments that podcasts have their place — show me the traffic. I’m just not convinced they’re worth the time and effort.

  9. Yeah, I don’t see photo slideshows getting much traffic or being worth the production time.

    I’m not defending podcasts, but iTunes indexes plenty of podcasts. Seems like it’s a popular program too.

  10. If the question is whether newspapers should be spending more time than they are trying to make money off of podcasts, then the answer is yes. Just ask the advertisers.

    Forrester’s recent research shows that marketers are more interested in podcasting than they are in online video. Those are the facts.

    I know. It seems counter to the buzz felt hard for video across the newspaper industry. But, hey, it wouldn’t be the first time everyone put their bets on the wrong number. I’d say, just for kicks, folks should at least try to monetize podcasting. What can it hurt?

    Heck, podcasting has done wonders for iTunes. Video hasn’t.

  11. I can’t see where podcasts have done a thing for iTunes.

    Music has.

    Not podcasts.

    FWIW: I didn’t even have an iTunes account until I had a video ipod.

  12. Really? Not a thing?

    Minister Joel Olsteen reports more than 1 million people downloaded his podcast during February. That’s a pretty sizable audience. And that’s just one podcast.

    Perhaps more importantly, when advertisers want to know which podcasts are worth buying, the phrase “iTunes” keeps popping up. Really, check out that link. It’s like the NY Times best-seller list, or the Amazon book sales list. That’s pretty important/effective branding.

    Not a thing? Really? Maybe just two things?

  13. […] So, why did my story get buried? I’m not sure. It wasn’t that the story was useless and crappy. Lots of other places picked it up, including Techmeme, and was discussed on a bunch of different blogs. It may not have been War and Peace, but it didn’t make people run screaming from their keyboards, scarred from ever reading the written word again. (When I twittered that I had been buried, Barry suggested it may have been that by twittering about my post, diggers may have thought I was trying to game the system, but I so don’t have game that I would be surprised it that were the case.) […]

  14. Video podcasts: Lots of these now, Howard. They are like 5-minute shows. Look around. Not from newspapers, but maybe newspapers have not figured out what makes a good podcast (yet).

    NPR: Most of the so-called podcasts I subscribe to on iTunes are from NPR.

    Original content: One of my favorite podcasts is Coffee Break Spanish. The length and the pacing are just right. Learn Spanish from two Irish people!

    When I listen: I have no commute, but I spend a lot of time in airports and doctors’ offices. With an audio podcast, I can close my eyes. This is a real treat, since I spend all day looking at a computer. I don’t want video on my iPod. (At least, not usually.)

Leave a Reply