Audio or video (or both)?
You may have noticed that some podcasts have audio and video versions. And if you’re a podcaster, you may have wondered if you should have audio and video versions, too.
And the answer is … it depends. Both media have strengths and weaknesses, and some obvious differences.
Image vs. Sound
The most obvious difference is that audio is an aural, or sound-based medium, while video is primarily a visual medium. Obviously. And that matters because it dictates whether your podcast should be audio only, or video only, or both. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: If the content is inherently visual, or has a strong visual element, go with video. If the content does not have a strong visual element, go with audio.
For example, say your organization wants to produce a sales enablement podcast focused on helping sales reps get up to speed on new products and services and that episodes will feature product managers demonstrating how the products work and what’s unique about them. Since the show is all about product demonstration, it makes sense to use video, or at least to have a video version of the podcast. But if, say, the podcast features reps talking about how they navigate the sales process and close deals … then it may not really need video. Because, again, video makes the most sense and is only really necessary when the content has a central visual component. If it’s just the host and guest talking … there’s not much to see, just a couple of talking heads. Personally, I’ll watch maybe a minute or two of that kind of video podcast and then, inevitably, end up listening while I check email or do something else. It’s OK to also produce a video version of the podcast, especially if you use a recording platform that records high quality audio and video. But if you have to choose just one, go with audio.
Another important difference between audio and video podcasting is that video requires your audience to sit still and watch. In other words, it’s less convenient than listening to audio, which you can do while doing other things. How much does this matter? It depends. Again, if you want to tell a primarily visual story, then the convenience of audio is outweighed by the obvious advantages of video. But if the content doesn’t require visuals, then the convenience of audio may outweigh the visual advantages of video.
We also need to talk about length. For video to be really engaging, it needs to be relatively short, generally speaking. Especially if your podcast features interviews and discussions and the main visual is people talking, the typical viewer is going to watch it for only so long … a few minutes at most. But audio is a different story. Podcast listeners tend to listen to entire episodes … partly because they listen while doing other things … and partly because a well produced discussion is inherently engaging. If you’re not forced to stare at a screen, people will easily listen for 10 minutes … 20 minutes … even as long as an hour, if the content is compelling. All of which means that audio podcasting, on average, allows you to spend more time on a topic, relative to video, and drill down into the most interesting and important nuances.
The final difference … at least the last thing I’m going to talk about … is that producing high-quality audio is easier than producing high-quality video, especially when you’re recording remotely. That’s because, as long as everyone on an audio podcast has a decent mic and headphones or a headset, the audio is going to sound pretty good right off the bat. And then a good producer will be able to edit and sweeten the audio to make it sound really good.
Video, on the other hand, has more moving parts. Lighting, for example. Especially on a remote recording, some people might be in a well-lit space, others in a dimmer space. Some people’s cameras may show stuff in that background that’s distracting. And, of course. people need to appear presentable. And, don’t forget that you still need to record high-quality audio and then edit the audio and video. Not that it’s impossible to deal with these things and make video work … but it takes more work, and it’s a bigger hassle.
My point, overall, is not that audio podcasting is inherently better than video … or that video is better than audio. They’re not mutually exclusive. Especially given remote recording platforms today that record both audio and video at relatively high quality, there’s little harm in trying both. If you find that the video version of your podcast is getting just as much or even more engagement than the audio version, then by all means keep doing it. But if the video version isn’t getting much play … then maybe it’s not worth the time and effort.