I have some issues with the idea of vodcasting (video podcasting). Mainly because I’m big into definitions and semantics, and the formal definition of a podcast is as follows:
Podcast (noun): a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.
Hence: I struggle to consider videos, even when delivered via RSS and picked up by a podcatcher, as a podcast or some derivative thereof; in my head, they get categorised as vlogs.
There’s no denying that video can help promote your podcast, and expand it to new search engines and audiences – but there’s a strong argument for starting with audio, and simply utilising video and video-based platforms as a means of marketing and distribution (rather than having video as both the message and the messenger). What makes podcasting stand out from other streaming media is that it only requires your ears; you don’t have to be looking at your screen. It’s a way to get people’s attention, safely and effectively, while they’re driving or running or cooking or any of those day to day things that require their eyes and hands.
If you do choose to focus on video, here’s some quick tips for ensuring that your vodcast doesn’t just end up becoming a vlog; that it retains everything that makes podcasts effective, despite being grounded in a visual medium.
Start with audio
I had the most amazing time at Problogger this year, and have been enjoying listening to the recordings – but because the presentations were designed to be delivered in-person to an attentive audience, there’s the odd moment where they reference a slide or play a clip that you need to be looking at to understand their point. And while I’m all about visual aids (I was the queen of slides and clips when I was teaching film – nay, the emperor), there’s times when I just want to listen and not have to look (like when I’m working on other things and want to have the recordings on as background noise).
If you put your emphasis on creating a great listening experience that just happens to be delivered via video, you’re making your vodcast as accessible as possible to your audience. You’re giving people the option of watching if they want to watch, but not making it mandatory – which ultimately is going to make it easier for you to hold people’s attention (alongside keeping it short and to the point – which we’ll discuss further below).
Focus on story
One of the things I love about podcasting is that it really pushes people to think about their story and their message. There’s more room to hide with video – if your visuals are amazing, you can sometimes get away with a shitty, recycled narrative (the prime example being Avatar; let’s be honest, it’s just Pocahontas/Dances with Wolves/your standard “white guilt narrative” acted out by blue space cats).
And I think that’s what people expect when they download a podcast: they’re expecting a really good story. If we look at the most downloaded podcasts of all time, that’s the one thing they have in common – whether it’s a story told week by week (see what I did there?) or a different story being told in each episode, they’re all interesting, engaging and well-told.
So: if you choose to go the vodcast route, make sure your story stacks up. If you want to mash together an account of your day and all the cool places you went, play around with shots and angles, or explore something (else) that doesn’t lend itself well to linear narrative – start a vlog.
Keep it short
Because vodcasting asks more of your audience than podcasting (eyes as well as ears, and closer proximity to their devices), your ability to weave your way into your listeners’ (or in this case, viewers’) daily schedule is much more limited. You can’t be their road trip companion, or hang out with them while they’re hanging laundry or mowing the lawns.
If you look at YouTube’s daily report on its most popular videos, you’re unlikely to see anything over nine minutes on that list – shorter videos win, every time. You could argue that this is skewed by the limitations YouTube places on channels that aren’t verified (can’t upload a video longer than fifteen minutes even if you wanted to) and that content on that platform is weighted towards shorter videos anyway, but we do see this trend expand its reach to other platforms. For example: Wistia, a video hosting platform favoured by business owners reports two minutes as the “sweet spot” for engagement.
Of course, some of this will come down to your audience: over time, you’ll establish what length works best for you. But overall: when it comes to video, shorter is better.
Thinking about going from pod to vod? You can take advantage of my years teaching film at university level and general geekiness about video editing and Karly’s screeds of experience engaging online audiences through video by joining our membership – we have live calls, a Facebook group, and a library full of resources. You can check that out here.