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Why Watch A Podcast? New Study Suggests It’s All About The Listening Context.

If a podcast has a video feed, is it a podcast? While the industry debates the issue, consumers are having little trouble distinguishing what a podcast is according to a new study released by Sounds Profitable and Signal Hill Insights. With podcast in the show’s name, and people talking into visible microphones, it turns out that that is not all that difficult to figure out.

“The audience is a lot smarter than we ever give them credit for,” said Sounds Profitable’s Tom Webster. The biggest question is what motivates podcast listeners to make the leap from audio to video. To find out, the two firms conducted an online survey of 1,155 podcast listeners aged 18 and older who had consumed at least one video podcast in the past 30 days.

The overwhelming answer from two-thirds of those surveyed was that they like to see the hosts and guests. And 28% said they prefer video to audio. YouTube is the preferred video app to watch a podcast by six in ten people, a quarter said that is because it is the app where they consume most of their video content. And nearly as many said that is where they discover shows.

“They choose Audio either when they're on the go, or when they have to have their eyes available for something else. But they make the choice, they go back and forth. And having both available lets them consume their favorite shows in either context,” Webster said. “For those who like to watch a podcast, seeing it helps to improve engagement, they feel more connected to the hosts that they can see, and it helps some people follow along with the conversations a little bit better,” he said on a webinar Wednesday detailing the findings.

Yet even as YouTube offers some benefits, including ease and engagement, the survey finds podcast listeners are turned-off by the standard ad inserts on the app. Four in ten say they are annoying, disruptive and too frequent. It’s the reason 61% say they subscribe to YouTube Premium.

Webster said it is a different story when it comes to host-read ads baked into a video as 87% said they like or don’t mind them. Only 6% say that they dislike them.

“Overwhelmingly, these video podcasts consumers are telling us that the ads in podcasts are better, and that they are significantly less annoying and disruptive than what they're consuming on YouTube,” he said.

The study shows the median amount of time video podcast viewers spend watch a show each month clocks in at 47.3 minutes. But as video podcast consumption is growing, six in ten people surveyed said they had opted to listen to a podcast that they also have watched, which Webster said shows video consumers also are not monolithic in their platform usage for podcasts. Instead, he says podcast consumers choose video in locations and contexts where they can lean forward, not lean back.

The result is nearly two-thirds (63%) of podcast watchers said they had viewed a video in a private space at home compared to 27% who watched an episode while working, or 10% who watched while on public transportation.

“When people choose to watch video, it's because they can pay attention to it,” Webster said. “These same video podcast consumers who are also audio podcast consumers will switch to audio when they're otherwise occupied, or their need they need their eyeballs or something else.”

The survey shows nearly half (46%) of those surveyed said they listened to an audio podcast in a vehicle in the past 30 days. And 21% said is the car is the location where they most often listen to audio podcasts. Eight in ten said the reason they switch to audio listening option rather than video is because their eyes are busy doing something else, like driving, running or bicycling.

“Certainly, context is a big part of it,” Webster said. “Again, they're choosing both.”

Looking In On The Conversation

The report also detailed which podcasts most people claim they listening to, which while not as accurate as actual download data, gives some indication of what shows are on top. When it comes to video viewing, one in five (19%) of people surveyed who watch video podcasts said The Joe Rogan Experience is their favorite. And when asked if they had watched Rogan’s video feed, nearly half (47%) of those surveyed said they had. Two-thirds said they watch the podcast at least once a week.

But since Rogan’s typically runs more than two hours, only one in ten people said they always watch the entire show. And one in five said they do less than half the time, which helps explain why nearly a third of those surveyed admit they only watch clips of Rogan’s podcast.

Rogan’s success may have a lot to do with the sorts of content that people would rather watch. Podcast viewers said the shows they would most prefer to watch are chat shows, with 42% saying they prefer to watch a podcast that features conversations. And 39% prefer to watch a podcast that features interviews. On the other end of the spectrum, podcast fans have much less of an expectation that they will watch scripted shows as just 5% said they would prefer to watch a fiction podcast and 8% said the same about audio dramas.

“If you are a fiction or a scripted content producer, wondering what you do on video, maybe people don't expect to see it. But if you are producing any kind of conversational or interview show there is an expectation that people have to see that,” Webster said. “And if you're producing a video of any kind for a conversation show, and you're not also sending it to audio, you're also leaving audience on the table.”

Download the Sound You Can See: Podcasting’s Video Dilemma study HERE. It was produced with support of several podcast companies, including Audiohook, Barometer, CoHost, ESPN Podcasts, Libsyn, NPR, Paramount, PRX, and SiriusXM Podcast Network, as well as the advertiser BetterHelp.

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