We set out to test whether or not publishing a podcast on YouTube was a good growth technique. The results left us with mixed feels. But the results were all about perspective.

A bit of backstory…

We are often asked by podcasters if they should publish their episodes on YouTube. Their desire is to grow a podcast audience and expand reach.

At first blush, the strategy of publishing an exclusively audio podcast on YouTube doesn’t make sense: YouTube is for video, not strict audio content. And many podcasting puritans rail against the practice on these grounds.

But just because a distribution channel isn’t a perfect fit, does it mean you shouldn’t repurpose your content? You worked hard on that content, after all.

And if people are willing to consume it in the “wrong” place, do you care?

Maybe we shouldn’t tell audiences and potential audiences where they can enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Once we get past the questions about distribution, we’re left asking if the effort will pay off. Publishing a podcast on YouTube will take some effort. The effort can be minimal to a lot, depending on how you do it.

The Publishing a Podcast on YouTube Test

I’m not just a podcasting coach and marketing consultant; I’m a podcaster too. And my urban survival podcast has a sizeable catalog at 213 episodes, at the time this article will publish. This made it a great candidate for our test.

In The Rabbit Hole also had a six-year-old YouTube channel with approximately 198 subscribers. The channel was comprised of a single two-minute video.

It is an awful video to boot. So, presumably, the only reason for the 198 subscribers was the direct link on the show’s website and link in the weekly newsletter.

The Process of Publishing a Podcast to YouTube

We needed to turn audio into video for our publishing a podcast on YouTube experiment. One option was to flip on the publish to YouTube link in our Libsyn feed. However, we felt we should put a little effort into this. This is a seven-year-old established niche brand that deserved better than a haphazard careless approach.

Instead, we settled on creating a video image template. It included a branded background, space for a picture of the guest or custom episode art, episode title, guest name, and host(s) name(s).

YouTube Podcast Image

This image is mostly still throughout the video except for subtle effects. We felt it was important to make each video visually separate from the others, but did not invest in a large thumbnail optimization effort.

The physical process of making these videos was simple: We married our exported images with their corresponding MP3 file from the podcast in iMovie. Then we set them all to export to file.

The new video versions of the episodes were then loaded into YouTube and scheduled for a release of two a day, five days a week, Monday through Friday. The release schedule will remain at this pace till the YouTube channel and audio podcast are in sync with one another.

Results and Analysis from the Test

After a 90 day test, the project has generated a 63.7% increase in YouTube subscribers. That may seem like a lot. But it means the channel went from 198 subscribers to 311 subscribers in 90 days.

We’re not breaking any records, in other words. And it’s barely a drop in the bucket when compared to the podcast’s steady 45,000 – 50,000 a month downloads.

Impact on Podcast Downloads 

No discernible impact to the podcast occurred as a result of the YouTube test. There has also been no inbound traffic from YouTube to the Podcast’s website.

Each episode loaded on YouTube included a direct link to the episode on In The Rabbit Hole’s website. Included with this link was a Call to Action in the description: “Get Resources from this Episode Here Now.”

When we reviewed our Google Analytics for the period, there was no inbound traffic. Nothing. Nadda. Zilch. Zip. (Sad face.)

What about the podcast’s download numbers?

We ran into an unexpected problem: The trouble with using an established podcast with larger numbers is that it makes tracking small increases difficult. Individual episode downloads can fluctuate as much as 500 downloads in a week.

So the impact of the YouTube strategy would need to produce a lift of more than 500 weekly downloads to be noticed. And, sadly, this did not occur. (Another sad face.)

But, again, does it matter that the podcast itself doesn’t see an increase? Do we call this a failure if we develop a totally separate audience on a separate channel? And ultimately…

Is YouTube a Viable Growth Technique for Podcasts?

Probably not. But you should do it because…

We’re back to defining what success looks like.

If the goal is to grow an audience, and we consider our audience the sum of all channels and mediums, then this strategy succeeded. We didn’t grow the podcast itself, but we did grow the YouTube channel by nearly 64%.

And the rate of growth is speeding up. When the project first started, YouTube subscriber numbers went up at a rate of one a week. Then three a week. Then one a day. And, currently, the rate of growing is two a day.

Think of it this way: It’s sort of like TV shows. (This isn’t a perfect analog, but we’ll roll with it.)

A TV show’s audience is no longer exclusive to TVs. We now consume them on a variety of devices: TVs, smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and game consoles. The audience for the TVshow is the total sum, not the device or medium.

And a lot of people are consuming music through YouTube. Most of the time, people aren’t even watching the videos, they’re only listening. I’ve been shocked at the number of friends who build extensive music playlists for themselves on YouTube to listen to the music.

It seems wrong to me. But who am I to judge. I’m publishing a podcast on Youtube.

Ask yourself this question, Podcaster: Are you building a medium or are you building an audience?

Managing Expectations Once You Start Publishing your Podcast on YouTube

If you’ve got a new show with smaller download numbers, you may experience big results. This is all about what your experience is and expectations. In other words, it’s relative.

If you’ve got a big show, the results won’t blow your hair back. But if you’re looking for new ways to grow the audience, and let go of how they consume your show, then it will work with some patience.

But what about it just being wrong?

Don’t be so judgemental. Just because your podcast was born in an audio-only format on the medium of podcasting doesn’t mean it needs to stay there forever.

Let the listener worry about where they’re going to listen, and you stick to worrying about growing your audience.