In YouTube’s 2022 Priorities letter, CEO Susan Wojcicki cited podcasting (just before NFTs) as an additional source of revenue for Creators. Podcasts already exist on the site as videos, but this is the latest mention that strongly implies that YouTube is going to provide a more dedicated experience. What form could YouTube Podcasts take and does that sound like something you’d use?

Laying the groundwork

Besides Wojcicki’s latest comments, YouTube in October hired a “Podcast Lead” charged with “organizing and managing the millions of podcasts that already exist on the site.”

Podcasts on YouTube today take the form of either a live view of people recording or just audio with some artwork and other graphics on the screen. The former can be coupled with a livestream, while the latter is almost a no-brainer step as part of distributing your show to multiple feeds.

Besides “expand[ing] the reach of their distribution,” the YouTube CEO also said podcasts could “enable creators to monetize.” 

As podcast usage continues to grow, we expect it to be an integral part of the creator economy.

Susan Wojcicki

How about Google Podcasts?

With YouTube’s interest in the area quite explicit, the future of Google Podcasts is thrown into question – Google Podcasts is good in part because it’s so focused and simple. Behind-the-scenes, it’s very closely aligned with Search and in fact built-in to the Google app on Android. This leads to wide, default-like availability, though you have to install an “app” to get a homescreen icon. 

That closeness was intentional and born out of Google in 2018 viewing audio as another way (next to text and video) to answer people’s questions. The company would index audio and return them as part of people’s Search results; that lofty vision hasn’t fully manifested yet, but that still leaves a great little podcasts app. 

Google could of course maintain two applications. In fact, Google Podcasts should very much exist as the more traditional offering, while a hypothetical “YouTube Podcasts” would be more in-tune with what I consider the YouTube generation’s approach to media consumption.

Take YouTube Music for example. Google Play Music users like to criticize it for a lack of “basic” features. However, I’ve come to the conclusion after several years of usage that YouTube Music is primarily meant for a generation (Z and later Millennials) that spent their youth listening to songs uploaded as videos, discovery via “Up Next” auto-play, and directly searching for songs rather than listening to an album all the way through. This approach — and app development shaped around that — might drive more legacy listeners wild, but it more or less works for the intended audience.

What podcasts in YouTube could look like 

YouTube could go one of two routes. It could add a slew of features to optimize the experience of listening to podcasts in YouTube. For example, Creators could label uploads as podcasts, while Channels and search could get a dedicated tab/filter. There could also be a new chip for podcasts in the Subscriptions tab or a more dedicated way of seeing what’s new from your favorite shows.

YouTube might have already started down this path with the addition of Listening controls that I originally thought was for music, but makes much more sense for podcasts. Complete with 10-second rewind/forward, YouTube could make it so that this UI automatically launches upon starting a podcast.

The alternative is creating a brand new experience akin to YouTube Music – there could be a separate “YouTube Podcasts” app that’s modeled after a traditional podcast client. The advantage here would be that you get a dedicated, focused app for listening to shows. That said, it would lose the audience that already voraciously consumes the main YouTube app.

The Google company might very well decide to merge this experience into YouTube Music in a repeat of Google Play Music adding podcasts. I’d personally hate (as Spotify users will also tell you) that for cluttering YouTube Music, so this is my least preferred route. 

Where do you want to listen to podcasts?

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About the Author

Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com