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Neil Mody is CEO and Co-Founder of Headliner — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability
JC: Although you launched Eddy, an editing and promotion tool, earlier this year, your company Headliner has been focused on video, especially YouTube and getting your podcast on that platform. We use it for the Podnews Weekly Review every single week. Now, things are hotting up in terms of getting podcasts onto YouTube, and you’ve been involved for a long time.
NM: Yeah, we’ve got a front row seat!
JC: What do you think about the way that YouTube has, all of a sudden, jumped into podcasting?
NM: I would argue it hasn’t been “all of a sudden”; it’s been over the past few years. The big question was, first, are they going to stick around, rather than the about-face we had from Facebook a few years ago.
I think given the time they’ve worked on it, and what they’ve put out, we’re seeing a lot of positive signals now. YouTube’s a massive machine, and podcasting is only one part of it. But it does look like they’re fairly committed to it. They bring a lot to the table. YouTube is at least 2 billion people a month. Spotify is, perhaps, 500 or 600 million.
YouTube dwarfs everybody else. They’re the number two search engine, and they’re the leader in video podcasting. There is not even a close second. I mean, I know Spotify is trying to do something there now, but Apple’s never really done anything in video podcasting. I know you can publish video to it, but I can’t remember the last time someone showed me a video podcast on an Apple product. And YouTube has got the recommendation engine; it’s much better than most podcasting consumption platforms that I use. And they’ve got transcription - they’ve got all the pieces to the puzzle. The question is, are they going to steer the ship towards podcasting enough to win it? Because if they wanted to win it, they could.
NM: I think what they want to get to is video podcasts in general. They are winning it already, but I think that’s what the systems are really built to do. And then the audio-first stuff: they’re setting themselves up for where all this stuff might be going, which is chapter art. That’s a meaningful improvement over anyone who just doesn’t want to do video - and there’s all the back catalog stuff you need some solution for. I think that they’ve actually got some decent pieces of the puzzle.
At Headliner, we publish between two thousand and three thousand videos a day to YouTube. We publish about 10,000+ videos a day, and 20-30% of those are to YouTube.
JC: I wonder whether if YouTube was to win, whether this that would be good news for the overall podcast industry.
NM: It’s a good question. Would competition make it better for creators? I think it would make it better in some ways and worse than others, like we have in the fragmentation in the podcast market. On the consumer side, people are very comfortable on YouTube. On the creator side, obviously people are unhappy with Spotify, people are unhappy with YouTube, they’re not happy with anyone kind of controlling a large portion of the market. But that comes with some advantages as well.
Given the open nature of RSS and where we are right now, I don’t know if it’s a winner take all anyways: it’ll just be who can carve out 50% of the market or something at this point. Will they take about a fifth or two-thirds of the market? I think that’s a pretty good chance just from international exposure.
I went to India last year, and I was amazed how much consumption was YouTube and WhatsApp focused compared to here in the States.
JC: Particularly since Apple don’t seem to be interested in getting involved with with Android, you can well see that this is a real opportunity for Google here.
NM: I think you’re going to see anyone who is in music will need to have podcasting as well. I think podcasting is here to stay. And part of their calculations is them making small bets and maybe a larger one at some point. Obviously, this RSS ingestion tool was one of the bets, but, how far they go with that and what that means for companies like us and so on, I think is the question.
Ultimately, if you’re a podcaster right now, getting your stuff up to YouTube is still a bit of a hassle, even though we as a company have tried to make that really easy.
JC: There’s some research which says that people find shows on YouTube, even if they then go and listen to them on their favourite podcast app.
NM: I think 70% of the videos consumed on YouTube are through the recommendation algorithm.
NM: Mind boggling. If podcasts could just get a slice of that, they would be the biggest podcast consumption platform out there.
JC: I’m glad that you mentioned that, because I was going to finally ask you a little bit about algorithms. I was listening to Bandrew Scott’s podcast a while back, and he was talking about YouTube’s algorithm not being very good for podcasts. We’re told by other people that ‘fake video’, or relatively static video, is supposed to be bad for the algorithm. Is that true or is that just random guesswork?
NM: I think we’re all randomly guessing, but there’s some merit to it - if you haven’t classified your stuff. My take is that if you haven’t followed the steps of classifying this stuff into podcasts like YouTube Studio offers, I do think that there’s something to be said for that. I don’t know for sure. I think this is all a lot of guesswork. I think people make a business out of being pontificators on SEO - not to say that they’re wrong, I just don’t have any data saying one way or the other. I do think that they’re going to slowly start solving that for audio anyway. That’s part of being there for podcasting.
JC: Thank you so much for your for your time, Neil. I appreciate it.
NM: Thank you so much, James, and great to hear you’re still using us. I know you’re a tinkerer, so I had assumed you were using your own solution to post to YouTube, but it’s great that you’re using using us for it, and I hope it’s doing a good job for you.
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