In the latest episode of our new online weekly debate series we looked at the big business topic of the moment - podcasts or video?
A first-of-its-kind in the UAE, Crossfire explores a range of contrasting views on some of the region’s key issues, tapping into some of the everyday conversations generating heated debates across the region’s offices and social platforms
A weekly show from ABTV, the online television arm of Arabian Business, the format features two speakers with opposing views on a key topic, with the debate running for around 20 minutes. The discussion is moderated by ABTV’s Shruthi Nair, followed by an interactive Q&A session with a live in-studio audience.
On the fourth episode of the series, Hussam El Hage, host of the podcast Let’s Take It Online, and Karen Osman, author of The Perfect Lie and presenter of the video series Karen’s Bookshelf debate on why they think their respective medium works better globally and in the region.
Despite the fact that podcasts have been around longer than YouTube, there are only 700,000 active podcasts today and almost 25 million active YouTube channels. Moreover, according to Cisco Visual Networking Index, video traffic will constitute 82 percent of all internet traffic by 2022.
“I think one of the main reasons videos work so much better is that there is more of a human connection. So, instead of just once sense with a podcast, you’re actually having two. I think the visual sense is one of the most important if you consider 65 percent of the population are visual learners, so I do think that added sort of connection is very important”, said Osman.
However, despite the prevalence of videos in the social media/digital ecosystem today, podcasts have seen a sudden surge in the last few years.
“I think the question about podcasts is a question about audio. If you look at history, there is a cycle. You had the rise of radio, and the decline of radio. The rise of TV, and now you are going to bring back audio. You have Alexa, Google Home, audio is coming back,” said El Hage.
He added: “You’re having a huge consumption of audio, and you can see that across Apple podcasts and audio books. E-Books are declining by 4 percent, and audio books increased by almost 40 percent.”
With the advent of social media and other apps like Vine, TikTok etc. videos have not only become more popular but have also played a huge role in shaping consumption and behaviour patterns. From well-produced three-hour long videos watched on the silver screen, the most popular videos on the internet today are smartphone videos of cute kittens.
Is this an evolution or de-evolution with regards to the quality of content produced and consumed?
“We all care about quality. If you look at today’s world, you get a lot more engagement and views on a video that’s recorded from a selfie kind of screen and not from a professional camera. We are moving to an age of authenticity especially now with Gen Z coming in,” said El Hage.
According to ComScore, the average length of a YouTube video is four minutes and the average length of a podcast is 43 minutes. Also, it is a long-held assumption that podcast audiences are much more sophisticated and advanced in their careers compared to video audiences.
“Markettiers released their report, which said that people who listen to podcasts are 25 percent more likely to spend money on travel, entertainment, food, health, luxury. It’s about the content for the podcast, especially long form, there is so much value there, and so much knowledge. So, the person who most likely consumes knowledge is probably more likely to spend in those categories,” explained El Hage.
Does that mean the purchasing power of a podcast listener is higher than that of an average video viewer? Osman disagrees. “I think video for products and services can offer so many more facets of those products and services. If you look at Pinterest, for example, it’s over two and a half times more purchasing power if they see a video of the particular brand.
"Studies also show, for businesses, if they do video, they’re going to get higher sales, more brand awareness. I think in terms of sales, it’s actually quite high - over 80 percent increased sales if you have a video,” she said.
But it must be noted that among the 1.8 billion monthly YouTube viewers, a huge chunk of them are subscribed to the bigger mainstream channels of PewDiePie or Justin Biebers. Also, given the sheer number of channels, the competition is extremely high too. Hence, it could be argued that despite more subscribers for videos, small businesses and channels may not be able to keep up with the competition posed by the bigger commercial channels and get lost in the huge pool.
“I think it comes down to two things: what are your objectives? So for example if a business is wanting to maybe showcase the managing director as a thought leader in the region, then maybe a podcast might be a more appropriate route. But if it’s really heavily promoting their product or their service, then maybe a video might be appropriate,” said Osman.
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