Guest Editor Katie Davis re: To Podcast or To Video?

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Dear Editor…

I’m thinking of including either podcasts or videos on my blog. Is one better for an author blog than the other?

Michael

Dear Michael…

The Editor asked me to answer your question because I create videos for my site on a regular basis and produce a podcast called Brain Burps About Books.

You ask which is better, videos or podcasts. But “better” could mean anything! Would one be better for your time input than the other? Better for SEO (Search Engine Optimization)? Better for your readers? And what kinds of video would be better? What kinds of podcasts? I’ll try to cover it all here and hope you didn’t mean just “better for my Aunt Sadie’s enjoyment!”

One thing before we begin: while podcasts can be audio or video, most people think of them as audio. For this discussion, I’ll be referring to audio podcasts.

Podcasts

The Black Hole Time Suck Info: Depending on whether you’re interviewing someone or just sharing information, your level of experience, and how long your episodes will be, a podcast can take anywhere from 60 minutes to more than four hours to produce, starting with interviewee correspondence to writing show notes and the accompanying blog post to recording the thing, editing, tagging, uploading, and promoting it.

Cost: It varies greatly, but if you plan on creating a lot of episodes, you’ll need to pay for a server, as audio files are approximately 1.5mg per minute. I use Liberated Syndication and find them very helpful and supportive whenever I have a problem.

Benefits:

  1. Podcasting is a great way to help people by sharing your expertise, they’re terrific passive marketing, and they entertain.
  2. Podcasts are portable, which means people can listen to them while they do other things. (Listeners can subscribe to podcasts via iTunes or download an app that will load the podcast automatically into their mp3 players.)
  3. There are many outlets for podcasts, so you can attract a global audience very quickly.
  4. Podcasts are easier to record and edit than videos.
  5. You can tag podcasts for SEO, just like videos.
  6. Podcasts add regular content to your site, which you want because it affects your ranking.
  7. One of my personal fave perks because I interview a lot of authors and illustrators: I receive books for free!
  8. And the best part: it’s fun!

Negatives:

  1. The word “podcast” confuses many consumers. They’re unsure of what one is and when, where, and how they can hear it, so they run from them. I usually describe “podcast” simply as a “homemade radio show accessed via the internet.”
  2. The internet is a visual medium; podcasts don’t really take advantage of that as well as videos.
  3. It’s hard to listen to a lengthy show that has really terrible audio quality, so you need good audio equipment if you want people to subscribe. Though sites such as BlogTalkRadio seem to be quite popular (I assume because they’re free), I personally have a difficult time listening to them because of the tin-cans-connected-by-a-string sound.

Suggestion: You could do 15-minute jobbers and not include a blog along with it. Design podcasts to work for you, your readers, and your purposes.

Videos

The Black Hole Time Suck Info: Videos can take an enormous amount of time if you want to produce a quality product. Obviously, there are many low quality videos out there that have gone viral, so I may know absolutely nothing! Still, the virals have something in common: mass interest for one reason or another. Therefore, you will want to consider your subject matter and what you want to put out there (see suggestions, below).

Benefits:

  1. You don’t have to commit to creating them regularly the way you do with podcasts. Though if you start creating helpful weekly videos, your visitor numbers will start growing, as people will begin to expect them. A podcast is, by definition, a series. People don’t think of videos as a series so you can do one-off videos. (You can certainly provide a video series, such as my video F.A.Q.s which I recently started hosting on my FAQ page as well as my Youtube channel.)
  2. Most people, by this time, know how to watch a video on a computer.
  3. Again, the web is a visual medium, so video is a natural way to show things like your writing process, who you are, where you live, etc., which many fans love to see.
  4. Properly tagged, videos are great for SEO. I suggest reading this or listening to this podcast with Darcy Pattison, author of The Book Trailer Manual.
  5. The longer a visitor stays on your site, the better (search spiders love longer stays), so watching a mesmerizing video increases the chance he or she will stay.
  6. You will get a lot of new readers through Youtube (because you’ll post your videos on your personal Youtube channel which will lead back to your site).

Negatives:

  1. You need video equipment. Luckily, equipment is much more available these days, what with cell phone HD video capabilities, iSight, etc.
  2. A video podcast is less portable, so your audience must find the time to sit and watch it.
  3. Talking heads are boring. Set your Bore Alert on high!
  4. One can easily be tempted to make long videos, which will then fall into the I-Have-No-Time-To-Watch-This category and then production time is wasted.

Suggestions: There are many ways an author can include videos on his or her site: book trailers, animotos, interviews, Skype visits with kids or teachers, informational videos, funny videos parodying books…the list could go on for many virtual pages. The one thing I advise, no matter the subject, is that you make the video short. Personally, I think three minutes at the extreme outside is the way to go, although there are those who think a five-minute video, if it’s instructional, hits the sweet spot. Make sure you create a Youtube channel, which will bring in more people from a completely different venue.

I’ve given you two sides of the story because you asked as though there were two sides to this decision. Michael, my question to you is, why chose one over the other? There is a reason the phrase “content is king” is ubiquitous. The more you put on your site or blog, the better you will be serving your readers and fans, and the more people will be coming to see what you’re offering. I do both, and so can you! And by the way, everyone who sees your videos probably won’t also be listening to your podcasts and reading your blog, so you’ll be covering different groups, potentially.

Suggested Reading: Blog post: Are YouTube Videos and Podcasting Worth the Effort?

Good luck, and I hope this helped!

Katie Davis

Katie Davis is the author/illustrator of nine books for children and is the producer of “Brain Burps About Books,” the #1 kidlit podcast in the iTunes store under Children’s Publishing. She also appears monthly on the ABC affiliate show “Good Morning Connecticut,” recommending great books for kids. Visit Katie’s website to get more tips and to sign up for her monthly newsletter filled with great information and chances to win stuff.

5 Comments

  1. This is a great post and very timely since I’m getting ready to publish my book, Guardian Cats. I’ve been listening to you podcasts since reading this post. Thanks for the great information and links!

    • Congratulations on the publication of “Guardian Cats,” Rahma! It sounds great. I was just perusing your website (www.guardiancats.com) and spotted the trailer for “Meowmorphosis” on your blog. Wow. Now that’s a trailer.

  2. Good comments. I think we all need to be open to anything and everything that might help sell our books. Podcasts and videos are part of that, so thanks for the advice, Katie. Appreciated. Further idea…if you have a programming friend, why not an App for the iPad or iPod? That’s my dream.

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