You’ve probably heard all the reasons your podcast should be on YouTube: it’s got an audience of several bajillion people; it’s the biggest platform for podcast listening; it’s got Google-level SEO; it’s swimming in ad dollars.
As we’ve said before, if you’re not already working toward getting your podcast up on YouTube, you should be. If you’re already there, great. But what about your old episodes?
If you’ve been making a podcast for more than a year, you’ve got a nice library of content. And unless your show is tied to current events, your archive is probably just as interesting to a new listener as your new stuff.
“Your back catalog is valuable,” says Eric Sandler, the Director of Audience Development at Pushkin Industries. “You should certainly not ignore it just because it's ‘old.’”
But if getting started making video versions of your podcast is hard, making video versions of episodes you recorded as audio-only is…impossible. Right?
Wrong! Well, actually it’s true. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put your dusty old podcast archive on YouTube. You can, and it’s not that difficult. Here’s how.
“Your back catalog is valuable. You should certainly not ignore it just because it's ‘old.’”
Eric recently came up against these same questions. Pushkin Industries is an audio production company, co-founded by Jacob Weisberg and Malcolm Gladwell, that’s been pumping out podcasts since 2018. Their shows cover history, current affairs, true crime, business, culture and more. They’re popular and get tons of downloads, but as of a few months ago, none of them could be regularly consumed on YouTube.
Not anymore. Now Pushkin’s YouTube channel is packed with almost 20 shows — including all their past episodes. The channel has more than 4,500 subscribers, and they’re listening. This episode of Revisionist History with Malcom Gladwell has had 10,000 views in 26 days.
Yes, we just used views to describe how many people are listening. That’s because Pushkin isn’t giving them anything to watch — its video podcasts don’t contain video. But they’re doing the trick, getting people to consume the content, showing up in search results, ringing up ad impressions.
Pushkin’s approach to its back catalog — which it’s now applying to its new podcasts as well — is worth emulating. So we talked to Eric about how they did it, and what results they’ve seen.
A massive new audience
The biggest reason people want to share videos on YouTube is because of discoverability. YouTube opens you up to a massive new audience, most of whom aren’t regularly listening to podcasts. As Kevin says: “Sharing on a new platform will always be a net positive.”
Pushkin posted Rick Rubin's interview of André 3000 from Outkast months after it was already in the podcast feed. As of today, YouTube has brought this episode alone more than 1.5 million additional streams. The content is evergreen, so it doesn’t matter when it was recorded, and a majority of those viewers are probably not engaging in Pushkin content anywhere else.
But the new audience isn’t just people who hang out on YouTube — it’s everybody. Videos are at the top of almost every search result these days, so just posting to YouTube boosts your show’s search rankings immediately. You’re only making it easier for people to find — and find out about — you.
There’s also a defensive reason. “If you're not doing it, someone else will just bootleg it and put it on the platform,” Eric says. “You have to own your IP across platforms.” Why let some random stranger get all the views — and ad money — for your hard work? Hold tight to your content and your brand.
It’s also worth mentioning that YouTube’s closed-captioned format provides a huge boost for accessibility. It’s an easy way to ensure your content is available to everyone, regardless of ability.
Audiograms: an easy answer
So even if you’re a true audiophile, making a podcast that’s all about the aural experience, you could still benefit from the exposure and SEO boost that YouTube provides.
In that case, consider Pushkin’s approach. A few months ago the Pushkin team dropped a bunch of their shows, including their considerable archives, on YouTube. There’s little video on the Pushkin channel; instead, most of the shows are represented by still images, featuring dynamic text and some waveforms — basically, audiograms — that hold down the visuals while the shows’ audio plays.
It was important to Eric and the team at Pushkin to have dynamic text — i.e., captions hard-coded into the video, so you don’t have to turn on YouTube’s closed captions to see them — which meant transcriptions had to be accurate. They used Descript’s whiteglove transcription, which is human-generated, and costs extra. If you, like Pushkin, use Descript to make your podcasts, you can also do manual transcript correction pretty easily.
From there, have fun picking colors, fonts, and images. Let them be representative of your brand and your voice, but don’t make it too complicated. The simpler it is, the easier it will be to scale. Photos of people tend to work well on YouTube, in our team’s experience, but as you can see on Pushkin’s channel, logos and cover art can get the job done too.
The amount of work involved should also be a factor in choosing your visuals. “Be honest about your capacity for production,” Kevin says. The less time you have, the simpler format you should go with; you’re treating YouTube as a listening platform, so treat your visuals as thumbnails aimed at attracting listeners.
So what do I do with this backlog?
Once you’ve established a video format, it’s time to give your old audio episodes the new video treatment. You could do this all at once, say, over a long weekend, or by paying someone on Fiverr. Or you could do this strategically, by converting and sharing specific archive episodes when they’re most relevant — say, if hockey season is starting and you’ve got an old show about the history of the Zamboni. It all comes down to your bandwidth and your goals for the show.
Whatever your approach, figure out a cadence for posting, like a new episode goes up every Monday and an archived episode is posted on Thursdays. As Eric says, if you’re looking to build an audience, “what really matters is consistency.”
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