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YouTube may be thought of as a video service, but it is where a growing number of people say they turn to hear podcasts. Edison Research’s latest Podcast Consumer Tracker shows nearly one-in-five (18%) of people it surveyed during the second quarter said YouTube is the service they most often use to listen to podcasts. That is nearly as much as Apple Podcasts, which was the pick of 21% of those surveyed, and Spotify, which Edison says now tops Apple with nearly a quarter (24%) of people selecting it as their most-used app. That was a reversal from a year ago when Apple Podcasts was picked by one-in-four people while Spotify was mentioned by 15%.

“It did not change because Apple was declining, it changed a lot because all of these other platforms are growing the space,” said Edison Senior VP Tom Webster. He said during a presentation at Podcast Movement on Wednesday that how people listen also impacts what they listen to. “The top 20 podcasts by people who say YouTube is their favorite way to consume podcasts looks very different than the top 20 that say Apple is how they like to listen to podcasts,” he told the Nashville conference.

Edison conducted a study of people who primarily listen to podcasts on YouTube as part of its research work for NPR. One of the questions it asked is where did they go first to try to find a podcast they have heard about. Half (50%) said YouTube, followed by Google at 30%. Only a small number said they would hunt on a podcast app directly – Edison said 4% said Spotify and 2% picked Apple Podcasts.

“Am I telling you that your podcast needs to be on YouTube? I kind of am, because it is the universal content search engine,” said Webster. “You can probably find it on YouTube if I tell you to look for it – if your podcast is there. That’s part of being easy to find.”

The study also probed people for why they most often turned to YouTube for podcasts. The biggest response – mentioned by 41% of people surveyed – was that they were already using the video service to consume other media. The data also shows 39% said it was a place they can listen to podcasts for free, while 35% said they prefer to consume podcasts that have a video component. In fact, three-quarters said watching video along with the audio improved the experience of listening to a podcast. And nearly seven in ten said it was easier to listen to shows on YouTube, and the same number said they wished more podcasts were there. 

Webster said he is also bullish on Facebook incorporating podcasts. Even though the social network may not have the reach it once did, especially with younger demos, he points out Edison and Triton Digital’s Infinite Dial study showed lot of people still use Facebook. 

“Yes, it is waning. But you know who uses Facebook a lot? People who haven’t listened to a podcast yet,” said Webster. “Sixty percent of people who have yet to listen to a podcast say Facebook is the service they use the most. They are gathered there waiting to hear your stuff and Facebook is going to make that more possible.”

Focusing On ‘Recommendability’

Podcasters looking to jumpstart downloads are often told to do things like strike up cross-promotional alliances with other podcasts, to book guests with large social media followings, or to buy ads on Facebook or apps where people listen to shows. Webster said while those tactics all address certain angles of podcast discovery, such advice misses the reality that friends and family recommendations are the biggest way people discover podcasts. 

Edison’s Podcast Consumer Tracker data shows 23% said they most often use friends and family to discover new shows. That is the same number who say they search the internet. And Edison says 15% of people in their survey said they rely on social media posts.

“Podcasting has always been a word of mouth medium. Yes people find things through ads, cross promotion, SEO and blogging, but what makes a hit in this country in any medium are recommendations,” said Webster. 

Webster also said that while many podcasters focus on how to grow their downloads, he thinks a better question to ask is what causes a show to plateau. He suggested a listener survey can offer insights. Edison in June released a templatethat it said could be used by producers who want to craft their own survey based on its experience producing the annual Infinite Dial reports. The results should offer insights into why listeners may have stopped recommending the podcast to people they know.