2022’s big news in podcasting was video. YouTube added a podcasting wing to its empire. Soon after, a Cumulus Media and Signal Hill Insights report showed that 28% of respondents preferred to watch their podcasts instead of choosing audio-only. The current emphasis on videos in podcasting appears to favour a style that’s two mics, two bros, and one opinion. But, podcasters outside that niche need different strategies to make an impact. This article looks at how and why video increases the gender divide in podcasting. We look specifically at the hurdles facing female podcasters, why they exist, and how female podcasters might circumvent these obstacles.
What are The Video Hurdles for Women podcasters?
There’s no question that people along the gender spectrum face problems with video-only podcasting. LGBTQ+ people face more online discrimination than others. In the interest of keeping this article shorter than a book, this article will focus specifically on challenges affecting cisgender women podcasters.
Video Screens, Body Dysmorphia, and Instagram Face
Even if you’ve mastered digital photography and lighting for video podcasts, negative feelings can still distract you from making good content. Impostor syndrome can stop you when you’re working solely with audio. Add lights, cameras, and action, and the impostor syndrome grows exponentially.
It’s always been the case that seeing one’s own face on a screen for too long can distort your self-perception. But, the rise of visual media has resulted in a tyranny of the camera. People feel the need to make their faces in real life appear the way digitally rendered faces appear on the screen. As celebrity makeup artist Colby Smith told the New Yorker, “The world is so visual right now, and it’s only getting more visual, and people want to upgrade the way they relate to it.”
We see this pressure to have “Instagram Face” from the rise in invasive cosmetic surgery procedures. Particularly since the rise of videoconferencing with the pandemic, demand for cosmetic surgery procedures has grown. Pandemic isolation has exacerbated body dysmorphia for many people. Women have a lot to fear from this mindset. A 2017 Pew research study showed that 35% of Americans surveyed said that a woman’s most valuable attribute is attractiveness. Recently, a member of our PodCraft community told us she’d lost her enthusiasm for podcasting because of the emphasis on video.
Women, Digital Content and Online Harassment
In addition to body image issues, women also face much more harassment online than men. A 2021 Pew research study about online harassment found:
- women are three times as likely as men to face sexual harassment online
- sexual harassment of women had doubled in the previous three years
- the rate of sexual harassment of men remained nearly the same
- Women targeted by online harassment reported it as more upsetting than their male counterparts reported.
YouTube has proven a particularly dangerous space for women. Not only is it a hub for all kinds of information, but also it’s a gateway for incel forums. Misogynist, anti-semitic and anti-lgbtq+ groups use YouTube as bait to hook unhappy young men, radicalize them and incite them to commit violence. The Center for Countering Digital Hate reports, “Poorly-moderated social media gives bad actors a platform to drag others into a rabbit hole of despair – which often can end in deadly real-world consequences.” Imran Ahmed, founder and CEO of CCDH, told The Washington Post, “YouTube is a key part of incel education.” In interviews with the Washington Post, women who make content on YouTube spoke out about how the platform benefits.
In 2022, the final year of YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s tenure, YouTube generated $29.2 billion in ad sales. Not Andrew Tate‘s videos, but videos by other creators reacting to or re-sharing clips from Tate’s videos generated over £3 m in annual ad revenue. YouTube is proud of its hate speech policy, and their efforts to protect kids. But there’s an awful lot of money in misogyny.
After all that, why would anyone want to take her current podcast workflow and add cameras, lighting, and online harassment training? The gender divide in podcasting is narrowing, but online harassment and dependency on one specific video platform wedges it further apart.
What Women Podcasters Can Do With The Video Podcast Boom
For some content creators, video is fun. There are ways to use your creativity to add another dimension to your content. If you’re curious about adding video to your workflow, here are some ways to be creative, make your content more accessible, and avoid harassment. Women can put their podcasts on YouTube without it being a nightmare.
Use the Medium Your Audience Wants and Needs
Remember, your podcast is about you and your audience, not the rest of YouTube. Run an audience survey, and find out how your audience prefers to get their podcasts. If your audience is more likely to watch a video podcast than listen, figure out why, and tune your audience engagement accordingly. Do they prefer the accessibility of YouTube comments? Link to a voice feedback page in your show notes. Do they rely on closed-captioning? Link to accessible transcripts in your show notes. Do they want to see you demonstrate a process? Then you might need a video podcast.
YouTube Is Not The Only Online Video Platform
It seems like YouTube is the only way to store and share videos. But there are other platforms. You can promote your podcast with reels and stories on Instagram. It’s not entirely free from jerks, but it’s a good way to promote your podcast with short content.
Dailymotion is similar to YouTube. Vimeo is a video hosting site that starts at $9 a month. Do you know what trolls hate? Paid platforms. If a video hosting platform gives you what you need to get your message out into the world, why bother with YouTube?
Focus The Lens on Your Podcast’s Content
Some people need a visual aid to help their understanding, but that doesn’t mean you have to be on screen. If you’re sharing statistics, you can use Google Slides for charts and graphs and import them to video editing software like iMovie. If you’re showing your audience how to do something, focus the camera on your tools, materials and process. The home-content-studio boom has made tabletop stand tripods with an overhead mount readily available at prices for any budget. This makes the audience focus on the process and the content, not on you.
A great example is VeryPink Knits’ podcast. The audio podcast is available on her site and “wherever you get your podcasts.” Her YouTube channel is mostly tight closeups of her hands, needles and yarn as she demonstrates knitting techniques closeup. She uses each kind of media for what it does best: audio for discussion, and video to show technique.
Another way to make your video podcast more about the content and less about the host is stock footage. The Internet Archive has lots of videos available under a Creative Commons license. Or, use a service like Shutterstock Footage for royalty-free videos you can edit together. A great example is iiluminaughtii, which exposes scams. Because her episodes focus on corporations, religious organizations, and people with money and power, trolls target her frequently. Her podcast’s audio is available via podcast directories, and the video version, using stock footage and cartoons, is on YouTube.
A fun option is to turn your podcast into a cartoon. Collaborate with a freelance animator, or try software like Create Studio, Vyond or Doodly.
Don’t forget; there is absolutely nothing wrong with a static image on screen while your video podcast plays.
Find Like-Minded Creators Who Make Video Podcasts
Online communities can help you feel less alone. Your motivation can be as simple as being around others who understand what you mean when you say “Buzzsprout” or “DAW.”
There are groups for female-identifying podcast editors, Women of Color Podcasters, ShePodcasts, Women of Video, and our own Podcraft Community. Your podcast’s topic has professional organizations or informal social groups that can support you, too, whether your podcast is about fly fishing or welding. When you have a support system, it’s easier to deal with adversity.
Video Isn’t The Only Way To Grow Your Show
Your podcast doesn’t have to have video to be successful. Over half of the (700+) people who’ve used our Podcast Planner Tool say they have no plans to add video to their podcast. In our recent IndyPod Census, only 35.3% of podcasters said they use video.
Protect Yourself and Your Video Podcast’s Audience
Another way to keep video from increasing the gender divide in podcasting is for producers to protect their own privacy and their audience’s. Practice good digital security hygiene. If you have a guest that could be harmed by speaking freely on your podcast, take extra time and effort to protect them. Trolls are gonna troll, but at least you can protect your audience, guests, and yourself.
Should Women Make Video Podcasts, Or Shy Away?
If you don’t do the things that you want to do because bad people might not like it, you let them win.
If they want to, women should make video podcast content and put it on YouTube and Vimeo and Dailymotion and anywhere they want. Produce exciting multifaceted video podcasts that promote your ideas and make them more accessible to your audience. Craft short teaser videos, full-length episodes, bonus content, and whatever will make your ideas more interesting. If you want to, disseminate them far and wide.
But if you don’t enjoy making video podcasts and your audience isn’t into it, don’t.
Video isn’t the answer for all podcasters. If you feel like you have to use it, then do it, but protect yourself while focusing on your content and audience.