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YouTube creators are turning the site into a podcast network

And they’re launching secondary channels to do so

Illustration by Alex Castro

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

YouTube might not be the first platform people think of when they’re looking for podcasts, but a growing number of top creators are proving YouTube is a bonafide podcast network.

Several YouTubers — including Logan Paul, Marques Brownlee, and Emma Chamberlain — have launched podcasts in the last year. They’re all available through traditional audio platforms, like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, but many also offer video versions that live on dedicated YouTube channels where they’ve become incredibly popular.

These creators have figured out how to make podcasts work on a platform that wasn’t designed for them, leveraging YouTube’s search algorithm to meet new audiences, make more money, and expand into a medium that’s expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.

Despite being a video-focused platform, people are increasingly coming to YouTube to look for podcasts. A recent survey of Canadian adults found that 43 percent of people “went to YouTube for podcasts in the past year.” That put YouTube ahead of Apple Podcasts (34 percent) and Spotify (23 percent).

Questions about whether YouTube videos listed as podcasts are, in fact, podcasts have arisen

Some of the top podcasts on YouTube are pulling in millions of views every few days or weeks. Top shows, like Ethan and Hila Klein’s H3 Podcast or Joe Rogan’s Joe Rogan Experience, have dedicated audiences who use YouTube notifications as an RSS feed, letting them know when a new episode is available to watch. While the podcasts are also distributed via Spotify and Apple Podcasts, YouTube acts as a first stop.

To reach even bigger audiences, YouTubers have figured out that they can break their show into pieces and spread it across multiple channels. H3 Podcast, Cody Ko and Noel Miller’s Tiny Meat Gang, and The Joe Rogan Experience run as full-length episodes on their main podcast channel, but those episodes are then broken down into tiny individual cuts. These cuts, often referred to as clips or highlights, exist on a completely separate channel. They’re also arguably more important when it comes to using YouTube as a way to grow the podcast.

The H3 Podcast uses one of the most popular takes on the “YouTube podcast” format. Ethan and Hila Klein have three channels: H3H3 Productions (6 million subscribers), H3 Podcast (2 million subscribers), and H3 Podcast Highlights (1.3 million subscribers). The main channel is used for longer commentary pieces, special collaborations, and comedic sketches, but the latter two are solely dedicated to the podcast. The main H3 Podcast channel has more than 208 million total views, but the secondary channel that’s dedicated to clips from each episode has more than 388 million total views.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to build a new audience and maybe reach more than one million subscribers.”

Creating a separate channel for clips lets podcasters take advantage of YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, which surfaces content on specific subjects a viewer is already interested in. “It’s an amazing opportunity to build a new audience,” Samir Chaudry, a filmmaker and part of YouTube duo Colin and Samir, told The Verge, discussing the ability to bring in new subscribers with podcasts.

Take a recent episode of the H3 Podcast as an example. The main title, “H3 Podcast: Andrew Yang” will surface for anyone who types in Yang’s name. That might appeal to people looking for a wide-ranging discussion with Yang, but the length (close to 90 minutes) and lack of specific topics of conversation in the title could push people away. So on the H3 Podcast Highlights page, the interview has been broken apart into nine separate clips. The clips range from five to 20 minutes, and they’ve amassed anywhere from 70,000 to 555,000 views. Because they’re shorter, they’re easier to watch and share, letting the podcast spread beyond H3’s existing audience.

“There’s always been this question about how to market the podcast,” Owen Grover, CEO of Pocket Casts, told The Verge. “It’s not surprising to me that some of these young YouTube-centric producers and creators ... are looking at different ways to get their content to travel, like separate channels.”

Each clip taps into a specific part of the podcast that can then spread beyond both the ‘H3 podcast’ audience

That same strategy is part of what’s made Joe Rogan’s podcast such a success on YouTube. Rogan’s show is one of the longest on the platform, often going beyond three hours, and like H3, he operates a secondary channel that breaks out clips from each episode. The clips collectively have more views than the videos on his main account, despite the clips channel having several million fewer subscribers.

“Joe Rogan is a perfect example,” Grover said. “He does the two- to three-hour ‘wake me when it’s over’ version, and then there are short little clips that he puts up.”

It’s also been easy for popular creators with built-in audiences to move their existing fans over to new channels. David Dobrik and Jason Nash, a pair of popular vloggers with 14 million collective subscribers, host a podcast called Views that gets more than a million downloads an episode from audio listeners alone, according to Dobrik. A YouTube channel for their podcast has more than 550,000 subscribers.

Podcasting has also been a rare case where YouTube’s quirks all seem to align for individual creators. They can expand their audience without turning off their existing one, and it makes money from ad revenue at a time when uncertainty over what content is monetizable on YouTube is a growing concern.

“I think podcasting, in particular, is an obvious next step for creators.”

Keeping a podcast on a separate channel allows creators to work on two different types of content. People who subscribe to someone for vlogs, pranks, or comedy, may be turned off by a lengthy talk or interview show being injected into their feed.

It also lets them try to speak to new audiences. Logan Paul, the vlogger best known for his controversial videos, has a podcast channel with more than 1.7 million subscribers. The content is a little more mature, the videos are longer, and the subject matter is different than anything on his main channel. With guests like mathematician Eric Weinstein, the podcast has a chance to attract a more mature group of listeners than those who watch Paul’s hyper-energetic vlogging channel.

Creators know that YouTube is a valuable tool for developing and growing podcasts, but YouTube hasn’t implemented any product changes to embrace the development. Instead, the communal growth that personalities are seeing comes from their initiatives, collaborations, and understanding of how to use YouTube to their advantage.

“Podcasting is already growing at such a steady and substantial rate, but it feels like YouTube continues to push people right into the arms of new media,” Grover said. “I think podcasting, in particular, is an obvious next step for creators.”