If you look forward to hearing guests that appear on your favorite podcast, some of them may have paid. Thousands of dollars to reach you.
According to Bloomberg, some guests paid up to $50,000 to be interviewed on specific podcasts, a practice that has been dubbed as “payola.”
“Welcome to the golden era of pay-for-play podcasting, when guests pay handsomely to be interviewed for an entire episode,” the Bloomberg report states. “In exchange, the host gets some revenue, fills out the programming calendar, and might bag a future advertiser.”
The practice, however, is not always disclosed to listeners, which is why not everyone is feeling it.
“As someone who’s making money for that type of advertorial content, it should be disclosed,” New York-based media lawyer Craig Delsack told Bloomberg. “It’s just good practice and builds trust with the podcaster. It can’t be the Wild West.”
Jon Bier, CEO and founder of public-relations firm Jack Taylor, called payola in podcasting out as inauthentic.
“It’s a gray area, but it’s payola,” Bier said. “If I get into that game, I’m getting into just the opposite of what I believe in, which is curation, creativity, and authenticity.”
However, not everyone is anti-payola.
Podcasting can already be very lucrative when a show has good advertisers, so payola adds more money to hosts’ pockets.
Dave Asprey hosts “The Human Upgrade” and charges guests an average of $50,000 to appear on his show. He said he only does his for 1 percent of his guests.
“Appearance fees make sense in only certain circumstances,” Asprey says. “It has to be a weird confluence of a true expert who’s doing something new and interesting. I would take as many as I can get that meet my standards.”
With so many podcasters in the industry, award-winning advertising professional Deborah Gray-Young advised podcasters to know their audience so they can get the best return.
“Pay attention to the specific environment and who’s in it,” Gray-Young said during a panel discussion in 2019 called ‘The Economics Of Podcasting: Monetization Within A Bull Market.’ “That will give you some indication of what their temperature is. That may not be a long list, but they are out there.”
Successful gaming podcaster Danny Pena agreed with Gray-Young, noting the podcast owner doesn’t have a large audience, “but when he promotes a product, he may only have 500 listeners, but all of them will buy the product.” He added, “If we promote a product, our listeners will buy it just to support us.”
It’s why people like Bier and Delsack are against the payola practice. Critics say the lack of or vague disclosure about who is or isn’t being interviewed as part of an advertorial can be misleading to consumers.
However, business owner Nick Unsworth is all for the practice. He said he paid $35,000 to appear on John Lee Dumas’ podcast highlighting business owners and got a $150,000 return.
“When you’re the guest, you’re the star,” Unsworth said. “If you can be in that position and make your offer, you have no barriers. No one is listening to that episode thinking it’s a commercial. There’s immediate trust and a perception that you’re held in a high light.”
PHOTO: Black men working at the office. (Photo: Nappy.co)
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