Celebrities are NOT Ruining the Podcast Industry
By Rob Ranieri
As podcast popularity and consumption grows, more and more celebrities are embracing the medium. From Obama to Whitney Cummings, there is a famous voice for every taste. Is this a lazy way to bring in big audiences without the work? Are celebrities overshadowing the hard work of the OG podcasters who have been working hard to organically grow their audiences for years? Or does famous talent create high quality podcasts that bring in new audiences to the whole genre?
Let’s start on the positive side. The likes of the uber-famous such as Harry and Megan, Oprah and Snoop Dogg show that podcasts have broken into the mainstream. More and more people are exploring the medium and surely this exposure means more funding and more quality content and opportunities for everyone in the industry - creators, advertisers and listeners.
Who better to make compelling content than people trained, experienced and skilled to entertain? Some famous voices have skill sets that naturally lend to podcasting, such as The Ricky Gervais Podcast, where Ricky’s natural comedy and banter make for great entertainment.
As Tommy Jackett, host of The Daily Talk Show says:
“Look at Russell Brand and Ricky Gervais. Two people who are super famous and have done/had epic podcasts.Their podcast isn't epic because they are just famous, the content is actually awesome!”
Sometimes, a celebrity’s presence can enhance a podcast. Byron Cooke, host of The Byron Cooke Show podcast, (former co-host of "Fifi, Fev and Byron" on Fox FM) states:
“The decision that a podcast content provider makes when casting a podcast is very similar to what a radio station content director makes. You could bring someone onto a terrestrial breakfast radio show with huge celebrity appeal and no experience in broadcasting - trust me I’ve worked with many of them - and the overall effect of their presence on the show is very positive. They bring an X-factor, they bring stories that people are interested in.”
There are instances where publishers get it right and enlist experts to do the research and preparation, then recruit a famous voice to bring in their skill. A great example of this is Wondery and Universal Music Group’s Jacked, which chronicles the fusion of RnB and hip-hop, hosted by the charismatic Taraji P Henson. As Teraji was a cult success on the hip hop TV show Empire, she is a natural fit. She also has an impressive 17.5 million Instagram followers, giving the podcast a broad new audience to reach.
What about indie podcasts?
This kind of overnight success doesn’t sit right with all podcast fans, with some creators seeing their grassroots podcasts falling out of top ten lists as celebrity content claims downloads in the millions. Looking at a reddit thread titled “Does anyone feel like celebs have taken over podcasting and ruined it?” , one podcaster, jadekinsjackson, who has been working hard on their podcast since 2006, expressed that they feel that “now it’s like if you’re a celebrity you’re instantly promoted by Apple and Spotify. You, overnight with just a handful of episodes, make it to the top ten list. ” He continues, “...meanwhile the little guy trying to make ends meet spends days crafting interesting stories, facts and information, recording, editing and doing everything themselves to promote and yet it’s just whispers to the wind.”
Some commenters agree, with one claiming: “Actors can literally do anything and make money due to popularity.”
However, some peers disagree, with one commenting: “I see the whole thing very much as a "rising tide lifts all boats" kind of thing.”
Celebrities are a great thing for podcasting - as long as the quality content is there. Podcasts are a product, just like a t-shirt. Some people will buy Country Road, some will buy JayJays. Prada entering the market doesn't mean JayJays & Country Road are suddenly ruined. People will go to the content they want. With big names bringing more and more people to the medium, the little guys are bound to gain more traction too. As more and more people tune into podcasts, more opportunities for brands to reach their perfect audience emerge. Get in touch with us anytime to explore this further.