“Celebrities aren’t ruining podcasting – they’re opening them up to a wider audience.”

 

By Josh Adley, Director of Commercial and Client Relations.

Like most of the podcast industry, a recent piece in The Guardian that questioned whether celebrities were ruining podcasting, felt entirely relatable. Working in podcasting for the past few years has been synonymous with celebrity meetings that can often leave you feeling a little flat.

It’s very quick to spot who wants a podcast because they have a burning passion or an idea they want to develop and grow, and those who just want a podcast because their celebrity mate has one and so they think they should too.

To many, podcasting has always embodied a punk, DIY attitude. It’s been a place to celebrate niche topics, support independents and give rise to the bedroom broadcaster; a place where you don’t need to be famous or backed by a large company to get yourself heard.

It’s understandable therefore, that to those who have been working hard on their show for years, the rise of celebrity podcasts might represent everything the medium shouldn’t be about.

What then, is the defence of the celebrity podcast? We know that working with celebrities effectively opens the space up in a way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. That’s one of the reasons why we recently joined forces with Platform to create a strategic partnership for ambitious podcast projects.

A lot more people now know about podcasting and subscribe to a number of shows because their favourite comedian or reality star drew them in. What Gemma Collins, Katherine Ryan and President Obama have done for podcasting is hugely valuable.

 

New audiences

 

The value is in introducing new listeners, rather than convincing existing podcast fans to add one more show to their weekly routine. How many listeners to our Gemma Collins podcast hadn’t listened to a podcast before they discovered the show?

The show is one of BBC Sounds’ most listened-to shows for under-35s.

Celebrities can attract those new audiences (and demographics) and ultimately go a long way to pump advertising revenue into the industry. One of the biggest challenges of podcasting has been its monetisation potential and growing the pie can only be a good thing for everyone involved.

The key is in the approach. Don’t secure a celebrity and assume that your job is done. Platform’s work with the likes of Rob Brydon and John Bishop recently has proved to us that you don’t need to sacrifice on quality content or production values.

A strong, well-thought-out concept with talent at the heart is an incredibly attractive proposition to platforms and brands. It’s also likely to be a far cheaper option than a direct social-only activation (converting followers into more active participants).

Through our partnership, Listen and Platform are developing ideas with talent who are fully invested in the project. Talent share ownership of the podcast IP and that means they don’t see it as another paid gig to get in the bag and walk away from.

We have a long-term strategy that focuses on creating content of value that talent want to associate their personal brand with. We aren’t interested in producing another chat show with no defining feature. Everything we do will have a 360 lens behind it. What does the podcast look like in three years’ time? What does it look like on Facebook, TikTok or as a book?

There will always be celebrity podcasts that feel rushed, bland or unnecessary, in the same way that there are books, articles, YouTube videos and TikToks that few people are interested in. Let that content filter itself out and what is left might be the podcast that finally convinces your friend to turn their headphones on and become a fan.

Article first appeared in Broadcast