Are Hollywood A-listers stealing the limelight (and potential ad dollars) from podcasting's self-made stars?
That was one of the questions posed by freelance journalist Nicole Spector in an article published in AdWeek on August 28, 2016. Three years later, the number of star-studded shows has rapidly increased while the definition of “celebrity” has expanded and become more niche.
“When I’m talking to a room full of forty or fifty-somethings about celebrity podcasts they’re more likely to recognize a name like Alan Alda,” says Thomas Mancusi, SVP of Sales & Development at Audioboom. “But put me in a room full of twenty-somethings and they’re more familiar with The Girl with No Job and Jackie O from The Morning Toast.”
Mancusi’s career in podcast advertising started in 2012 when he worked with the likes of Adam Carolla, Steve Austin and Kathie Lee Gifford at PodcastOne and since joining Audioboom he’s continued working with top talent like Jersey Shore cast member Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Fuller House star Jodie Sweetin who launched their podcasts – It’s Happening with Snooki & Joey and Never Thought I’d Say This – as part of the Audioboom Originals Network. “Initially you had comedians, TV network personalities, professional athletes and reality stars but now more and more YouTubers and social media influencers like Marques Brownlee, Amanda Cerny and Sommer Ray are launching shows, too.”
Often times this new guard, who built their brands online are giving comedians and professional athletes a run for their money when it comes to podcasting. “Brands are starting to recognize that traditional celebrities don't always move audiences the way digital celebrity talent does,” says Michael Bosstick, CEO at Dear Media, a female focused podcast network working with prominent celebrities and digital creators like Whitney Port (With Whit), Lauryn Evarts (The Skinny Confidential Him and Her Podcast), Alli Webb (Raising the Bar) and Heather McMahan (Absolutely Not). “These creators have built their own niche audiences and are now exploring the revenue opportunities that come with podcasting.”
“Brands are starting to recognize that traditional celebrities don't always move audiences the way digital celebrity talent does.”
And those opportunities go both ways for content creators and advertisers. “Our clients have been able to work with talent that would otherwise be cost prohibitive,” says Jenni Skaug, President of podcast ad agency Sonic Influencer Marketing.
Having someone like Conan O'Brien or Dax Shepard endorse your product without having to commit to hundreds of thousands of dollars is a tremendous benefit that you don't find in other media.
Last year PwC and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) predicted that ad revenues for podcasts overall will double by 2020, with an estimated increase from $314 million in 2017 to $659 million in the US alone. Which makes one wonder just how many of those advertising dollars will be snatched up by celebrity driven podcasts and snatched away from the independent creators who vastly outnumber their famous peers.
“As celebrities continue to ‘flock’, as they put it, into the market, they are getting a lot of attention and that does make it harder for the small, unknown podcaster to get a show noticed and listened to. But I think podcasting still remains one of the most democratic mediums,” says Tom Koenig, Head of Content at Somethin' Else, a content company that produces podcasts with UK luminaries like Katie Piper, Jay Rayner and David Tennant. But rather than taking ad dollars and listeners away from independent podcasters it appears celebrities are in the forefront of bringing both new listeners and advertisers to the space.
“Take Dr. Phil, for example, his podcast has brought in a whole new podcast audience, outside of the demographic we typically see,” says Skaug. “The same people that love watching his television show are willing and interested in hearing what he has to say on his podcast.” Emily Bon, Head of Podcasting at Main Event Media, agrees:
The media around A-list celebrities getting into podcasting helps to drive interest for brands that are looking for effective growth sources outside of digital advertising. Celebrities bring in a diverse and new audience to the medium and for most people, once they discover podcasting, they are hooked.