Celebrity Podcasts Roundtable: Challenges and Opportunities

With their built-in fan followings, the stars of YouTube, television, cinema, sports and social media have a lot of advantages when it comes to launching their own podcasts. As a companion piece to my article, “Why Advertisers Love Celebrity Podcasts,” I asked producers, advertising sales executives and PR specialists working in the podcast space for additional insights on this growing trend.

What celebrity led podcasts are you working with right now or have you worked with in the past?

Emily Bon, Head of Podcasts & Manager of Development at Main Event Media: Never Thought I’d Say This cohosted by Fuller House star and mother of two Jodie Sweetin and Uncuffed with Derrick Levasseur. It's hosted by the bestselling author of The Undercover Edge and currently the star of Investigation Discovery’s Breaking Homicide.

Jenni Skaug, President of Sonic Influencer Marketing: We’ve worked with quite a few celebrity podcast hosts, including The Bachelor celebrities, Instagram celebrities, political celebrities, and comedians. Your Favorite Thing hosted by Brandi Cyrus and Wells Adams, Brandi Glanville Unfiltered, The Adam Carolla Show, Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend and Straight Talk with Ross Mathews are just a few that come to mind.

Kara Silverman, Partner at Various & Co and former Head of Global Marketing & Communications at Acast: David Tennant Does A Podcast With…, Dan Harmon’s Whiting Wongs and Feist’s podcast Pleasure Studies, part of the EARIOS network which also hosts Margaret Cho’s podcast.

Tom Koenig, Head of Content at Somethin' Else: A number of our original podcasts are hosted by well-known names, such as David Tennant Does A Podcast With…; Out To Lunch With Jay Rayner; The Brights, a reality format podcast about Lydia Bright — one of the stars of The Only Way Is Essex, a hugely popular reality TV show in the UK — and her family; and we recently launched a new podcast with singer-songwriter Frank Turner called Frank Turner’s Tales From No Man’s Land, which accompanies his latest album.

Michael Bosstick, CEO of Dear Media: Alli Webb’s Raising the Bar, Lauryn Evarts, The Skinny Confidential Him and Her Podcast, Heather McMahan’s Absolutely Not, Katherine Schwarzenegger and Whitney Port’s With Whit.

Why do you think celebrities, talent agencies and media companies are investing in podcasting now?

Emily Bon: As a television production company, [Main Event Media] are used to relying on networks to give us the green light to produce projects. We started a podcast division so that we could have full creative control – if there’s a story that we want to tell, we can immediately create the content and put it out ourselves.

Kara Silverman: Podcasting can be a valuable revenue stream for celebrities. Most actors/actresses have gaps between the work they do, and podcasting is a great way to stay connected to fans and also to have more control over making entertainment or a project. It remains to be seen if they will last. I think there are a few groups of podcasting celebs – Hollywood celebs with a built in audience like Anna Faris or Dax Shepard, people who become celebrities through podcasting, like Marc Maron or the hosts of My Favorite Murder, and then this third category of influencers, like the Bachelor podcasters, Girls Gotta Eat and media personalities like Rachel Maddow who are somewhere in between.

Describe some opportunities you see with the increase in celebrity-driven podcasts.

Emily Bon: We see an opportunity for our podcast slate to serve as an incubator for projects that can later move to television and film.

Kara Silverman: From a PR point of view, having the name of a celebrity in your pitch makes it easier to be sure it will get read, but it does not guarantee coverage.

Tom Koenig: A well-known name fronting your podcast means you are starting with a large pool of fans from whom you can immediately start to build your audience. Take The Three Questions with Andy Richter, which launched in July. Andy is Conan O’Brien’s sidekick from his TV show. He’s well-known and has other celebrities who will cross-promote his show. That’s why it went straight to number one in the Apple charts. Also, with a celebrity host, booking other big names to appear on your show as a guest becomes a hell of a lot easier.

What advertisers have you paired with celebrity lead podcasts?

Jenni Skaug: Matching celebrities to products boils down to research. If it's a new celebrity in the space and you don't have performance data, then you dig into who they are and what the public persona is of that person.

You can typically find out enough about their personal lives and their general beliefs through media coverage to know if they will be a good product fit or not. If the host is a good fit for the product and they are interested and willing to endorse, it is likely that they will engage with their audience in a way that generates response.

At Sonic Influencer Marketing we’ve run campaigns with celeb podcasts for Article, Instacart, Burst, Atoms, Quartz, Branch Basics, Homesick Candles, Beam TLC, Powerdot and TiVo.

Michael Bosstick: Dear Media works with everyone from AmEx, Amazon, Ritual, Thrive, and Four Sigmatic, Casper, Fabletics, Quip, and Skillshare to Elemis, Kopari, Dr. Dennis Gross, Pedigree, Fab Fit Fun, Lola, and LinkedIn.

And what are some challenges that come with celebrity driven podcasts?

Emily Bon: The challenge in podcasting is the same challenge we face in the television industry: How do you stand out in a crowded landscape? There’s no shortage of compelling content in the podcast space, so the goal is to create shows that bring something completely unique to the table – a premise or perspective that the listener can’t get anywhere else.

Jenni Skaug: Podcasts with large audiences and high rates are great for brands that are either large, like Geico, Prudential and Toyota, or for companies that have tested and proven that the medium works for their brand, like ZipRecruiter and Stamps.com. But podcasts with A-list celebrities and large audiences are not the typical testing ground for brands that are trying out the medium for the first time.

Kara Silverman: To really make a podcast interesting to journalists it has to go beyond just having a great name associated with it.

The format has to be interesting, the topic exciting, the guests really strong, and the celeb must be really committed. There are so many podcasts being launched that you can’t just send out a press release anymore, you have to really create the story and showcase the value of the podcast.

Michael Bosstick: Moving audiences off of traditional platforms and letting them know more about podcasting as a medium.

Tom Koenig: No matter how big a name celebrity you have as a host, just as much thought needs to go into what the purpose of the show is and what it’s about as you’d put into it if the presenter was completely unknown. There are also examples of podcasts out there where it seems that someone’s gone, ‘Hey, you’re famous. You should do a podcast,' And that’s the remit of the show. That’s just a recipe for a very boring podcast.

As with any creative project, time needs to be spent thinking about who the audience is, what they want, and the purpose of the show.

If you’re attending Podcast Movement 2019 you can hear more from Jenni Skaug on August 14th during the Celebrities in Podcasting panel discussion at 9 AM in Gatlin A1/A2 and the How To Use Data To Monetize Your Podcast session at 11:30 AM in Gatlin E.

And to hear more from Kara Silverman check out the Creative Approaches For Podcast Audience Development session, August 15th at 11:30 AM in Gatlin E.

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