Podcasts are moving from quirky, niche sources of entertainment into something far, far bigger. The Pew Research Center estimates that 36% of Americans (or 89 million people in the US) have listened to at least one podcast in their lifetime, and 17% listen to one on a regular basis. Thousands of Americans have started their own podcasts, with topics ranging from food to sport to makeup and everything in-between. The market for podcasts is growing, and revenues for podcast platforms are steadily increasing. With this rapid rise in interest, even celebrities are starting to take notice of the humble podcast.
Celebrities are being increasingly drawn to the podcasting medium, ranging from comedians such as Adam Carolla, Anna Faris and Ricky Gervais to sports stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Stone Cold Steve Austin, all the way to musicians such as Snoop Dogg and Chris Jericho. Many of these celebrity podcasts have met with wild success. Shaquille’s podcast, “The Big Podcast with Shaq” was one of the most downloaded podcasts of the year, according to PodcastOne, while Adam Carolla holds the top spot with his show, “The Adam Carolla Podcast”. Film and TV actors are also starting to host their own podcasts. Alec Baldwin is a prominent film actor that’s garnered a lot of attention with his podcast, “Here’s The Thing” while Lena Dunham used her podcast miniseries “Women of the Hour” to tackle everything from friendships to activism and health.
Why are celebrities podcasting?
There are plenty of reasons for why celebrities would try their hands at podcasting. It’s free publicity, can provide some enticing ad revenue and podcasts can even be used to hype up new or existing TV shows, films or events. Podcasting can be used to increase awareness of a mid-tier celebrity’s brand, while more famous or established celebrities use podcasting as a way to enhance their social media presence. Celebrities can use podcasts to refine their personal brand or to introduce new aspects of themselves and talk about topics that they would otherwise never be able to voice. Podcasting also offers celebrities freedom of expression and gives them a new platform in which to be creative, like the Jillian Michaels Show. The Biggest Loser trainer uses her podcast as another outlet to expand her brand of health, inspiration, and exercise. Finally, the barrier to entry for celebrities is much lower, as they’ve already got an established fan base who would be excited to hear new material from their favorite star.
Producers are also picking up on the popularity of podcasts. Ad revenue has skyrocketed and the potential for growth is immense. The demographics of podcast listeners make it a particularly enticing market for many agencies, and they’re happy to capitalize on celebrity fame to entice more listeners and downloads. Many movie and TV producers are also looking into podcasts as companion pieces to existing TV shows or as promotion material for new and upcoming movies. For example, the HBO series Westworld started a companion podcast. Podcasts are a creative medium and savvy TV and movie producers are certainly taking note.
How do celebrities branch out into podcasts?
Some celebrities start podcasting organically, and these tend to be some of the most popular podcasts around. For instance, Snoop Dogg’s podcast started off as a spin-off from his YouTube series, “GGN”, and has since become a completely different thing with a different audience. Others have used podcasts as another medium to deliver their message, particularly comedians. The Adam Carolla Show is currently the most downloaded podcast, in part due to Adam’s irreverence and ability to talk at length about almost any topic under the sun, and provides a natural extension to his comedy career.
But there are also challenges that face celebrity podcasters. Some find it difficult to stick to the format and challenging to produce new content at a rate that podcasting requires. For example, after two seasons Lena Dunham’s miniseries podcast only lasted two seasons before dropping off in 2017. Many podcast listeners are unaware that celebrities are making podcasts and some scoff at the idea. Podcast listeners tend to be educated and young and expect high-caliber content, which they doubt that many celebrities can deliver. This may be why comedians do so well with podcasts, as they’re able to generate quality content on a regular basis and provide entertainment to a wider audience.
A question to consider with celebrities dabbling in podcasts: Are they stealing the spotlight and advertising from podcasting veterans? Celebrities get a head start in the podcasting world because they come in with an established fan base. Advertisers might find it more enticing to pay for an ad in a celebrity’s podcast than other established podcasters.
Regardless of what the audience thinks, more and more celebrities are willing to throw their hat into the podcasting ring. How many will survive, only time will tell.