That big guy may not have appeared on your favorite podcast out of the goodness of their hearts. Bloomberg has learned that podcast guests routinely pay a lot of money to appear on popular podcasts. Guestio, a marketplace for these deals, has seen massive trades over the past six months. Four podcasters made $20,000 by asking for performances, while one made $50,000. The most profitable show, Entrepreneurs on fireregularly charges $3,500 for guest spots and has sometimes taken a discount on product sales.
It is not clear how widespread this activity is. However, Bloomberg interviews suggest that pay-to-appear systems are popular for business, cryptocurrency and wellness podcasts. Hosts love Entrepreneurs on fire‘s John Lee Dumas see appearance fees as filters. Guests will be well prepared if they make an “investment” in airtime, according to the creator.
However, there are ethical and legal concerns surrounding the practice. This could be thought of as a modern take on payola, or the pay-for-play schemes used to boost songs on the radio – a guest shows up because they’re relevant, or just because they’re willing to pay ? And while disclosures are mandatory for those radio plays, the situation isn’t as clear-cut with podcasts. While many shows on Guestio contain revelations, not all of them properly reveal when an interview subject pays to appear.
That could pose a problem in the future. A Federal Trade Commission spokesperson said cheating occurs when consumers are misled about the nature of advertising and promotional messages, regardless of media format. The regulator did not say whether it would crack down on podcasters who inappropriately disclose paying guests, but the message could serve as a warning to show hosts.
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