Celebrity Podcasts Aren’t For The Listener’s Benefit, They’re For The Celebrity

Writer Hailey Gates talks about how celebrity podcast only exist to line the pockets of their host.

Our world is filled with constant noise. 

Be it from notifications of breaking news headlines, social media posts or controversial tweets by polemic politicians, it’s seemingly impossible for those with access to the internet to obtain silence throughout their day.

Contributing to this omnipresent online cacophony is the contemporary phenomenon of about 4 million podcasts

These 4 million podcasts have had a steady increase in listeners since 2020, reaching an all-time high this year of approximately 76 million listeners, according to a study published by Statista. This study also predicts listenership to steadily grow over the next five years, reaching an all time high of 113 million in 2029. 

Of these podcasts, only 15% of top-ranked podcasts focus on news, according to Pew Research Center. Instead, the most-listened-to podcasts focus on entertainment — True Crime being the most popular topic with 24%, followed by “multiple topics” at 20% and “other” at 12%. The other 44% are self-help, politics, sports, entertainment and other niche topics. 

This abundance of podcasts is derived from the ease with which podcasts are made. Anyone with a microphone can create a podcast — part of their popularity, at least for me, is derived from their colloquial nature. For celebrities who already have a fanbase, they can create a podcast almost guaranteed to garner instant listeners. 

Podcasts are a relatively low-stakes media because of their often informal and non-visual nature. For famous people, building off existing fame creates instant cash from creative freedom since podcasts can be created free of direction or management, according to Entertainment Weekly

A celebrity can record themselves saying anything — truly, anything — and be met with swift podcast success. Influencer podcasts aren’t really meant to benefit the listener. They’re a narcissistic endeavor, a grab-and-go cash scheme that gives celebrities a platform to increase their own sense of self-importance. 

This steady rise in podcast listeners has paralleled a habitual increase in the existence of these celebrity podcasts. Just this year, the SmartLess podcast — hosted by actors Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Sean Hayes — signed a $100 million deal with Sirius XM to host the podcast for three years, according to The Guardian

Additionally, the ever-controversial and ever-popular podcast The Joe Rogan Experience — starring the famed UFC commentator — just signed a $250 million deal with Spotify which will allow the podcast to become accessible on other platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Amazon Music, according to Variety

The Guardian explains these multimillion dollar phenomena with the history of podcast culture — it’s rooted in conversation. The very format of podcasts lend themselves to celebrity importance, as it posits that “two celebrities with a free hour and a premium Zoom subscription might be able to make the world a better place,” according to the article.

Even if celebrity intentions are good, there’s an inescapable derogation evident in the creation of celebrity podcasts.“New Girl” star Jake Johnson co-hosts the podcast “We’re Here To Help” with actor Gareth Reynolds. The whole premise is to give advice to those who call in with problems. 

This isn’t the first celebrity or influencer podcast to follow this format. Former “Buzzfeed: Unsolved” and “Worth It” stars Shane Madej, Ryan Bergara and Steven Lim co-hosted the podcast “Here’s What You Do” on their new platform Watcher Entertainment

Even if these podcasts have good intentions, there is an inherent egoism in feeling qualified to give advice just because you have a fanbase. 

This isn’t to say celebrity podcasts don’t benefit or entertain their listeners — they clearly have listeners for a reason. Jenna Fisher and Angela Kinsey’s “The Office Ladies” provide behind-the-scenes information from cast members of the beloved show The Office. Brittany Broski’s “The Broski Report” — one of my personal favorites — has propelled the TikTok and YouTube influencer to new levels of fame

Even though these podcasts are entertaining and the hosts are loveable, they’re only profiting due to their already-established celebrity status. The Office Ladies strictly reminisce on the show that made them famous in the first place, and Brittany Broski discusses anything she wants, making the podcast almost a replica of her YouTube channel

With 4 million podcasts and 76 million listeners, it’s hard not to think about celebrities monopolizing our time. One media platform simply isn’t enough — success in one online industry warrants a podcast, along with said podcast’s success. 

Podcasts aren’t created by influencers and celebrities with an audience in mind — they already have their audience. They’re just finding alternate, effortless ways to keep eyes on them for longer than they already are.  

Feature image by Aidan Cahill / The Phoenix

Hailey Gates

Hailey Gates