Latest trends, best practices and how to respond to paid podcast guesting requests
As good ‘elder millennials,’ we can get behind some of the podcast industry’s latest trends, mainly if it involves a good BTS sound bite or some “bad mom” humor. But, not all trends are created equal, and there is one popping up in podcasting that has us holding up a red flag.
Podcast appearance fees.
Now, before we get into the thick of it, a quick disclaimer:
We’re going to break down the latest trend in podcasting, why it is raising eyebrows, who to look to for best practices and guidance, and ways you can respond to these opportunities.
So let’s get into it.
What We're Seeing 👀
We send out A LOT of cold pitches, and while we haven’t dialed in the exact percentage quite yet (stay tuned), we’re starting to receive more consistent responses from hosts requesting a “podcast appearance fee.”
The host often refers to it as a sponsorship or simply a fee, but in most cases, they do not identify this as a form of advertisement.
Fees have ranged anywhere from $50-$6,000.
On the low end, hosts will generally offer to share the number of show downloads with you, a complete media kit, and they may allow you to discuss your program, membership or product in depth.
In the case of high fees, the appearance may include multiple podcast appearances over the course of a quarter/year, sharing a complete media kit including downloads, and potentially including your logo on their website.
In some cases, when a host has a preexisting relationship with a potential guest, they have mentioned waiving their fee based on that past connection.
Here’s a few examples of what we’ve seen:
Why It’s Raising Red Flags 🚩
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to put things in perspective.
You’re on your way to high-school on an angsty Monday morning in the late 90s. The radio is on, and the morning show host is getting ready to introduce a celeb hairstylist on how to style your hair like Britney Spears.
Just when the segment is about to air, a commercial comes on for Bagel Bites.
As the listener, you…
Earned media, like radio, print, and broadcast television, was funded almost solely on paid advertisements like this.
What did that allow for?
It allowed the media to print the press, deliver the nightly news, and go on-air with talented guests. In exchange, the company paying for the ad gained brand awareness and trust.
As a listener, ads were a means to an end. Want to hear about the rad hair style? You’ve got to hear from the show’s sponsor first – Bagel Bites.
But, hold up. Did the celeb hairstylist have to pay to share their expertise with listeners?
The morning show was able to provide their audience with a great resource and expert knowledge on a trendy new hair style, while the guest received exposure, notoriety, and an audience to speak to. This was mutually beneficial and an ethical practice in media.
Today, there are many other ways to fund earned media like affiliate marketing, subscriptions, and live virtual experiences, but the same principles and ethics around paid and unpaid appearances can and should be applied to a newer medium like podcasting.
It comes back to two critical concepts – trust and transparency.
Global Communications Firm Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer found that business is currently the most trusted institution, surpassing media and government. In the study, respondents went as far as to say that they look to CEOs as the face of future change.
Disclosure Matters 📝
For podcast hosts and online business owners, your listeners are looking to you to lead them. Their ears are perked, willing and at the ready to hear you -- and your guests -- thoughts on their niche of interest. They also have an elevated level of trust in you right now.
That is powerful.
But, how will you keep that trust?
In the case of podcast appearance fees, the answer is disclosure.
By revealing your episode has been sponsored or paid for by the guest, the listener will approach the listening experience differently, just like our morning show example.
While the guest may still be viewed as a thought leader, the listener will likely be more discerning about the information being shared and how it might directly benefit the speaker.
A more modern example of this can be imagined as recently as 5 or 10 years ago when media companies began realizing their readers and followers were becoming more ad-savvy...
Have you (or your wallet) ever fallen victim to these things?
Trust us when you say you aren't alone. Many, MANY people have been deceived with these marketing practices, and it's exactly why the Federal Trade Commission has cracked down... just like they will with podcasts at some point.
Who to look to for best practices on disclosure 🤷🏻♀️
Guidelines in podcasting are new and limited, but there are recognized agencies, societies and leading strategic communications agencies that can help navigate how to disclose and approach appearance fees including:
The FTC, responsible for preventing deceptive ads, offers up a complete list of best practices for social media influencers, which we think is a good baseline for podcasters.
In their latest Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers, the agency calls out the need for people to see, understand, and continue to be informed about the paid nature of the appearance on social media. The FTC also references the need to disclose any financial, employment, personal or family relationship visibly and frequently in video and live stream settings, noting not to mix disclosure within other links or at the end of videos.
If you apply these practices to podcasting, that might look like disclosure
One message resonates throughout this guide – it is your responsibility to make these disclosures, be well acquainted with any best practices, and always comply with laws fighting deceptive ads.
Ways to respond to podcast appearance fee requests 🤔
You've just gotten your first yes to a podcast appearance. Yay! But, wait. What’s that fine print? There’s an appearance fee. <sad trombone>
The first and most important question to respond to the host with is —how do you disclose that this episode is a paid appearance to your listeners?
Other initial questions you could ask are:
The host is likely to respond to your question in one of two ways.
A host may respond with some form of no. Because this is all new territory for some hosts, they may have questions. We recommend you point them back to this blog post or to resources like the FTC’s Social Media 101 Best Practices linked above.
One of the ways you might respond could be:
Thank you for the opportunity! As a best practice of our business, we work to make sure any paid appearances are treated based on best practices in our industry. If you’d like to learn more about paid podcast appearance disclosure, I’ve linked a blog below that was helpful for our business.
At this point, the host may also offer to waive the fee, while they take some time to do their own research.
There are hosts that do disclose, and they’ve done it well. From the episode introduction to the show notes, disclosure should be frequent and easily found.
If you feel like the show is a good fit for you and a valuable investment, there are several things you can and should be asking of the host.
In their 2021 Ultimate Guide to Podcast Advertising and Sponsorship, leading marketing software developer Hubspot dives into their 12 tips for finding and sponsoring podcasts including the first – consider the podcast’s demographics and how they align with your own ideal customer.
As a form of paid advertisement, be sure to ask the host for their media kit, which should include download numbers of a single episode. It might even include their show’s overall global rating. These are practices that are common within paid media and will help you determine whether the return is worth the financial investment.
Moral of the podcast story 🎙
With more than 2 million podcasts streaming internationally, the opportunities for appearances are many. While fees have begun to pop up in our industry, they are in no way the norm, and without complete disclosure of these appearance fees could jeopardize trust in this media platform.
If you’re pitching yourself as a guest to podcasts, know that there are endless ways to earn unpaid appearances in your niche. If you do believe the opportunity will be valuable, despite the cost, be sure to ask the host about how they disclose the appearance and ensure you receive their complete media kit to best determine the return on your investment.
If you’re a host, know you have a great responsibility and power on this platform. You also currently have trust on your side. Continue to build that trust by disclosing paid appearances, often and clearly, with your listeners.
References and Resources 🤓
Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers(Federal Trade Commission, 2019)
Bonus Note 🔥
Our founder, Christina Lenkowski, spoke about this very subject on an episode of The Proffitt Podcast. Listen in to hear her and host Krystal Proffitt’s thoughts on this hot-button subject!
Grab my FREE Podcast Pitch Checklist to get started on upping your visibility today!