How celebrity podcasts are influencing a new era of tabloid journalism

By Emma O'Regan-Reidy

Published Apr 18, 2024 at 01:17 PM

Reading time: 4 minutes

In October 2022, Cosmopolitan published an article titled: Have we reached peak-celebrity podcast saturation? My answer as of April 2024: Not quite yet, but we’re getting there. Wondering why the celebrity podcast is still so ubiquitous and questioning how this trend is currently shaping tabloid media? Well, I’m here to answer all your questions so, let’s get into it.

The term ‘podcast’ was first coined in a 2004 article from The Guardian, in which contributor Ben Hammersley described it as “combining the intimacy of voice, the interactivity of a weblog, and the convenience and portability of an MP3 download.” The author discussed how the medium was bypassing traditional media outlets—like the BBC, for example—and gaining popularity due to its ability to air what was previously considered “unbroadcastable” content. This so-called unacceptable content Hammersley was referring to now looks like a sermon compared to some of the hot takes we hear weekly in Trisha Paytas’ podcast Just Trish.

@itscalledsarcasm_

THEY’RE SO QUICK WITH IT 😭#trishapaytas #justtrishpodcast #terrijoe #justtrish #foryou #fyp

♬ original sound - skinnyfat

Nearing the end of the piece, the writer makes the observation: “One might soon be able to make a living doing this.” Well, if only he knew what lay ahead.

Little did Hammersely know, 20 years later, celebrities and other influential figures would be earning six figures, if not millions a year, with podcasting alone. Since then, the digital medium has experienced fluctuation in popularity and it’s fair to say we’re reaching the apex.

According to Statista, 3.2 million podcasts were available worldwide in 2023—up from 2.4 million as of 2021, as per Entertainment Weekly. So, where do celebrities fit into all of this?

Public figures broadcasting their lives is not a new concept, it’s been going on for decades via radio, TV and, in recent years, social media. So, it’s no surprise that they’ve now entered the podcast space as well. Scott Greenstein, SiriusXM’s president and chief content officer, told Entertainment Weekly: “Whenever you see the intersection between creative freedom and economics starting to work, you’re going to find celebrities paying attention.”

During the initial lockdowns, many celebrities started podcasts as a way to kill time, connect with friends and fans and, of course, earn a bit of reliable extra income. While plenty have failed or stopped uploading since those early months of the pandemic, some have stayed with it and even more have cropped up in the meantime, only for the cycle to continue.

Most recently Emily Ratajkowski’s podcast HighLow fell victim to media industry layoffs and was quietly cancelled a year after its launch. Meanwhile, Dua Lipa’s At Your Service hasn’t released a new episode since November 2023.

@applepodcasts

She's the older sister you always dreamed about. On High Low with @Emrata, get to know Emily's softer, sillier side while discussing everything from politics and philosophy to TikTok and relationships. #EmRata #HighLowEmRata #Podcast

♬ original sound - Apple Podcasts

Notably, both of these podcasts take the form of the ever-popular one-on-one interview style. The intimate nature of a podcast conversation sometimes resembles a professional interview but tends to look like a casual chat between friends—think Smartless, Call Her Daddy, or WTF with Marc Maron, to name a few. Combining that with the lengthy runtime of podcasts (most average out at around 41 minutes, after editing), it’s no wonder that we hear so much more detail about a celebrity’s life than we have in the past.

Sam Wolfson, a freelance writer for The Guardian, succinctly makes the connection between podcasts and therapy—both of which are hour-long talking sessions that have loomed large in culture since the pandemic.

“Interview podcasts’ long running times mean guests are often pushed beyond questions about their latest project, asked to share something deep and personal,” Wolfson observed. The writer confirmed this when speaking to American actor and podcaster Keke Palmer, who told him: “I want to have really deep, raw conversations. To discover the subtext that’s underneath what people are saying.” And, more often than not, that’s exactly what these lengthy, informal episodes achieve.

Celebrity podcasts can also be seen as a way of reclaiming one’s stories—particularly for women who’ve experienced fraught relationships with traditional media. Just look at Paris Hilton’s I am Paris show, for instance.

Marketing and PR expert Edward Coram James, an advisor for a celebrity podcast, told Cosmopolitan that podcasts “are the perfect way for celebrities to curate their content without having to worry about [people] misrepresenting them, [or] twisting their words.”

Evie Psarras, a PhD researcher in media studies agrees, framing the podcast conversation as an escape for celebrities: “They have spent so much of their time having to adhere to the rules of the game. It’s an act of defiance sometimes against the institutions they work for and perform to slip out of their celebrity persona,” the expert explained to The Kit. Because of this, listeners who keep up with the hours of audio can learn more about the personality and intimate details behind their beloved celebrity, strengthening the parasocial bond between the two.

Just as the relationships between celebrities and their fans have changed as a result of podcasts, so did their relationships with tabloid coverage. Since there are now so many podcasts that feature conversations with high-profile guests, it’s inevitable that the stories told and revealed are then going to be shared via online tabloids. Podcasts are an extension of one’s digital presence and identity, so pulling headlines from broadcasts is a natural progression of basing tabloid articles on Instagram stories or X posts.

As journalist Skylar Elizabeth puts it in L’Officiel, “While tabloid publications still exist, today’s hottest source for celebrity gossip is not a publication at all.” Elizabeth calls out Instagram accounts like Deux Moi and The Shade Room as doing a lot of the heavy lifting in this space, but I’d argue podcasts sit at the new frontier of celebrity tabloid culture.

Just take Call Her Daddy, for example. Launched in 2018 by Alex Copper as a broadcast about sex advice, the highly popular podcast gradually become a platform for famous people who want to set the record straight about themselves. Notable episodes include Miley Cyrus, Hailey Bieber, Christine Quinn and Zayn Malik.

As a result, appearances on this podcast have often prompted a slew of headlines about what they spoke about. For instance, after the episode with Bieber was released in September 2022, article headlines such as Hailey Bieber: I didn’t steal Justin away from Selena… Here’s the truth fans and Hailey Bieber gets very candid about her sex life with Justin Bieber as she reveals her favourite bedroom positions but rules out threesomes with the star were published soon after the episode aired, with news outlets taking soundbites from the 65-minute long show and churning out the highlights into quick-read articles.

@callherdaddy

THIS WEDNESDAY. Hailey Bieber joins Call Her Daddy. For the first time ever, Hailey opens up about the public-generated controversy between her and her husband's ex. Hailey makes it clear she wants to discuss this one time and one time only…on Call Her Daddy.

♬ original sound - Call Her Daddy

Podcasting is another cog in the machine of celebrity marketing. However, it seems to provide a more therapeutic purpose as well. Palmer offers a more optimistic take on the podcasting boom: “I think people just want to talk more. This is a generation that’s having a difficult time understanding how to be a real person outside of social media and their phone. Podcasts are giving people a space to be themselves again,” the actor explained to Wolfson.

The bottom line: Celebrities will continue to spill the tea on podcasts, whether they’re doing so to build their brand or to just vent. So, it’s no surprise that podcasts have now become the new source of tabloid fodder in the 2020s.

Keep On Reading

By Malavika Pradeep

10 must-watch true crime documentaries on Netflix if you liked ‘Girl in the Picture’

By Charlie Sawyer

True crime podcast ‘Serial’ subject Adnan Syed released after 23 years in prison. What now?

By J'Nae Phillips

Exploring the rise of dental aesthetics and women’s grillz for Gen Z

By Charlie Sawyer

Tucker Carlson pranked by YouTuber pretending to be Kate Middleton whistleblower 

By Charlie Sawyer

Zac Efron reveals gruelling body transformation for upcoming wrestling film The Iron Claw

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Netflix’s depiction of Griselda Blanco was wrong. Why the cocaine godmother was not a feminist icon

By Abby Amoakuh

Why you should keep an eye on The Summer I Turned Pretty star Lola Tung and her Broadway debut

By Abby Amoakuh

Shocking list of F1 legends who have been linked to Jeffrey Epstein in latest court documents

By Abby Amoakuh

UK cracks down on boycott protests with controversial new bill, but is the BDS movement to blame?

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

NHS starts testing weight loss pill with gastric balloon inside for the first time

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

$18K alpha male boot camp promises to turn weak men into modern-day knights

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

UK police left children at mercy of grooming gang paedophiles, review finds

By Charlie Sawyer

6 easy hacks to slay no spend January this year

By Abby Amoakuh

Alabama Barker denies claims she has had a lot of plastic surgery in major clapback

By Charlie Sawyer

New Armie Hammer ex-girlfriend reveals actor has only gotten worse since cannibalism claims

By Abby Amoakuh

Tory Minister Chris Philp asks if Congo and Rwanda are different countries on live TV

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Archaic Missouri law denies pregnant women the right to divorce, even in cases of domestic violence

By Charlie Sawyer

Dwayne Johnson revokes Joe Biden endorsement. Wait, is The Rock running for president?

By Charlie Sawyer

What is a glizzy? Breaking down the mysterious term taking over TikTok

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Of course the US far right is spreading false claims that the Lakewood Church shooter was trans