Podcast predators lurk in the shadows, preying on the dreams of aspiring podcasters. They promise instant success but deliver only disappointment and deception. In this eye-opening episode, Tracy Hazzard and Tom Hazzard dive into the murky world of podcast predators and uncover the deceptive tactics used to exploit unsuspecting podcasters. They break down how podcasters can identify the red flags and warning signs that set podcast predators apart from legitimate services. They share insights into distinguishing genuine growth opportunities from the scams that jeopardize your podcast’s credibility and long-term success. Moreover, Tracy and Tom emphasize the importance of building authentic relationships with your listeners and growing your podcast organically. You have the power to shape your podcast’s journey and ensure its long-term success. Don’t let podcast predators hijack your dreams. Tune in now and learn how to emerge strong from the dark side of podcasting!
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The Dark Side Of Podcasting: How To Spot Podcast Predators And Avoid Them
We are going to talk about the dark side of podcasting and how to spot podcast predators and avoid them. There’s an awful lot of them out there. How many emails do you get a day or a week about it that is from a podcast predator?
I probably get 10 times more DMS than I get emails, but I probably get 3 a day.
I get at least 1 a day, sometimes 2 a day. A lot of them are pretty easy to spot and maybe some of them I don’t even see because they go into my junk folder or my unfiltered folder, but if they are good and clever, they get into your normal inbox. If it’s an email, it’s only one way it happens. If it does get into there and I clear my inbox and go through it, it’s a judgment call that needs to be made. Is this worth my time? Is it not?
Here’s the thing that I see again and again from all of this aside. There are many podcast companies out there who have decided to solve this problem of the dark side of these spam emails and all these producers coming at you and all these solicitations to get reviews, downloads, or all of those things, the answer is to shut down the email, to remove your email from the system. It’s because our emails are public that this is occurring.
It means that they can find us on social. It means that they can send us emails, but the reality is that’s not the answer. The answer is that we need to stop supporting all of these junk emails and DMs with any business or credence. We need to mute them, delete them, and get rid of them, and then they are going to stop when they no longer work.
I try very hard not to give it any credence at all, but the answer is not to remove my email address. When I do that, I make myself inaccessible to my readers and that’s how harmful. We are never going to do that here at Podetize at our company. We are never going to hide the email addresses. It doesn’t do anyone a service to do that.
If you feel that you are getting too many of these, create an email address that is for the podcast and put a heavier spam filter on it, screen it heavily, put an assistant on it, and do whatever you want to do to make sure that the readers get through and nothing else gets through if that’s what you want, and pay attention to it that way. Fix it from that format, but removing it altogether is a huge problem.
That’s the first thing that I wanted to address here because there are companies out there that are podcast companies and specifically hosting companies that have gone along with this model. We did a whole episode on this about the emails and the privacy function of that, and it’s not serving you to be accessible as a host.
I can tell you we have gotten great business partners. We have got this fabulous partner we are looking at doing an expansion of our advertising business with, and that came because that email was exposed and out there and that makes a huge difference. You can get some great opportunities from sponsors from other things, but you do have to sift through all this predatory junk.
It’s a necessary evil of having a podcast or doing business if you are a podcaster in business or podcasting in service to your business. It always shocks me that more businesses that have websites, for example, don’t have a phone number on their website. Nothing was published there. Some issues with having your website comply with international rules or even domestic rules in the United States about having a contact phone number available and having your business address listed and things that you are supposed to do.
Too many people don’t, but it always surprised me. It’s like, “Don’t you want to be found by more of your ideal readers? Don’t you want to be found by prospects?” Full transparency, I got a phone call to our business line and I could have screened it and let it go to voicemail. The caller ID made me wonder, “Is that a customer, a prospect, or a predator?” I didn’t know and I decided to answer it because I happened to be available at that moment.
It was somebody calling for you, Tracy, who was pretty good at her script and made it sound like she was calling you back. I also know you wouldn’t give someone that sales phone number in our business if you wanted them to call you back. You can get a Google Voice number, which we have had for years that works well. We are now switching over to Zoom and we probably should do more on that in another episode because Zoom is expanding their services.
That’s what I want to stop you right there. That’s what I’m saying to you here. If you are bothered by all of these podcast predators sending you all this junk mail and all this other stuff, then go out. Get a Google Voice and Gmail for your podcast and use the heavy filters there that are spam filters. They have them. Use them and use them to your advantage, and then you can make it so that the phone never rings. You review the transcripts of it. Now, sometimes they are completely illegible, but the point is you can review it and say, “Is this real? Is this not?” It will come across quickly whether that’s real or not. “Is this a reader? Is this a great sponsorship offer? Is this something that I should take a look at?” You will be able to screen through it quickly.
Both Google Voice and Zoom’s VoIP service do the transcripts of those so you can. You get an email or can look them up in other places. When I have the time, which is not very often, I will admit, we get one of those phone calls. I am 99% sure this person has never talked to you before, Tracy. I have a little fun with it because I’m also in sales and I try not to be someone who uses sneaky tactics like that.
It’s just not who I am and who I want to be, but when someone does, I enjoy quizzing them, cutting right through everything, and getting them to admit it. “I have never talked with Tracy before. I have sent her some emails.” “She’s replied to your email and wanted you to call?” “She didn’t reply to my email, but I want to make sure she got me.” “I will make sure she got your email. If she wants to talk with you, she will reach out,” type of thing.
If they knew me, they’d know that a phone call is a disastrous way to get my attention.
Somebody else who I was talking to who was a customer legitimately communicating with you and then was reaching out to me also said they have been communicating with you through LinkedIn. To me, that is very believable because I know you are very active daily on LinkedIn. That’s a different situation.
Less now because of all these DMs that I receive. I have to say that LinkedIn used to do a much better job of screening profiles and making it harder for you to scrape the information from there. They are not doing a good job now, and because of that, I get about ten DMs a day from podcast producers and promoters. Those are the titles that they tend to use.
What I do is I systematically unfriend them, get rid of them, and block them if they have gotten through my filter of that. Usually, they don’t even get through that because I will block them from the beginning. When they do, these DMs are part of why I no longer like LinkedIn and I no longer use it in the same way that I used to.
This is what I want to remind you. These strategies are not sustainable. They are going to not stop working, but we need to contribute to making sure that they are not sustainable. If we block people, we report them, we get rid of them, and we stop letting them do this, then we are helping ourselves filter them out.If you’re paying anybody to support you in podcasting, you sure as hell better have access to the analytics of your own show. Click To Tweet
If they are adopting this shotgun approach they are like, “I don’t care. I’m going to get as many emails scraped off a listen notes as possible and then I’m going to send out mass amounts of email whether they are relevant to their podcast or not.” A relevant part is what can harm you the most. That’s what we want to be careful about.
It seems like when you early end of your podcasting journey and business, you are more susceptible to these. People who offer you listens and downloads, reviews, and special videos. I get the video ones all the time of being able to do all these teaser videos and all these videos for your podcast. I’m getting a lot of AI ones now probably because of my LinkedIn profile, and some of them are extremely harmful to your show.
They are going to tell you a tactic that doesn’t work. You pay for something. You get what they say. You get a bunch of downloads and listens, but it then harms your ability to get sponsors later. That’s what I want people to understand here. Getting false downloads and reviews can do significant harm to the long-term value of your show.
I agree. We don’t always want to ground these episodes in time because most of our subjects are evergreen. This is evergreen to an extent, but I’m going to ground this one in time for our audience. We are doing this in mid-July of 2023. Right now, there is no shortcut and no magic bullet to get you more real listeners.
There are shortcuts to get you downloads, but they are not worth anything because no one is listening to them. There are server firms in India and other places that will do it, but it does you a disservice quite honestly at the end of the day. It’s similar to the places where you can buy YouTube views and/or YouTube subscribers.
Depending on your purpose on YouTube, there may be a reason why you want to jumpstart it and get a certain number of plays or subscribers to meet a threshold to unlock something on YouTube, but it’s still not going to be real viewers. There is no shortcut. You need to provide good value in your podcast. Make yourself accessible to your readers for them to engage with you and ask questions.
Don’t make it hard as part of what you are saying. Don’t hide your email for the show. Like in business, I don’t think you should hide your business. You should have a phone number and it separates us from all the other hosting companies because none of them have a phone number on their website except Podetize. Understand there’s no shortcut. We at Podetize continue to seek very real, tangible, measurable, and valuable ways to get your show more exposure to get you found heard, and seen. We have some things we are working on that are different and are not ready to talk about, but we are always working on those things.
Until then, there’s going to be an awful lot of predators seeking you, but I have to say, even though there are a lot of predators I get emails every day with offers for one thing or another for the podcast or the business. I usually read the subject line and read the preview text and very quickly decide no if it’s an email.
Most of them I get are through email. I will move on, but occasionally, and like I had one now that offered a truly free webinar about something that interested me for our business. I signed up for that free webinar. I figured that’s worth a little of my time what they were offering and I’m going to do it. I’m interested. They had enough value they provided in that email that it made sense to me. The tough part is you get so many of them. Oftentimes, probably the good ones we don’t spend time on.
Here’s the other thing that I want you to understand. Not only can some of these things harm. Podcast listeners are smart. Longtime podcast listeners, the binge listeners that I know a lot about are smart. When they see hundreds of reviews and they know how difficult it is to review a podcast, they know it’s fake.
Especially when they go and see a couple of the reviews and they all say, “Great show,” junk like that, and that’s what you typically get. They know then that there’s something not right about this show and they won’t even give it a chance. They are smart. When you see a bunch of things like stuff with downloads, it’s going to harm you later when your calculations happen.
If you had a boost of downloads at some moment in time when you got a bunch of subscribers and then they don’t continually download your show, you don’t have that ongoing and you don’t have the growth factor, sponsors know the difference. You are going to see this dip and they are going to go, “What happened to your show?” They are going to want to know if you reveal that.
The red flag would be as a sponsor if you won’t reveal it because you see this thing going on in your statistics because you can’t show it, but here’s another one. We have seen a very high-end producer who produces a package that’s $25,000 and they offer a guaranteed number of downloads initially on your first 20 episodes or something like that.
What we found was that they falsified the statistics. They took screenshots from our hosting platform and presented them to their client with different numbers in them. That’s how scammy at the high end it is because they know they can’t achieve their guarantee. Anyone who promises you a guarantee is the number one scam alert you should pay attention to. Guaranteed number of something guaranteed results.
Nobody can guarantee results. I don’t care what they tell you. They are out of integrity if they are saying they can guarantee results until something new comes up. I have tested it myself and feel confident sharing it with all of you, and that’s the only way that’s going to happen.
That’s one of the things that we believe in here. It’s not a guaranteed result unless we can do it 98% of the time. I’m going to say there’s always 2%. We live in a world of product failure and it’s always 2% awful. That happens, but anything less than that is not a repeatable guaranteeable service.
I was shocked and honestly, this particular situation with this high-end producer that charges a very high-ticket price, any of you who worked with us, we are not the cheapest service in town. Our customers want to pay to save time and accelerate their growth in podcasting and hopefully, marketing and growing their business, but we are not anywhere near the most expensive.
We are talking a $25,000 to $30,000 program to set up, launch your show, and get you a certain number of episodes, 12 to 20 down the road. They do guarantee. We have come to learn. They are guaranteeing their people. They get in the new Noteworthy on Apple and they are guaranteeing a certain listenership impetus for this episode. It was when I first saw it, and it was accidental.
I got copied on an email that I shouldn’t have, and that person attached a screenshot of analytics that is from our platform. That’s how I knew that they were completely fake because I could go look up the real ones. They were defrauding their customer and telling them they had got listens that they did not have. It was six times higher than what it was.
Big scam alerts for me are when they make guarantees when they control your access to Apple or to your statistics at your hosting level. Anything where they are controlling that and not letting you have direct access, that’s another scam alert for me. You are going to get screwed over in the process.Watch out for those predators. If something seems too good to be true, it might very well be. Click To Tweet
That happens so often. I see new prospects all the time who have a show they have launched and they are looking for growth and to get more out of it. I asked them, “What’s your listenership now?” “I don’t know.” “Why don’t you know?” “I don’t have access to that.” “Why don’t you?” “They won’t let me.” If I’m paying anybody to support me in podcasting, I sure as hell better have access to my analytics for my show. If they are not giving them to you where you can see them, if they are giving you a PDF or a screenshot, I can’t trust that. I have unfortunately seen too many people photoshopping that stuff. You need to log in where it is to see the numbers.
You need it to be believable and you need it to be sustainable and something that’s going to happen beyond them. If they can’t do their service for you and then it lives beyond them, then it’s a scam. It’s not real. It’s false. That’s also another area that we have talked about. The last one that I want to mention the overall side of these things is that when you are looking at any of these opportunities that they are offering you, go beyond and check their references. Check the sites that they say they have.
A lot of times, we found podcast producers who had shows on their website that they claimed to be producing but they never produced them. They did something free for them and they never produced them. When we reached out to the host to say, “Did you know you were on so-and-so’s website as a reference?” They would be like, “My show has never been produced by them. They made me one free video as a test and I didn’t like it,” and they are using you as credibility. That’s also dangerous.
If you don’t give permission for your testimonial, your show art, or whatever it is to be utilized on somebody else’s site as a part of their portfolio of companies, then that’s not right. You need to be careful about that as well. On top of that, what I also see happening a lot of times is that when you do go and check, when you ask for references, they don’t materialize, and if you did go and check them, what you’d see was the same thing. Everyone’s music was the same. Every voiceover artist was her voice. It was the same on every single show. They were spending high premium dollars and they were getting a cookie-cutter solution that was making their show seem like everybody else’s show out there. That’s a huge problem.
I thought was silly because it felt that a high-end producer used her voice as a voiceover artist for the intro of every show, and I don’t think all of her people knew that. I was like, “It’s not the best voice,” and how silly you are charging five figures for a high-ticket price. You can afford a $50, $100, or $200 voiceover artist to record something.
$50 for original music.
The real harm to your show is if your show seems like it was plug-and-play and comes out cookie-cutter like everybody else’s. It’s already hard enough to stand out in this digitally noisy world and now you are doing something that’s harming you. That’s my big complaint about AI tools. For those of you who have not checked out our AI Lab or know about it, we have some information on our website. You can go to Podetize.com/AI-Podcast-Lab.
If you go there and check out, these are some of the things that we are exploring and talking about. Sometimes we find a great tool that seems like a time saver, but then we sound like everybody else, and we look like everybody else. That diminishes the value and the time and money we are spending. That’s what we don’t want to have happen to you, so be cautious with these podcast predators. That’s our message to you. Screen them carefully. Some of them are attractive sounding. They offer free things and you think, “What harm can that do?” The next thing you know, you are being held hostage to the process, and the producers/
Say one more thing, Tracy, and provide a little more value to our readers. That’s not just a doom and gloom warning, watch out for predators, which is valuable and we provided some good value on that for our readers. To go back to something you were saying about reviews and fake reviews, I want to share a little success story and an example of what it takes to get real reviews that are meaningful and good.
For the longtime podcast that we have been producing for several years, I check-in with them in December 2022, and they only had 32 reviews in Apple. They are like, “We get a lot more plays every month. We should have more reviews.” They thought maybe not having more reviews was holding them back a little bit. When you have a brand-new show and you have a couple of hundred reviews and the show’s been out a couple of weeks, maybe that’s where your radar should be up, and have a healthy dose of skepticism about how could you have that many reviews so quickly. That’s probably not real.
After a couple of years, 32 reviews. I advise this customer, “Here’s what I recommend you do. Communicate with your listeners and reach out to them.” They had something of value they could provide like a digital copy of their book they had put out that did a review challenge. They asked their listeners, “If you do like the show and you are subscribed and you’d be willing to go to Apple and leave a review, please screenshot it, share it on social media, and then email that to us and show us you did it with your name, email, and phone number.”
They were getting their contact information. Now, they were adding people to their list. They were letting them know, “We are going to update you. Unless you don’t want to be, let us know.” Months later, they have got 220-some odd reviews from doing that challenge, reaching out, communicating with their audience, and letting them know the good reason why they would appreciate it if they could give a review, and if they did, they gave them a reward that had some more value for them. That’s the work and time it takes to get reviews.
That’s a whole other topic that we are addressing in the next episode. The reality is that that is more valuable later than it is at the beginning, and that’s something that you also need to remember. Reviews in the beginning can be red flags when you have too many of them. It’s not as valuable as it is after you had your show established in a while, because what that client was able to do was show conversion on their audience in addition to providing greater value and getting more reviews for their show.
They were able to get a lot more value for it by putting it as a program later than doing it at the beginning. That’s another thing. Some of these predators don’t understand the order in which you should do things. They think all podcasters want downloads, reviews, videos, teasers, and social media stuff. That’s what they think they all want, but the reality is you also have to do that in the proper order when you have enough content for it, when you have the readers for it, and when you can maximize the benefit from it. That’s what’s not happening in this scope of things. They going after the hot topic that everyone feels is the missing piece.
Hopefully, some advice that’s going to help all of you, podcasters out there. Watch out for those predators. If something seems too good to be true, it might very well be. Take a little time to vet it and make sure before you fall prey to them. Thanks so much for reading, everybody. There’s a search function. You can search on any topic in podcasting and find some of our episodes. We have over 200. There are a lot of good topics. We may have covered something that would provide you with some good support. Go to Podetize.com and check it out.
Thanks, everyone, for paying attention. We appreciate you. As always, you can check us out on YouTube and all the other places, which are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I can’t remember all these places. Pick your favorite platform. We are there.
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