Podcasting And Ethical Dilemmasby@supremerumham
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1,192 reads

Podcasting And Ethical Dilemmas

by Alex EdmondsAugust 27th, 2020
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The desire to grow might lead a host to take actions that are not moral. A host has to keep in mind that taking these shortcuts are short-term solutions. Any misdeeds will either backfire or not help in the long-term. Do not use music without the owner's permission to use it as a show's intro music. Don't try to create fake download numbers to get a podcast on Apple's top 200 list. Do Not ask personal questions on a survey that could lead to losing listeners.
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When starting a podcast, it is normal for a host to want to grow the podcast as much as possible. The desire to grow might lead a host to take actions that are not moral. A host has to keep in mind that taking these shortcuts are short-term solutions. Any misdeeds will either backfire or not help in the long-term.

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Do Not Steal Other People's Content

If a host would mention other content from someone else, they should give them credit. To provide them with credit, a host should cite the source of information. The next best course of action would be to put the link to the source in the show notes.

Do Not Use Music Without The Owner's Permission

If a host were to find a certain song that they like, they should not use it as their intro music. This can cause problems with the creator of the song. There are two courses of action that a host can take to avoid problems. The first action for a host is to use royalty-free music. Royalty-free music is music that is fair use. A host does not have to pay to use a royalty-free song. The second course of action a host can take is to buy a song. There are websites where music makers put songs for sale for a small amount of money. A host can buy a song and avoid any royalty issues with that song.

Do Not Inflate Downloads

A host should not try to create fake download numbers. Some people claim they can get any podcast on Apple's top 200 list.

They will only charge $5 for the service. My mother always says, "if something sounds too good to be true, then it is." This is the case with $5 growth hackers. Their "growth hack" is not a hack at all. They create 30-50 accounts to subscribe to a host's podcast every day. This course of action, for about a week, will get a podcast on the top 200 list. The problem with this technique is that Apple can recognize it as spam. They will remove any podcast from Apple Podcast that creates spam. The quick inflation of downloads is not worth the risk of getting banned from Apple Podcast.

Do Not Trick People Into Listening To A Podcast

If a host tricks someone into listening to the podcast, they are not a listener of the podcast. That person getting tricked is someone that happened to download a podcast. Relying on tricking people to listen to a podcast makes a host look bad. Decreasing the odds of the person that gets tricked continuing to listen to the podcast.

Do Not Spread Fake News

Mainstream media outlets try to force their agenda. Stretching the truth for their benefit. A listener does not need to hear fake news from a podcast. The purpose of a podcast is to be a different outlet of information from the mainstream media. Avoid being similar to the mainstream media by checking the sources of information. A host can check the reliability of information by checking with multiple sources. If different sources report the same information, the news is not faked or spun in a certain manner.


Cut Out Anything A Guest Asks To Get Out

In the interviewing chapter, I discussed telling a guest that anything can get edited out. If a guest were to exercise this option, a host should respect their wish. By keeping the unwanted content, a host is burning a bridge. The entire purpose of having guests is to build bridges and build a network. In the future, when a host asks someone to be a guest, that person might reach out to previous guests. If the potential guest reaches out to the guests that had a bad experience, they might not be willing to be a guest. The bad experience of one guest snowballs and impacts the podcast's future. This might lead to a host not being able to find a guest. Which might end the podcast.


Do Not Go Overboard

Remember that by filling out a survey listeners are taking time out of their own day. A host should not take advantage and ask 50 questions on a survey. The listeners might get annoyed by the action. The types of fans that fill out surveys for podcasts are loyal listeners. If they become annoyed by the host's actions, they may no longer be loyal listeners.

Do Not Ask Personal Questions

Keep in mind that the survey is for the podcast. A survey should not be to collect information on listeners. Asking personal questions could make a listener uncomfortable. Making a listener feel uncomfortable could lead to losing listeners.

Social Media

Do Not Spam

Not every post on social media needs to be a promotion for the podcast. Someone on social media might discuss a topic related to a host's podcast topic. That does not mean that a host should post a link to their podcast in the comments. That person might have an interest in listening to the podcast. There is no need to inform them about the podcast right away. A host should build a relationship with that person. Interact with them by following and liking their content.

For that person to see a host engaging with their content might be enough. When a host engages with the content, that person will see. They will click on the podcast's profile. Which would lead them to the podcast. But if out of context, a host promotes their podcast to that person, that might be off-putting. Which might prevent any type of relationship from growing with that person. Being a spammer may get a host banned on many social media platforms.

People do not like spammers. They notice spammers when they click on the profile and see the same comment or post multiple times. Spamming does not help, it does the opposite. A host should want people to view content and by spamming that keeps people away. Some social media platforms consider posting the same comment multiple times spamming.


Respect The Inbox

People get a lot of emails. there is no need to over email subscribers. If subscribers expect an email on a specific day at a particular time, do not abuse that. Stick to the schedule. If people get an email from a host that is off the schedule, they will open it. After days or weeks of getting an unsolicited email, they will unsubscribe and mark the email as spam. Which will hurt the entire email list.

Fewer people will be getting the emails, and the email list will be pointless. A host should focus on the quality of the content. By sending out several emails a week, there is no way the quality of each email can be high. The emails, even if they are being opened, are not getting clicks or reads. Doing so only hurts the podcast.


Do Not Keyword Stuff Articles

Keyword stuffing is the act of adding keywords and places where they do not belong. Keyword stuffing is to increase the SEO score of a blog. A higher SEO score will lead to getting ranked higher in search engine results. Having a higher SEO score means being more likely to come up in search results for search engines. One form of keyword stuffing is adding keywords to a picture's caption.

For example, an image of a cat, the caption should be "cat." For someone stuffing in the keywords, might have the caption as "stand-up comedy" or "funny joke." Keyword stuffing is not inclusive. The purpose of captions is for people who use adaptive technology to access the internet. They use a screen-reader, and the software reads the caption of the image for them.

If keywords are getting stuffed into the caption, they do not know what the image is. Search engines know this trick. They will lower the ranking of any website that stuffs keywords.


Mislead People To Watch Videos

A host should not use a title that will misrepresent the content in the video. Many video platforms have search tags that a host can use to help people find their videos. A host should not take advantage of and use the most popular tags in hopes of getting the most views. People that feel tricked will downvote the video, and that will lower the video on search results.


Harass People At Events

At an event, a host might run into someone that does not want to listen to the podcast. A host should not harass them into accepting a sticker. Harassing a person into accepting a sticker is real-life spamming! Worse, that person that was getting harassed might live in a host's community. A host could run into them at the supermarket or getting their car washed.

The worst-case scenario would be that a host runs into the harassed person at another event. That person might talk to other people about the previous event. Leading to those people not talking to a host. Those people might have a bad first impression of a host and not want to listen to a host's podcast.


Do Not Miscategorize Streams

As stated in the streaming chapter, platforms have no podcasting category. A host should try to categorize their podcast as close to a platform's categories as possible. A host should not categorize their comedy podcast as a sports video game. The viewers will feel tricked, and they will report any channel that tricks them.

The platforms care more about their viewers than the streamers. That will lead to a host getting banned on streaming platforms. Small streamers are not hard to find on streaming platforms. They do not mind kicking them off the platform to make a better experience for the viewers.

Podcast to Podcast Promotions

Honor Commitment To Podcast To Podcast Partner

A host has to build trust with podcast to podcast promotion partners. A host has to trust that their podcast to podcast promotion partner will add their content to the RSS feed. Do not be the person that does not include someone else's episode in the RSS feed.

The other host will tell more podcast hosts about their experience. A host will lose the support of similar podcast hosts if they do not honor commitments.


Do Not Lie About Metrics To Advertisers

When advertisers approach a podcast host they will ask for download numbers. A host should not lie about their download numbers to an advertiser. Advertisers know the amount of engagement that is possible based on audience size. For example, an advertiser wants a podcast that gets a thousand downloads per episode.

If a podcast only gets 100 downloads per episode and they say they have a thousand an episode. An advertiser is expecting 10 to 20 people to use the coupon from the podcast. When only five or six people use the coupon, an advertiser will know the host lied. They will stop advertising as soon as they get the numbers.

Once a host reaches 1000 downloads, a different advertiser might reach out. They might contact the previous advertiser for a reference. The previous advertiser will have to tell the new advertiser about the lying. Which could lead to a host losing the new advertising deal.

Honor Commitments To Donors

Donors give their hard-earned money to a host. The donors have many options for people to give their money to. They choose to give it to a host. When a host says that they will do a certain activity for the donors. They should do it no matter what. If a host says, they will host a Q&A, then make sure the Q&A happens. The donors are paying for these things they are paying for the extra content, a host needs to give it to them.

Do Not Cheat People

When selling a product, be sure that the product's consumer is getting all the value possible. Do not sell a 5-page eBook for $35. When a host goes to sell a product that equals its value, people will not buy it. They will remember their experience of getting cheated. They will not want to take the risk of getting cheated again.

Closing Statement About Ethics And Podcasting

In the startup world, there is a belief that every market is a winner-take-all market. The thought process gets peddled by venture capitalists. To prevent competition in the market. Allowing them to squeeze out as much money as possible. For them to maximize their profit from their portfolio companies.

There can be several competitors in any industry. In terms of podcasting, that means listeners can listen to more than one podcast of the same topic. One person can listen to multiple podcasts hosted by comedians. There is room for everyone. There is no need to steal listeners away from another podcast.

In Terms Of Communities

For the Open Podcast Community, there are over a million podcast hosts. Any one of them might join the community. At the same time, there are several podcasting communities. These podcast hosts can join more than one podcasting community.

Not every person has to join a host's community. With that in mind, there is no problem for a host to not join or support someone else's community. A host should not join another community to hurt the community. There is no need to steal members away from another community.

A host should not sell their community members' data. For a host to use their data to create a better experience for the members has advantages. Making money with a community without selling data is not difficult. There are ads, donations, or creating a product. Selling the members' data is the last option.

For a host to sell data, there needs to be a significant amount of data. If a host's community gets to that point and they are not making money, then they suck.


Comedians do not like other comedians that steal jokes. If word gets out that a comedian is a joke thief, that might make it hard for them to get stage time. Which will make it hard for them to grow a following and grow their career.


Podcasting is a long-term game. If someone is podcasting for a short-term gain, those people are in the wrong business. Some people might want shortcuts to gain an audience. Shortcuts will not work. The shortcuts might get listeners, but they will not lead to subscribers. There is a lot of content out there, and if people do not like a host's actions, they will listen to something else.

Being ethical is having a long-term vision.

This post is an excerpt from the Open Podcast Community book. Which is available for purchase here.

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