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(By Rita Bautista) If you’ve ever wanted an insight into the current state of the podcast game, you need only read the headlines from the recent controversy at the Podcast Movement 2022 conference.
Yes, behind the gilded mics and multi-million dollar Spotify deals, there’s a tug of war going on between advertisers and creatives. No more was that apparent than last week when Podcast Movement requested that conservative media host Ben Shapiro leave the 4-day event—despite his company Daily Wire having paid $10,000 as a sponsor.
Daily Wire’s presence at the conference was already a divisive move, with Shapiro largely known for his controversial stance on LGBTQ rights, having argued that homosexuality should remain in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and his rejection of the term LatinX as a ‘perversion of Spanish’.
Having Shapiro stopping by and taking photos with fans proved to be the final straw for guests, who requested that event organizers ask the contentious pundit to leave and issue an official apology.
Gary Coichy of Pod Digital Media weighed in on the decision, saying, “If the podcast industry has made it this far to diversify the content being delivered, expos and conference producers should seriously take the necessary measures to carefully vet sponsors in an effort to confidently represent the industry.__”
As a founding leader of Latinx Podcasters and as the CEO of Latina Podcast Network and Latino Pods, I know first-hand the importance of ensuring our hosted ads align seamlessly with our ethics. And if dollars are important to you, it’s not just about doing the right thing. Through the voices of our Latina, Latino, Latinx, and Latine podcasters we successfully connect brands to the Latinx audience—a community with a total buying power exceeding $2 trillion dollars.
With this in mind, I wholeheartedly side with Coichy, even going further to say this is a watershed moment for the industry. One in which podcasters, networks and their affiliates are finally being held accountable to their bottom lines.
Our company vets every single sponsor that wants to purchase ad space on our network. We do this to protect our podcasters and their brands, and also to give our podcasters the right to refuse any ad buys that may risk tarnishing their integrity.
Because at the end of the day, in podcasting, that’s all you’ve got.
At this point Podcast Movement’s integrity has been brought firmly into question. Not because they included Shapiro or Daily Wire, but because of their lack of transparency and understanding towards their guests.
Ben Shapiro understands the importance of being in the headlines and by kicking him out of the conference and issuing a formal apology, Podcast Movement gave him exactly what he wanted and gift-wrapped it.
So do I think it did more harm than help for LatinX and LGBTQ movement? Yes.
But do I think it highlighted the responsibility every podcaster and network has to their audience?
Taking money from a guy you already thought was potentially controversial was a misstep (to put it lightly).
Kicking the same guy out of the conference because he triggered a few people is just doubling down on the mistake.
Apologizing to the entire conference for his presence but keeping his advertising dollars? A shameful move that’s on even Ben Shapiro level.
The only thing we can do when in situations like this is to learn and do better—if only Shapiro would do the same).
Rita Bautista is the CEO of The Latina Podcast Network and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Podcasting is one of the few places left where there is “freedom of speech.” If you don’t like Daily Wire’s content, simply don’t listen to their podcasts. You don’t have a right to silence or cancel them. It appears that Podcaster Movement does not support “freedom of speech.”