Call Her Daddy and Top Podcasts Are Reportedly Gaming Their Follower Counts

Call Her Daddy and Top Podcasts Are Reportedly Gaming Their Follower Counts

Being a top 10 podcast has always been a tough game, but some podcasters are quite literally gaming the system. Nine of America’s top 50 podcasts, including Call Her Daddy, gave mobile game users points for interacting with their content, according to a Bloomberg report Friday.

Marketing company MowPod, used by several top podcasts, promises a “significantly elevated position in the Apple Podcasts Charts” through a tool it doesn’t disclose publicly. The tool advertises to mobile game users, telling them to “Follow Call Her Daddy on Apple Podcasts” to earn tokens. If users click through, they’re directed to a landing page for the show, where they can subscribe or listen to recent episodes.

MowPod CEO Mike Wiston told Bloomberg that users just have to reach the landing page to receive tokens, not actually follow. However, the tool is proving very effective at boosting follower counts, downloads, and listening time. Wiston says customers pay $5 per new follower, with a required minimum spend of $5,000.

In podcasting, top charts are everything. Alex Cooper’s Call Her Daddy just launched on Apple Podcasts in January and is now the number two show on the platform as of Friday. Cooper was recently profiled in The New York Times about building a media company around her brand.

The profile noted that Cooper’s podcast recently slipped in Spotify’s top charts, falling from two to 23. Call Her Daddy had even fallen behind a show Alex Cooper helped create with her new media company, Hot Mess With Alix Earle. In the profile, Cooper simply brushed it off, explaining that “charts fluctuate.”

Bloomberg identified nine podcasts on America’s Top 50 list using MowPod’s secret service recently, including Call Her Daddy, as well as podcasts from Netflix, iHeartMedia, Wondery, and Lemonada. The report noted 37 podcasts in total using the boosting service.

So top podcasters are essentially buying gamer rewards for following and engaging with their shows, and it comes at a premium price. However, Winston noted that 60-80% of people who become followers through its in-game ads stay on after a campaign. At least 25% of them stick around as a long-term listener.

The Top Podcast charts are an incredibly exclusive group that’s very hard to break into. Many of the top 10 shows on Apple Podcasts and Spotify have been there for the last 5 years. There are rarely new podcasts breaking the list, and when they do, it’s likely because they have a lot of funding.

MowPod’s tactics are not unique. There are plenty of marketing tools that allow rich podcasters to buy their way to followers. However, it’s a particularly egregious example of why podcasting is such a stagnant industry, with success highly concentrated at the top.

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