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How Cancel Culture is Impacting the Podcasting Industry

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Cancel culture was a term I had never heard before May 15th 2019. On this day, one of my close work colleagues came into work after a week away from the office to compete in a fitness competition. She was beyond upset. I quickly asked her what was bothering her. She went on to explain to me that she had been attacked by cancel culture.

I had no idea what this meant, but it turns out it was very serious. Apparently, at this competition, she stood up for someone who had been wrongfully accused. When she spoke up, all of the women in the industry attacked her. The uproar was so strong that my friend was removed from the competition. Weeks later, she was still receiving death threats.

This sounds crazy, right? Evan Gerstmann reported in his article on Forbes that cancel culture is only getting worse.

I decided to do some searching myself, so I went to Google Trends to see how many people are talking about and searching for “Cancel Culture.” It’s becoming more serious indeed… Here is what I found:

From the above chart from Google Trends, you can see a massive spike that began during summer 2020.

What does cancel culture mean?

Cancel culture, also known as group shaming, is the withdrawing of support or “canceling” of public figures, companies, or products/services after they have done or said something considered counterculture, debatable, or offensive. This is mainly performed on social media in the form of group shaming and has materialized into riots within large organizations.

Long story short, cancel culture is real and something that we need to be mindful of in the podcasting industry. BUT, not everyone agrees with this…

As I began my research for this blog post, I asked the following question on my social media channels and in podcasting specific groups. ?

“Have you ever had a past guest ask you take down the episode they were on? Either due to a disagreement or seeing your success from the episode. How did you handle this?”

To date, there have been 167 responses to this question. I’ll be sharing some of the responses from this research throughout this blog post. ?

Also, I’m going to get into what we can do to combat cancel culture in the podcasting industry, but first I want to talk about WHY every podcast host should care about this topic. (Even if you’ve never had a problem like I’m describing.)

The problem with playing it safe to avoid cancel culture and why it matters for your podcast:

If we’re all afraid (even if it’s subconscious fear) of our podcast episodes and even shows getting canceled, we’ll only seek out guests that we see eye to eye with. When we do this, we miss a huge opportunity for diversity and widening our own (and our audiences) perspective on our topic. We must be willing to continue to step out and find these guests that are different than us. Having an interview release form protects us so we can better serve our audiences!

Often the best conversations come from different perspectives, beliefs and outlooks. ?

Lets use Joe Rogan as an example. Do you know why his podcast is so popular? It’s not because he used to make people eat bugs on Fear Factor. And it’s certainly not because he has 3-hour episodes with no direction. It’s because he has great conversations with people he may not agree with. That’s what makes it powerful! (We can all learn from this.)

Speaking of Joe Rogan… Cancel culture attacked his podcast already.

A contingent of activist Spotify staffers are now considering a walkout or full-blown strike if their demands for direct editorial oversight of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast aren’t met.

The Joe Rogan Experience is likely the most well-known example of a podcast that has been attacked by cancel culture.

Paul Resnikoff reported that Spotify employees threatened to strike if Joe Rogan Podcasts aren’t edited or removed.

You’re likely saying what I said when this first got brought up to me in the podcasting space, “That would never happen!” But as I began exploring how the biggest players in podcasting manage their content, I learned that they have been planning for it for a long time already.

Thankfully we’ve not seen this happen on PodMatch, but we’re starting to hear reports of cancel culture happening through Facebook groups that we’re part of.

Here’s the flow for how we’re seeing cancel culture get started against podcast hosts:

  1. A host finds a guest for the show.
  2. They record the show episode.
  3. The show goes live (Yay! Everyone is happy)
  4. The host (unrelated to this interview) posts that they are voting for Trump (or Biden) in the Presidential Election.
  5. One past guest who does not share the same political views sees the post .
  6. The guest loses their mind and threatens the host saying, “I don’t want to associate with you, take down the episode we recorded together immediately.”
  7. Legal action, shaming from friends of the guest, etc. (You can imagine the rest.)

Going back to my research, I had many podcasters share their cancel culture experience. Here are 5 noteworthy responses:

? #1. “I had someone publicly attack me for personal beliefs totally irrelevant to the podcast several months after being a guest. I offered to remove the episode, as he was making it very clear he wanted to not be associated with me in any way.”
? #2. “We had a guest on who asked to be cut from podcast as she discovered retrospectively that she disagreed with our political views.”
? #3. “Once I had a host tell me they were taking down my episode because my profile picture on FB says Black Lives Matter.”
? #4. “I also had a VERY BAD experience with a prior guest in which she DEMANDED I take down the episode we recorded together because I had an ad spot in my intro she didn’t agree with. She was VEHEMENT and completely unprofessional throwing tantrums and threatening legal action.”
? #5. “I have had someone unrepeated to the guest ask me to take an episode down (and make a ton of social media posts slandering me for having this guest on my podcast)”

And for some comedic relief, here’s a funny one that someone shared:

? Okay back on track now…

I don’t know about you, but this scares the mess out of me!

As soon as I saw this, I immediately began seeking how I could keep this from happening to me. I asked myself this question,

“How can I protect my podcast from cancel culture?”

As a Christian, I’d never push my relationship with Jesus on anyone, but some people I’ve met are immediately offended by me and don’t want anything to do with me. I’d like to still post encouraging content that represents my faith and not have to worry about a past guest getting mad about it and taking legal action against me.

I know this sounds extreme, but maybe it’s not…

A few weeks ago, I was speaking with my lawyer about some of the protective measures we’ve taken with PodMatch when I asked her, “Do we really need all of this?” She immediately responded in a way that changed my perspective. “Alex, it’s not about IF you get sued; it’s WHEN you get sued. No one expects it. Everyone assumes it wouldn’t happen to them. But it does happen, every single day.”

I’m not sharing this to scare you, but simply to say that you need to be smart about your podcast. You care about what you’re doing. Your audience benefits from it. The value you are adding to the world through your show is unique, and people rely on it. Take that seriously!

What can podcasters do about cancel culture?

Be proactive in protecting yourself and your precious content. There is a straightforward method to quickly and effectively protect your podcast episodes. You need a podcast interview release form (guest release form). Making sure that you have a form that every guest signs and gets a copy of will keep you (both) safe.

? A release form is the solution to the problem the podcasting industry is facing with cancel culture. ?

One of the most shocking trends I discovered during my research for this post was the amount of podcast hosts who said they wouldn’t take down an episode; but, they also said they don’t have (or need) a release form to enforce their decision.

Here are 10 real examples from my research:

“If a past guest asked you to take down an episode of your podcast, would you do it?”

#1. “They would have to come up with a pretty good reason for me to delete the episode.”
#2. “No, I would never take it down.”
#3. “It’s my understanding that once a recording; is in your possession it’s yours to do with whatever you want.”
#4. “I’ve had a few want their content back. Which we decline. At the end of the day, we own it.”
#5. “Once it’s up, it’s up. If you said something you regret, well tough nuggies.”
#6. “I wouldn’t take nothing down if the interview is on your platform I will not take it down they can’t tell you how to run your platform cause of a disagreement.”
#7. “Hell no. I would never. Before recording you guys should always have the firm understanding that the content belongs to you. Meaning no one can tell you what to do with it. Period.”
#8. “I had a guest ask to take down an episode because they acted like idiots, they were running their mount and regretted what they said. I didn’t remove it… it was a great show.”
#9. “Not necessary.”

And I’ll end with my favorite ❌ #10: “Just say no.”

These are just my 10 favorites. Many other podcast hosts said the same thing, most of which did not have a release form or any sort of agreement of any kind.

Thankfully, comments like the ones I just shared were the minority. It seems many people are starting to catch on and are searching for solutions. In fact, the following question is trending on Google:

“Should I have my podcast guests sign a release form?”

Again, the answer is YES. Your guests need to be signing an interview release form.

During my research, a known Attorney at Law in the podcasting space, Gordon P. Firemark contributed to the conversation and this point by saying the following:

“This is why I recommend using a guest release. If you’ve got one, you’re good. No need to take down. Otherwise, the guests consent to your continued distribution of the show is revocable. (At least arguably), so unless you’re up for a legal fight, taking the episode down is the solution.”

Beautifully said, Gordon! He’s 100% right with this. (To learn more about Gordon, you can visit his website, here.)

So we’ve determined that you need a guest release form for your podcast. Now, I will say this, some processes for signing a release form are a bit annoying. In 2020 alone, I was a guest on 100 podcasts, and some of the release form signing processes are cumbersome; but it doesn’t have to be this way.

PodMatch’s solution for podcast interview release forms:

?The number one goal at PodMatch is to serve our members to make the podcast interview process as straightforward as possible. We’ve now added an interview release form (created by a fancy lawyer!) directly into the scheduling process. It’s seamless, requires no setup, and automatically emails a signed copy to the guest and the host for everyone’s protection. (PodMatch’s interview release form is currently available to members with a professional account.)

PodMatch Legal Release Form AVAILABLE NOW!
Enable your podcast guest release form from your PodMatch settings page.

Where Can You Get a Podcast Guest Release Form?

➤ Use the built-in PodMatch release form.
➤ Work with a professional like Gordon Firemark.
➤ Pay your existing attorney to draft one up for you.
➤ Don’t use a service like LegalZoom or eForms. (Trust me)
➤ Unless you’re an attorney, DO NOT MAKE YOUR OWN.

Cancel culture is impacting the podcasting industry, but there is something that we can do about it. I urge you to take action today by implementing a podcast interview release form into your guest onboarding process for your show.

PodMatch makes it simple for you,  but you can also have a lawyer create one for you exclusively, regardless, just make sure you get one implemented ASAP. You’ve worked too hard not to protect yourself, and people are relying on the content you produce.

To listen to a conversation on this topic, check out this podcast episode that I was featured as a guest on.

For the sake of ending this post on a positive note, I want to share two comments that were left on my research that I found uplifting:

In conclusion, a guest release form is NOT giving you a license to be a jerk, but instead to protect you from the ever-growing effects of cancel culture. The reason I wrote this post and did this research is because I care about podcasters. I want to see us all succeed and not be held back! Keep making a difference.

What actions and precautions have you taken to protect your podcasts episodes from cancel culture?
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