Posted on August 8, 2023 in Technology

Fake Podcasts: Why Bother?

Podcasts As A Visual Art

Podcasts are everywhere. They’re a more relaxed, theoretically less-edited form of content that’s fairly easy and cheap to get into. However, getting into podcasting and actually turning a profit for the work put into it are two totally different things! Spotify pays famously terribly – while podcasters make more money than musical artists, the money earned per stream is still not sustainable for most. Specialized groups like the Maximum Fun network may lessen the load by acting as advertisement and hosting, but they have their own requirements for members on their platform.

Podcasts are not an easy source of passive income unless the creator is already established. New podcasters may spend years trying to get something off the ground and never succeed! It’s an incredibly competitive field filled with many skilled people.

As such, it sort of makes sense that creators who already have an established fanbase would have an easier time putting something together, and of those established creators, creators who do something almost like a podcast – making Youtube videos – would have an easier time learning the language. If the creator is a Youtuber and they already have cameras available, they may as well film what they’re making and put that up so that listeners listening from Youtube have something to watch. Ordinary podcasters don’t tend to have a nice space they can film in, but most Youtubers at least have a desk or something. Some shows go full circle to talk-shows and play clips, even. Shows that didn’t start with video start filming to follow the tide. Podcasting now comes with video as often as it doesn’t.

Fake Podcasts

There’s a visual language to these filmed podcasts. Two or more people are wearing headphones. There’s a microphone, maybe multiple. The cameras used to film are angled in such a way that you know who is facing who if the entire cast isn’t caught in a shot (often, podcasts with visuals are edited to cut to a zoomed in shot of the person who’s talking). And, most importantly, the cast is almost never looking at the camera. They’re looking at each other, an artifact from previous podcasting eras where looking at the camera wasn’t strictly required. Looking at the people you’re talking to instead of the camera turned out to be more natural not only for the hosts, but also for the audience watching the show.

If you know the tricks, you know how to fake it!

The question is: why? Why fake it?

The majority of podcasts aren’t that prestigious, as mentioned before. However, while a podcaster could be anyone, a guest has to be ‘worthy’. To say ‘I’ve been interviewed’ and to post videos from the podcast is an affirmation that the guest is interesting and worth listening to at some level. Posting clips of an interview gives the interviewee clout and perceived status.

After that, even though the faker can’t attach a name, they can hint at the quality of the show they were allegedly on by using high quality filming and audio equipment visible in the shot. More expensive show? More expensive stuff. Therefore, they were asked on to interview at a prestigious, well-run, and profitable show with a lot of listeners eager to hear their wisdom. The “set” behind them gives hints too: Is it a podcast run for sports? Does it appeal to drama-loving gossip hounds? Are they on a comedy podcast, or a serious one?

Also, it’s just really easy to fake! The interviewee doesn’t have a name or a watermark to attach to their video, but whatever; a lot of clips of popular podcasts just expect viewers to know the names of the people in them, and they don’t really tag their Shorts or TikToks with the show’s full title. It doesn’t tend to affect how realistic a clip looks. There are hundreds if not thousands of podcasts, many of which are super popular within their niche but nowhere else, which is why the equipment quality trick works at all – being on a super popular zoology podcast doesn’t mean that any true crime podcast listener would have heard of the guest, and vice versa. If someone posts a clip of themselves talking about animals or true crime, the listener just assumes they haven’t heard of the show they were on, not that the clip itself is fake.

How To Spot It

Spotting fake clips is tough, but not impossible. Hosts rarely take snips of just themselves or just the guest. If the “guest” doesn’t have any footage of the “host”, then they can’t include it, which means it’s probably fake. Similarly, if the “guest” is not treating the equipment or environment like it needs to be treated to get the audio (touching microphones or turning their head too far away from the mic on their desk, etc.) there’s a solid chance that’s a fake.

As long as they aren’t “borrowing” someone’s image or credibility without actually being on their show, there isn’t much harm in these fake podcast clips. It’s just a weird little quirk of the internet today that fake clips are being made to sell soundbites easier.