Across The Sound iPhone Sponsorship – A Useful But Extreme Experiment

Joseph Jaffe has created some waves recently with his offer of sponsorship of his podcast in exchange for an iPhone.

This novel approach to monetizing a podcast is pretty controversial. Basically, on episode #83 of Across The Sound, Jaffe offered sponsorship of an episode of the podcast to the first user that sent him an iPhone. He followed that up two episodes later, offering one month of sponsorship in return for a Sony Vaio or MacBook laptop.

I have three thoughts on this.

  1. Kudos to Jaffe for coming up with another way to monetize his podcast. He’s been doing this for a while and he deserves the returns he’s generating from it. I also appreciate the novel approach – why not get a phone? Would there be the same controversy if it was money instead of the iPhone (Jaffe said the much same thing on ATS #84)? For Immediate Release (which I also enjoy) has sponsored segments, but there’s much less controversy . Why aren’t people upset with that? I have no problem with either concept.
  2. Equal kudos to Tim Coyne for pursuing this opportunity (Tim provided the first of the two iPhones that Jaffe received). Yes he’s promoting himself, but I applaud his creativity and dedication to developing his career. Some people are happy to sit back and take the hand that life deals them. He’s putting himself out there, and I fully support him in that. In fact, after finishing this post, I’m off to his site to offer up the little value I can.
  3. I do have one problem with this initiative. Episode #86 of Across the Sound, the first cast sponsored through this approach, was largely co-presented with Tim Coyne. The content wasn’t at all related to the usual content – the stuff that people subscribe to listen to. Most of the episode centred around Coyne’s efforts to get an audition for a TV show role. If Jo Jaffe does receive a laptop (in fact, he did), does that mean a whole month of his show will be filled with content unrelated to the usual value he offers? If it does, he may lose a whole lot of subscribers.

I have no problem with Jaffe getting some monetary benefit through his podcast. The same goes for all of the other PR/marketing-related podcasts I listen to (thanks to all you guys and others).

My concern is that Jaffe has taken the sponsorship idea too far. People don’t download podcasts to listen to ads; they tune in despite the ads, to listen to the valuable content. Without that, they’ll stop downloading. Without listeners, potential sponsors will lose interest. There needs to be a middle ground.

This approach seems like an experiment to me. As with all new things, mistakes will be made (as I pointed out in my last post). While I applaud the it, I hope that Jo will swing back slightly from the extreme sponsorship he has used here and toward an approach that will allow sponsorship of his podcast without permitting its takeover.

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.