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Follow-up to the Five Dollar Chart

Every time I write about the charts, the newsletter tends to get reader replies than usual. Which makes sense: the Apple Podcast Charts remains a central point of focus and concern for many podcast makers and publishers as far as marketing (and/or validation) is concerned. But a good chunk of those replies appear to come from individuals presenting themselves as some sort of chart placement consultants, either to promote their services or to offer themselves up as potential sources of expertise for future write-ups. I know this cottage industry has been around for a long time, but man, does it feel slimy. The podcast industry doesn’t have the most respectable image just yet — in fact, it feels like it’s gotten slimier over time — and this certainly doesn’t help, I think.

Another thing to consider. As a reader pointed out over Twitter: it may well be easy to identify when a small independent podcast pays five bucks to a click-farm to manipulate the charts, but what if a big network did the same thing to make a new show feel like the Next Big Thing? “Would any of us notice?” the reader asked.

Tis a good point. It would, indeed, be relatively hard to assess whether something’s fishy with much certainty when it comes to a bigger or more established shop. (Though, Chartable’s whole thing about cross-referencing the Top Episodes and the Top Podcasts charts would be helpful in this regard. Helpful, but not finalizing.) But I’m fairly certain there’s probably been an established network — or multiple, honestly — out there that’s already tried this.

A thought: the thing with grifts like these is not to raise the ceiling, particularly, but to raise the floor. The equivalent of padding a solid argument with a few tiny lies to improve the image of its solidity.

Another thought: wouldn’t it be fun to float a marriage proposal through a fresh RSS feed that you pump up the charts with a couple of click-farm Fiverr campaigns? Or, oh I don’t know, your new trap remix or something.

Anyway, was skimming the great Daring Fireball blog yesterday and bumped into two other stories Scams in the time of Digital Everything, in case you wanna spend a little more in this world:

  • In-app purchasing scams in the app store (Link)
  • BuzzFeed News: “Apps installed on Android Phones tracked user behavior to execute multi-millionaire ad fraud scheme.” (Link)

As always: if it can be gamed, it will be gamed.