Podcasting is a major draw for potential media distraughters and visionaries. In the medium that is still developing, they see moist clay that can be formed into an ideal vessel for long-form narrative journalism or fiction or game shows or musicals or memoirs.
Add Paris Hilton to their ranks. Hilton, master of an earlier era of mass communication in the early years of the tabloid, is stepping into a form with a new company, her own show, and an unusual spin that seeks to create an audio that matches social media.
“This Is Paris” will debut on February 22nd, in partnership with iHeartMedia, the radio giant that has grown to become one of the largest podcast distributors, with more than 750 shows that collect more than 250 million downloads per month. The new show is aimed at Hilton’s 40 million+ followers on social media platforms and features a mix of personal content and conversations with their family, friends and other celebrities. It will be the flagship of a planned list of seven shows produced by Hilton’s London Audio and iHeartPodcast Network. The other programs with different hosts will be released over the next three years.
“I’ve always been an innovator and a trailblazer when it comes to reality TV, social media and DJing, and now I really believe that language and audio are the next frontier,” she said in an interview.
A key feature of their podcast will be their use of a format that Hilton calls “podposts”: short (between one and three minutes), slimmed-down shows designed to mimic the cadence and tone of social media posts. The “This Is Paris” podcast feed will feature longer (around 45 minutes), more traditional episodes each week, with intermittent podposts filling the void several times a week.
“I really think it’s like another form of social media,” said Hilton. “I do so many things – as a DJ, businesswoman, designer, and writer – that I can talk about them a lot.”
Pre-planned categories of podposts are inspired by Hilton’s famous buzzwords, including “That’s Hot” for product recommendations, “Loves It” for cultural recommendations, and “This Is my Hotline,” where Hilton responds to voicemail messages sent by listeners. Conal Byrne, president of the iHeartPodcast network, said the company is currently looking to partner with brands for sponsorship at various levels.
“Her ability to recommend products she believes in to her fans is almost unrivaled,” said Byrne.
Since the end of “The Simple Life,” her reality television series starring Nicole Richie, in 2007, Hilton, who turns 40 this month, has branched into a variety of industries through her company Paris Hilton Entertainment. The assets include 45 retail stores and 19 product lines in various categories such as fragrance, fashion and accessories. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Hilton was a sought-after DJ around the world, paying her $ 1 million per gig.
With this new deal, iHeartMedia will fully fund the list of shows produced in association with London Audio on a multi-million dollar budget. The two companies will be joint partners at every trade fair and will share all sources of income. After “This Is Paris,” the rest of the list is said to be focused on topics such as beauty, wellness, dating, philanthropy and technology, with Hilton and Bruce Gersh, President of London Audio serving as executive producers.
“This is a medium that has so many dimensions and it really allows you to connect with an audience in unique ways,” said Gersh. “Paris wanted to step in with all of its heart.”
Hilton, who named “Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions,” and Kate and Oliver Hudson’s “Sibling Revelry” as their favorite shows, immersed themselves in the medium during the pandemic at home in Los Angeles.
“I usually travel 250 days a year and work all the time,” she said. “During the whole year in quarantine, I had more free time than ever before in my career. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts and I was really interested in them. When I cook or work or do my art, I always have it in the background. “
Podcasts have become a preferred medium for celebrities looking to delve deeper into fans than a typical post on Instagram or Twitter, while avoiding the control and vulnerability associated with speaking to the press. Name recognition is a huge perk on the platform – shows from celebrity podcasters like Dax Shepard, Jason Bateman, Anna Faris and Bill Burr regularly appear in the top 50 Apple Podcasts charts. (In addition to the Hilton deal, iHeartMedia has partnered with Will Ferrell and Shonda Rhimes to watch shows.) And podcast audiences tend to be relatively friendly: there are no comment areas highlighting uncomfortable behavior and podcasts The Nature requires a level of active engagement that will deter passing critics.
“I think once people understand that this is a platform where they can interact directly with their fans without any sort of middle person, it will be a very attractive proposition,” said Tom Webster, senior vice president from Edison Research, a media research company.
Webster added that Hilton’s podposts concept reminded him of the proto-podcast field of audio blogging, where writers published short audio diaries for sites like The Quiet American and The Greasy Skillet. “It enables them to engage with their personal interests in ways that they cannot achieve in their day-to-day work,” he said.
“This Is Paris” takes its name from Hilton’s YouTube documentary that was released last fall. In this film, which has nearly 20 million views, she distances herself from the carefree, ditsy person she has been identified with since she appeared in the glitz of paparazzi onions two decades ago. Hilton also says she was molested by administrators of a private boarding school she attended as a teenager, an experience that leaves her traumatized.
The podcast is supposed to follow in the same open direction. Hilton records it in a home studio (built for her music projects) and uses her much discussed natural voice (which to my ear is deeper than her girly trill, but no dramatic departure).
“She speaks in a way that is very relaxed and approachable, unlike someone doing a performance,” said Byrne. “Right away she felt like a one-on-one conversation and not a one-to-many media object.”
It was initially uncomfortable for Hilton to include the pilot for the show – unlike on social media, there were no glamorous photos or videos to hide behind. “It’s all about the knowledge you bring and what you say with your voice,” she said.
But soon she fell into a groove. After being the subject of interviews for a lifetime, she has enjoyed turning the tables when asking questions. Compared to their old jobs, the commute isn’t bad either.
“I love being a homebody,” she said, thinking about her new chapter. “I’ve worked so incredibly hard to build my empire – now I can finally enjoy it.”