As a podcast production and marketing agency, we have run into several anonymous podcasting situations where someone wants to launch a podcast, but may wish to remain unknown rather than revealing a personal brand or identifiable information.
A Disclaimer About Podcasting With A Pseudonym
Please be advised that what follows is in no way a suggestion, endorsement or recommendation. Depending on the situation I strongly suggest getting professional legal advice if you are launching an anonymous podcast with a pseudonym. After having talked to several podcasters who want to do this, I have come across perfectly legitimate reasons for doing so. But there are also cases where podcasters are trying to circumvent employer guidelines or even legal requirements, and this could cause serious trouble down the road.
Some podcasters may wish for their employer to remain un-aware of their podcasting efforts, for any number of reasons. For example, would you want your employer to know that you are running an alcoholics recovery podcast? Or a raunchy comedy podcast? So some of the reasons may simply be reputational or privacy related. But others may violate your employer's stated policies and put you at risk of dismissal.
More serious even would be industries where one cannot provide advice under a real name, such as in financial services or investment advisors, or for certain government or legal organizations.
Is Launching An Anonymous Podcast it Worth It?
In most cases the drawbacks, extra work and many questions that arise around launching and marketing such podcasts simply make it not worthwhile to pursue the effort.
However, while it may take a little extra work, it is possible to launch a podcast anonymously. Here's how to set that up.
Anonymous Podcasting Is A Special Situation
At first glance it might strike us as an unusual situation.
And you may wonder, well, what, under what circumstances does that happen? That seems like a really disadvantage, right?
I mean, most of us podcast in order to be found, in order to communicate something about our businesses or to be contributing something to a community where we are a known entity.
It takes a little bit more work, but basically I think with that extra work, it's totally possible to launch a podcast anonymously.
Considerations for Creating An Anonymous Podcast
Before we delve into possible solutions or suggestions, let's talk about some of the areas where we might want to think more carefully about what the impact is.
- You will need a separate Apple Id – and that implies having a different email address
- With podcast hosting companies, Libsyn for example, you probably would not want to have that tied to your personal identity
- The same goes for social media profiles, your email address and your websites
- There are also some questions around promotion and discoverability
- There are considerations for what branding of an anonymously hosted podcast looks like
- And if you are receiving sponsorship or are monetizing your show, there are legal questions to consider
So I thought I'd give some thoughts to all of these.
Email Address And Domain Setup
Creating a pseudonym for anonymous podcasting starts with creating a new email address. And in order to create a new email address that's completely separate from your existing sort of identities, really what we're talking about is creating a different domain for your both your website and for your show.
This is something that you should need to promote your show anyway, and that new domain will determine your pseudonym's email address: for example firstname.lastname@example.org
In order to establish such an email you want to take out and register a domain for your podcast with a domain registration company like GoDaddy.
But when you do that, be sure to select all of the privacy options offered during the domain registration process with GoDaddy.
The point where you need to use your real email address is when you register your domain in the first place.
But there's a thing called WHOIS lookup, a service where anybody can look up who owns a particular domain. Every year, millions of people, businesses, organizations and governments register domain names.
Each one must provide identifying and contact information which may include: name, address, email, phone number, and administrative and technical contacts. This information is often referred to as "WHOIS data."
And so just the fact that you might have a domain for your podcast doesn't mean that it remains private. But if you pay the extra to remain anonymous in the DNS lookup space, then your real name and email address is protected. From that moment onward, you basically will start to establish all of the other things you need for your podcasting under your pseudonym.
Web Hosting For Podcasting Anonymously
Establishing a website then is part of establishing a pseudonym, in my book anyway. So once you have a domain registered for your private podcast, go ahead and sign up for some web hosting.
This is because most web hosting plans actually come with a bundled email plan, where they provide you with a free email account that's tied to the new domain that you just took out.
So when you get your hosting account, create your email account there, set it up with your new domain, set up a new basic website.
Configure Your Email Client
Configure an email client on or application on your PC or a Mac or mobile device so that you can actually start receiving emails that are sent to that new anonymous podcasting related email address.
One additional step you could do for the podcast itself is setting up a coming soon page. And basically now you will have a functioning email address as well as a website for the new name of the podcast. Once you've tested that, basically it's on to the next steps.
Thinking about branding, obviously you don't want to use your real profile photos or anything personally identifiable. A cartoon style podcast icon could be an option where you still have a likeness that kind of looks like you, but isn't really identifiable.
This allows you to still come across as a real person or a hosting personality.
Some of the places I can recommend in creating podcast graphics like that are 99 Designs and Fiver. Fiver will be a little bit cheaper, but with 99 Designs you can send a picture in and graphic artists will send you a bunch of drafts and proposals back and you only pay for the one that you actually wind up liking.
You do need to create a different Apple ID in order to eventually submit your show to Apple Podcasts, and you need to use your desktop iTunes application for this step.
I think in the future there will be push-back around setting up what might be considered "fake" accounts, and I expect for this to eventually become harder, but currently it is still possible.
In practice that means you might have to explicitly log out of your iTunes or Apple Podcast desktop app in order to go through the process of creating a new Apple ID.
It's because it's important to do that on your desktop because when you're submitting your podcast to Apple Podcasts, if you originally created the Apple ID on a mobile device, currently your podcast submission will fail. I don't know that it's a bug, but Apple currently requires you to create your account using your desktop app.
You do need to provide a mailing address at some point in the process, but this is not publicly visible.
Podcast hosting should also be set up with your pseudonym. The idea is that everything related to your podcast from this moment on uses your pseudonym and pseudonyms email that's associated with your podcast.
And it's a good idea to establish a social media presence. I guess this is where it gets into doing a little bit of extra work, but I think this is really worth it.
At a minimum you anonymous podcasters should create a new Twitter profile, using the pseudonym email address. Also it will be good to create a new Facebook account in order to set up a Facebook page and group for that show.
And that can be a little bit extra work because if you are very active on Facebook, you're going to have to manage two separate logins.
When you want to interact with the Facebook community and page that you're establishing for your podcast, it's important that you switch to the pseudonym account and login from scratch.
Email List Service Provider
Several of these have "free to get started" options, for example Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor. If you're just getting started, you may not want to spend anything until your show grows. Again, you can start building an email list where people basically subscribe to your podcasts to receive episode notifications and any other resources that you want to share with your community.
Promotions and Discoverability
Once you're set up with consistently using your pseudonym, it really shouldn't make that much of a difference when it comes to promotion.
Of course you will most likely not be well established on social media in terms of followers and fans. You're kind of starting from scratch when it comes to promotions, and this is why it's important to create those social media accounts early on, and to engage with your social media audience heavily to establish a presence quickly.
You might use your real profiles to then retweet or cross-promote.
Sponsorship and Monetization
You can still create a sponsorship page on Patreon for the podcast to allow people to sign up for that.
But in general terms, I think that once you start accepting money, it gets into some more tricky areas.
And I think that brings us to sort of the legal aspects.
Getting Professional Legal Advice
I am not in a position to give anything resembling legal advice at all. You need to consult with your legal advisor and get some professional advice.
Typically what is involved is to actually establishing a separate business identity so that there is liability separation. You personally being responsible or being held to account versus you operating as a separate legal entity.
People usually do this through an LLC, and that constitutes a separate business and a separate tax structure.
You could set up a separate bank account and credit card. I mean it depends on how far down the road do you want to go. I'm assuming that, when first starting out this isn't a primary concern.
So I hope these thoughts are helpful for anyone looking to get into anonymous podcasting. Let me know what you think, and if I'm leaving out anything here. If you can think of other aspects that might be very important or if you have questions, feel free to reach out and contact me.