Since Paris Hilton became a podcaster last month, she has hosted episodes ranging from a nine-minute episode that introduces her This Is Paris co-host Hunter March to a 62-minute sit down with sister Nicky Hilton Rothschild. Releases have been sporadic. For some shows it might be enough to set off alarm bells. But Hilton’s newly hatched deal with iHeartMedia is intentionally breaking the mold.
“I’m not following a format,” said Hilton. “That’s not someone I’ve been my whole life. I’ve always been creating new things and being the first, and that’s why I am excited about just doing it in a new way.”
This Is Paris features long-form interviews with friends of the media personality and businesswoman. She will also release short audio clips – what iHeart has dubbed PodPosts – that offer listeners an audio experience that feels more like social media in its tone and delivery.
Hilton is no stranger to the interview format, but until now she has been the one giving the answers not asking the questions. During a presentation for ad buyers about her new iHeart show, she admitted she was nervous when the time came to record the first episode.
“I’m so used to speaking to my friends out at clubs, parties or events, but it’s totally different to Zoom together,” she said. “After doing the first five minutes of the first episode, I immediately thought I was born to do this. Being able to talk and say whatever you want and control the conversation and not having to worry.” She credited the connection she has with co-host March as well as the fact the series is recorded in her Los Angeles house in a setting that once hosted infamous parties but has since become an in-home movie screening room.
Paris will draw on her entertainment industry friends and contacts for her interviews, saying her experience as the interviewee has given her a unique perspective on the job as podcast host.
“Being in this industry for so long and doing interviews, every time I walked in, I was always on guard and scared about what they are going to ask me next and whether they were going to be mean and make fun of me,” she said. “I want to be a safe place for my friends, to come and talk about whatever they want. That’s how it’s been so far. People are opening up in ways that I never have seen them do on an interview show. It makes me happy that I can be that place for people to come talk and be themselves.”
iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group CEO Conal Byrne thinks that has become a trait of the medium. “We didn’t start making podcasts a long time ago to create safe spaces for people, but I keep hearing this,” he said. I think that carries through to how people listen to it too – authenticity and genuineness are words that get used a ton in media – but don’t really mean what we think they mean. In podcasting they might actually mean that.”
New Host, New Listener
Like many Americans, Hilton discovered podcasting during the pandemic when parties and nightlife that she is known for were off the calendar. “I never listened to a podcast in my life before and then during this time I started to listen to a lot of them, and enjoying them, because I’m always someone who is multitasking and doing a lot at once,” she said. “I love that you can just have it playing in the background.”
In addition to the This is Paris podcast, iHeartMedia has also formed a collaboration with Hilton’s newly launched audio company, London Audio. It calls for Hilton to executive produce six additional podcasts for the iHeartRadio Podcast Network over the next three years.
“I love being able to share my platform with others. There are so many people who deserve that attention,” she said. But the woman, who now at the age of 40 admits she was never a “dumb blond” but was good playing one on TV, savvily kept specifics hidden. Hilton would only say that a “huge focus” will be on women empowerment. “I really want to show those women entrepreneurs, I’m just all about girl power,” she said.
In many ways the This is Paris podcast is an outgrowth of the acclaimed YouTube Originals documentary on Hilton’s life, which has garnered more than 20 million views to date. The documentary follows her success in business but takes an unexpected and highly personal turn as she reveals, for the first time, the abuses she suffered as a teenager.
“I’ve never been so open in my life. Through my documentary I really showed myself in ways I never had before, and I was so vulnerable. And now I’m an open book,” said Hilton. “I have nothing to hide and I can talk about everything. I am just comfortable and proud of the woman I am today.”