Hala Taha is the Host of Young and Profiting, CEO of YAP Media. Hala Taha dubbed the “The Podcast Princess,” is the host of Young and Profiting (YAP) Podcast, frequently ranked as a #1 Education podcast across all apps. Hala is also the founder and CEO of YAP Media, a social media and podcast marketing agency for top podcasters, celebrities, and CEOs. She is well-known for her engaged following and influence on LinkedIn, and she landed the January 2021 cover of Podcast Magazine.
Hala started her career in radio production while in college at HOT97 on “The Angie Martinez Show.” Later, she launched an entertainment news blog site, “The Sorority of Hip Hop,” where she led an all-female team of 50 bloggers. Together they ran the popular site, interviewed celebrities, produced radio shows, hosted parties/concerts, and nearly snagged a reality TV show on MTV!
When the blog site boom slowed down, Hala took a temporary exit from the entertainment industry to get an MBA. She has 7 years of corporate marketing experience at HP and Disney Streaming Services. She started Young and Profiting Podcast and YAP Media as a side hustle, scaling the business to 35+ employees before quitting her executive position at Disney to take the leap into entrepreneurship.
YAP Media is now a premier white-glove social media and podcast production agency for CEOS, celebrities and top podcasters, with a dozen high profile clients and nearly 60 employees. Young and Profiting podcast is a Top 300 podcast globally, and Hala has interviewed star-studded guests from the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Deepak Chopra, Dave Asprey, Seth Godin and countless others. Her show was recently awarded as a 2022 Webby Honoree and is currently on track to bring in over $1M in revenue in advertising sponsorship deals in 2022. With the success in growing and monetizing her own show, Hala launched the YAP Media Podcast Network in January 2022, the only podcast network with a specialization in both the growth and monetization of podcasts.
Hala is an expert on networking, personal branding, leadership, social media, side hustles, entrepreneurship, and podcasting..
Hala, can you start off by telling us about yourself and why you chose the media profession?
So nice to virtually meet all of you reading this article! My name is Hala Taha and I’m currently involved in three ventures: I’m the host of the Young and Profiting Podcast, a top self-improvement podcast with over 3M downloads. I’m the founder and CEO of YAP Media, a full-service podcast production and marketing agency for top podcasters, celebrities, and CEOs. I’m also the founder and CEO of the YAP Media Network, which fuels the growth and monetization of network podcasts.
Choosing the media profession stems back to my love of broadcasting which started in college. I interned for the New York radio station WQHT Hot97 on “The Angie Martinez Show” for free for three years. I was the associate producer of the show and was responsible for the daily show brief, research, running the boards, and even reading commercials on air which was my first experience as on-air talent. On the side while working at the station, I hosted online radio shows – the precursor to podcasts – with the up-and-coming DJs who also worked for free at the station. Podcasts did exist at the time, but they were super technical to create and even harder to access as a listener – so I didn’t pursue them.
After I left Hot97, I went back to school and started a blog called The Sorority of Hip Hop, which grew into a movement in the Tri-State with 50+ female bloggers that gained a lot of popularity. We had a buzzing blog, several online radio shows, and hosted the hottest parties in the city. After almost getting a show on MTV twice and ultimately being rejected, coupled with not being able to successfully monetize the blog, I shut everything down. It was a very low point in my life, and I completely gave up on the idea that I was ever going to make it in entertainment. I let go of my dreams, got an MBA, went into corporate marketing, and thought I would NEVER get back on a mic…
But then I got the itch again four years later. In April of 2018, I was working at Hewlett Packard and didn’t get an opportunity I really wanted at my day job. I found myself with a lot of extra time and realized I had a ton of relevant experience under my belt to start a podcast. And now podcasts were way more mainstream! I figured I’d be able to utilize the skills I learned in radio, blogging, and running social media for Fortune 500 companies to create something epic. And so I went on to do just that with Young and Profiting.
Can you tell us what drives you to be successful as a leader and entrepreneur?
I’ve always been a leader and entrepreneur from an early age. Since I was a kid, I was always “president” of something or aiming to be. I also had an entrepreneurial spirit since I can remember. Whether it was getting my friends to make bracelets and sell them or running a slushy stand at the park, I always had a passion for running a business. Today, I am the founder and CEO of a revenue-generating company that’s responsible for the livelihoods and careers of my employees. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with that responsibility, but I’ve realized that that pressure is exactly what motivates me.
Tell us about your role and your vision for YAP Media for the next 5-years.
There is so much in store for YAP and I can’t wait to continue building out different branches of the company! Podcasting has grown exponentially over the last few years and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon. Securing podcast sponsorships is our most scalable opportunity here at YAP Media and that’s why I’m super bullish on the YAP Media Podcast Network, my newest venture! I am fully focused on growing my network and ensuring we have an amazing portfolio of business shows, as well as ensuring we have tight advertising operation processes and the right partnerships ready to rock by the 2023 Upfronts. My company, YAP Media is the only podcast network with expertise in podcast media buying and social media, and because of that, we are already taking the industry by storm!
What’s the one or two accomplishments that you’re proud of?
In 2022, I’m most proud of winning two Quill Podcast Awards: Best Podcast Agency and Fastest Growing Podcast Company. I’m also proud of being a Webby Honoree this year. The Webby Awards received over 17,000 entries and I was proud that the #YAPLive: Negotiate Like a Boss with Chris Voss and Alex Carter was one of only two Webby Honorees for the Best Live Podcasting Recording award.
What advice do you have for other up-and-coming young entrepreneurs?
For young entrepreneurs, my biggest piece of advice is to figure out where your target audience spends their time and where there is organic reach. Where are all the other influencers in your niche promoting themselves and having success? That’s where you should be. LinkedIn and TikTok have the most organic reach at the moment. With that said, there are still ways to grow on every platform. For instance, using trending audios on your reels and testing new features like ‘Collaborate’ and Reel stickers are effective ways to gain traction on Instagram.
The main takeaway here is to focus on one platform instead of trying to maintain a presence on them all. By focusing on one platform, you can learn what works and what doesn’t, study its algorithm, and build a strong content foundation.
Are you active on social media professionally? If so, what platforms work best for engaging your followers?
Oh yeah! I am pretty much on every social media platform now, however, it was not always that way! When it came to promoting Young and Profiting podcast and my personal brand, in the beginning I only focused on LinkedIn for several years. I purposely did not spread myself thin by also trying to win on Instagram. I posted every single day and experimented. I tried to stand out and be different. I saw what worked by putting content out there and then leaned into what worked. Today, I am known as one of the most prolific influencers on LinkedIn. I am part of their official influencer program and speak at their events. And I have leveraged that social influence to help grow my podcast and business. Choosing to focus on LinkedIn was one of the best decisions of my life.
Who was your biggest influence?
When you say influence, to me, that means the person who drives me towards success and inspired me to be successful. For me, that’s my dad who passed away. I always immediately thank him for anything good I get because it was mostly built off the back of his sacrifices. He was a Palestinian-American immigrant who came out of poverty and became a very successful surgeon in America. Whenever anything good happens, he is the first thing I think about.
What is the most challenging part of your work as a CEO?
BI think the biggest challenge for me has been transitioning from a volunteer group to a real company. In the beginning, our YAP team was like a big family – composed of volunteers who simply wanted to learn, contribute and do good for the world. But once we started scaling and making money – believe it or not, it became much harder to retain talent. Volunteers are easier to manage because the expectations are different. When people are getting a paycheck – things naturally get more serious and competitive. Some people did not want to let go of the previous flexibility they had as volunteers. There was also friction between externally hired employees and volunteers who turned into employees. We had a big culture shift at one point to get out of that “volunteer” mentality so we could effectively scale as a media agency.
What do you have your sights set on next?
I really want to help other podcasters grow and monetize their shows. As I mentioned before, we just launched the YAP Media Podcast Network, a non-exclusive podcast network earlier this year. A goal of mine is to have over 100 podcasters and influencers in our network and to monetize and grow their cross-channel platforms.
What is a day in your life like?
Typically, I wake up around 8 am, make myself a cup of coffee, and check my email, Slack and calendar. If I’m interviewing a guest on YAP, I’ll spend the night before and several hours the day-of studying. I place a lot of pride in the amount of research and prep time I do for my guests. After interviewing a guest on YAP, I’ll do one or two podcast appearances to give back, JLD style. In between appearances, I’ll take a few internal calls with my agency and network teams to make sure everything is running smoothly. Around 8 pm, I’ll do a trampoline workout (my favorite way to get a workout in) and then work until 11 pm or so. I always feel most creative at night so that’s when I really get the most done! Then I’m in bed around midnight.
Do you have any hobbies?
Honestly, I spend a lot of my time working on my agency/network and the podcast because I’m passionate about them. When I’m not working, you can most likely find me working out. I’d say working out is my biggest hobby. I love the adrenaline rush you get after working out. Once I work out, I get this burst of energy where I just dive right back into work and focus.
What makes you smile?
My rockstar team! I am so grateful for each and every one of my employees. People are the heart of any successful company. They make all the difference in hard times.
What are you never without?
I would have to say my phone or my computer! I am in front of some type of screen anywhere from 12 to 18 hours a day. YAP Media is a fully remote company, so all of our meetings and calls are virtual. While I do spend a lot of time in front of a screen, I also make it a priority to exercise almost every day. This is my favorite way to clear my head and get my endorphins flowing. That’s why I encourage my team to take their calls on walks outdoors, or while out driving and running errands. I think our success is all about flexibility and understanding the importance of moving, and getting fresh air.
What scares you?
I’m not really scared of much. Of course, I’m scared of things you can’t control like natural disasters, economic downfall, human warfare disasters, etc. Besides that, I’m very much a problem solver and embrace new challenges. Nothing really scares me much because I just see it as a problem to solve. I feel that most things have a solution; if there isn’t a clear solution or nothing to solve, then you just have to accept whatever it is that is happening.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Vacation… what’s that?! Just kidding! If we are talking about vacation within the United States, I love to go to Miami! Internationally, I love going anywhere warm. I’m actually headed to the South of France, Barcelona, and Ibiza soon and I’m super excited!
Other work, published articles, interviews or accomplishments:
• Podcast Magazine: Hala Taha: Podcasting’s Palestinian Princess
● How Podcast Princess Hala Taha Turned Her Side Hustle Into A Media Empire
● Podcast Magazine: 2022 40 Under 40 in Podcasting
● Women Of The C-Suite: Hala Taha Of YAP Media On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As A Senior Executive
● Hala Taha – YAP Media – The Only Podcast Network With a Specialization in Social Media and Media Buying
● Rejected By Radio, She’s Now a Podcasting Superstar
● Business Anecdote: Hala Taha – The Podcast Princess
● Growing Your Podcast Via Networking on LinkedIn with Hala Taha