The Bootstrapped Founder

People would rather sift through fake AI results than see yet another ad. Something is happening in advertising, and the creator economy is affected greatly.

The shift towards trust-based advertising is a wake-up call for founders and creators when crafting their marketing strategy, as honesty, integrity, and trust are now essential components of a successful approach to outreach.

Here are the steps that you need to take to keep up with this development.

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Creators & Guests

Arvid Kahl
Empowering founders with kindness. Building in Public. Sold my SaaS FeedbackPanda for life-changing $ in 2019, now sharing my journey & what I learned.

What is The Bootstrapped Founder?

Arvid Kahl talks about starting and bootstrapping businesses, how to build an audience, and how to build in public.


Welcome to the Bootstrapped Founder.

My name is Arvid Kahl and I talk about bootstrapping,

entrepreneurship, and building in public.

Today, I'll talk about staying accountable.

As a creator, when you have a reputation to lose,

which all creators do,

you'll learn how I've had my sponsors and what

this shift from cash to trust that I've been

witnessing means for the advertising industry.

That brings me quite fittingly to the sponsor of today's episode.

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Now, let's get to our main topic today.

Something is happening in paid advertising.

We're witnessing a significant shift in

how people react to ads,

particularly when it comes to how they use search engines.

As usual, AI,

chatGPT is responsible.

As conversational AI becomes more accessible to the masses,

I've been seeing that growing sentiment among people.

They would rather put in the extra effort of

fact-checking chatGPT's output than

be bombarded with ads on Google Search.

After decades of Google being widely accepted as

the easiest way to find information,

this is a notable shift.

People on the hunt for information,

they want answers immediately,

and they're fed up with having to intentionally

ignore the sponsored ads that Google puts in front of them.

I've heard people say that,

"I'll take chatGPT with

a few hallucinations any day over sponsored content."

That is a strong statement.

If early AI adopters already show

such a strong tendency to do

more work just to avoid being sold something,

there's a larger transition waiting for us down the line.

I don't think this is a new trend either.

It's the continuation of what

many creators have experienced for a while.

The advertising landscape is moving heavily from just looking

at money towards a trust-based model.

But why is this happening and how does it

impact founders and creators?

Well, let's take a look at how podcasts monetize,

mostly through sponsorships or rather,

host narrated sponsorships like what I was

doing earlier in this podcast.

Whatever podcast you listen to, if it's monetized,

it's pretty likely a collaboration between

podcast host and advertiser,

not just the mere placement.

It is significantly different from

the regular write copy, display copy,

get clicks model, traditional ads and digital media.

Most podcast advertisers don't run

their own produced ads as they would have done on

the radio with music and a deep voice announcing something,

because those just simply don't

yield the desired results anymore.

However, conversions happen when the podcast host,

the person that listeners hopefully tune in for,

reads the ad to them.

Listeners trust the host to have integrity.

Besides that, it's hard to fake

genuine praise when you have to read an advertisement into a microphone.

People very quickly figure out that level of dishonesty if you try.

That's why content creators have started

correcting the copy that they receive from advertisers.

Not only do they add their own voice to it,

they also tend to take out statements that they

disagree with or wouldn't even be able to defend publicly.

They just don't read these things.

This dynamic changes the power structure in

the relationship between the podcaster and the advertiser.

Advertisers aren't just buying access to a listener audience anymore.

They're now purchasing a piece of the host's credibility.

That credibility is valuable because

audiences are paying attention to what happens there and they're keeping score.

Which is why creators have become much more cautious about working with sponsors,

who might show even just a tiny hint of shady dealings.

Running even a single ad for a disreputable company

could potentially taint a creator's reputation forever.

In the attention economy,

your reputation is all you have.

As a consequence, creators are doing a lot more due diligence.

Background checks on advertisers have become the norm for me at this point.

Instead of saying yes to every opportunity and whatever there's money,

I dig into customer reviews,

potential red flags around the founders,

stories that I find online or ongoing legal disputes,

I check for it all.

I spend a lot of time on this.

Because if your reputation is on the line,

it's essential to pay close attention to who you let sponsor your content.

You can't afford to partner with

disreputable companies when your audience trusts you and wants to trust you.

It's ironic. In the world with fewer and fewer massive gatekeepers,

creators now become the gatekeepers for their own audiences.

It's not access to a profession that's hard anymore.

Those gatekeepers are gone.

It's access to someone's carefully curated audience that is gate kept.

Creators understand that now they have skin in the game,

and their credibility is at risk with every sponsor placement.

This shift in advertising dynamics is a stark contrast to

the previous practice of simply adding AdWords to

a website and just watching the revenue roll in.

This traditional online advertising model is no longer as effective as it once was.

It still kind of works,

but there are different ways now.

People have become more sensitive to paid ads to

the point where they prefer tools that blatantly lie to them,

something that chat GPT is known to do,

over those that manipulate them with ad placements in front of content.

This blew my mind the first time somebody expressed this to me,

and yet I completely understand it at the same time.

Because I just look at my own history of how I interact with these tools.

I run an ad blocker,

I use for my emails because they don't inject ads,

and don't allow for tracking links.

I've long since replaced Google Analytics on my properties with Fathom Analytics,

which is more privacy conscious.

Ever since I thought about this,

I've been using chat GPT more deliberately as a research tool,

since I understood that while I need to double-check results,

they are way more likely to be presented in my interest alone,

not in advertisers.

Chat GPT surfaces information because it's fits,

not because it can build somebody's paid ads account, at least not yet.

And even though this is all happening in our little AI aficionado bubble,

it is still showing a more significant trend.

And this shift in consumer behavior should serve as a wake-up call for

founders and creators when they're crafting their marketing strategy.

Honesty, integrity, and trust are now essential components of

a successful advertising campaign, not just copy.

Now it's about the relationship part.

So what does this mean for creators?

Well, let me give you a couple takeaways from this.

First is, prioritize trust and integrity.

Your reputation is your most valuable asset at this point.

Align yourself with trustworthy partners and

be extremely selective with the sponsors that you work with.

A few hundred dollars for a single line of text in an email,

that might sound extremely promising.

But remember that this email will be an irremovable piece of evidence for

your lack of judgment when that advertiser turns out to be a scammer.

Number two, be transparent.

In a world where trust is crucial, transparency goes a long way.

In fact, it's the only sustainable way to build trust.

Be open about your partnerships and affiliations, and

don't hesitate to share the reasons behind your choices of sponsor with

your audience.

This is a built-in public action.

Sharing your reasoning for picking a sponsor shows that you know what you're

doing, and it demonstrates how much you value the integrity of your relationship

with your readers, your listeners, and your viewers.

So build that in public too.

Number three is develop authentic relationships.

Forge authentic relationships with your audience and your partners, so

that your recommendations and endorsements actually carry more weight,

or any weight at all.

And finally, number four, be prepared for change.

The advertising landscape is continuously evolving, so

be prepared to adapt and refine your strategies within there.

Stay informed about industry trends, and

just be ready to pivot as you might need to.

Keep a close eye on the generative AI world and

how it tries to replace traditional knowledge lookup.

Just yesterday, I think Google was sharing that now Google Search is gonna

have an AI component, that's pretty huge.

It's gonna disrupt SEO for sure, but it's also gonna change how people look at

Google as a search company.

Because now, what I said earlier, this kind of pushing advertising in there,

that that will not happen as much when AI is writing the text.

Or maybe Google will create an AI system that includes ads into

its whole structure.

It's gonna be a pretty weird ride, but even more, trust is at the core of

your relationship with your customers.

Because if people can't trust Google, they're gonna try and

find another way to find you.

And if your content that you produce allows them to trust it more,

then that is something that you should be doing.

This shift towards a trust-based advertising model presents new challenges and

opportunities for creative entrepreneurs like us.

No matter how you make your money, you'll need to keep an eye on your credibility

and everything you do, cuz it's the currency that AI cannot emulate.

And personally, I welcome this change.

As a creator, I appreciate that my audience wants to genuinely recommend

what I use myself.

They wanna recommend what I would recommend.

And for that, I need to want to be able to use it, right?

It's something that should resonate with me.

And that makes it incredibly easy for me to say no to prospective sponsors.

Because if I don't like the thing they offer,

I don't wanna give it to anybody else.

And that is something that I do on a weekly basis at this point,

because I get a lot of requests.

And this makes it equally easy to communicate to my audience how exactly I

make sure that they are safe with me.

And now, obviously, this is limited to what I know about my sponsors, right?

From just doing my own research.

I don't have a crystal ball.

And what is a perfectly legitimate offer today could turn into a scammy bait and

switch tomorrow.

You never know.

But at the very least, I put in the effort to protect my audience from the most

egregious stuff.

Looking at you, pump and dump crypto advertisers.

You won't find that here with me, because I don't think this is something that I

would like to use, and I will not share it, even if people offer me money for this.

The world of advertising is undergoing a significant transformation.

And if the result of this is that we all build stronger and

more authentic connections with our audiences, well, then I'm all for it.

And that's it for today.

Thank you for listening to The Bootstrapped Founder.

You can find me on Twitter @ArvidKahl, A-R-V-I-D-K-A-H-L.

You find my books, my Twitter course there as well.

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Any of this will truly help the show.

Thank you so much for listening, and have a wonderful day.

Bye bye.