Michael Slezak
July 30, 2009 AT 07:14 PM EDT

The American Idol rumor mill this week has been buzzier than an angry bumblebee. People.com just confirmed the unfortunate news that Kara “The Terrible” DioGuardi has signed a deal and will be back to (presumably) share a new and impressive bag of gaffes, but there’s still no official word on whether Paula Abdul will be back on the show’s judging panel for season 9. (The Los Angeles Times reports sources close to the show who claim that Paula herself has cut her asking price from $20 million to $12 million annually.)

This got me thinking: As Paula considers her negotiation tactics, she might want to cross her fingers and hope that the Idol overlords don’t look too carefully at her recent track record outside of America’s favorite talent competition. Abdul’s 2007 Bravo reality series, Hey, Paula, averaged a paltry 453,000 viewers during its seven-episode run, while her recent single, “I’m Just Here for the Music,” racked up only 64,000 in digital sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan (compared to 387,000 for 2008’s Randy Jackson collaboration “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow”). Sharon Dastur, program director for New York City’s Z100, says that “I’m Just Here for the Music” fizzled out before she’d even begun to consider adding it to her station’s playlist. If Abdul exits Idol, adds Dastur, she’s more likely to find success in the world of dance-oriented reality television rather than trying to revive her singing career. So whether or not Paula is worth eight-figures in the Idolverse, it’s no guarantee that any career options outside the show would necessarily result in big bucks or massive fan response.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Is Paula overplaying her hand? Do you think she will/should return for season 9? And is this public uncertainty over her future good for the show from a publicity standpoint? Sound off in the comments section below! (And follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak!)

Photo credit: Jen Lowery/Startraksphoto.com

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