by UnHerd
Thursday, 21
May 2020
Seen Elsewhere
07:00

The Joe Rogan-Spotify deal is bad news for podcasting

One commentator warns that it is a worrying sign of what is to come
by UnHerd
This week Spotify announced a deal with Joe Rogan, for a reported fee of more than $100 million

This week Spotify announced a deal with one of the world’s most popular podcasters, Joe Rogan, for a reported fee of more than $100 million. In return, he will make his show The Joe Rogan Experience exclusive to Spotify and move his entire back catalogue onto the platform.

But while this deal has guaranteed Rogan a big pay day, it is, as Matt Stoller writes, a worrying sign for the future of independent podcasting.

In his weekly ‘BIG’ newsletter about the politics of monopolies, Stoller warns that the deal is part of a broader push for Spotify to monopolise the podcast market, which would limit competition and reduce the number of authentic voices in the podcasting world:

To explain Spotify’s strategy, I analogized the current podcast market to the web in the mid-2000s. As the web used to be, today podcasting is an open market, with advertising, podcasting, and distribution mostly separated from one another. Distribution happens through an open standard called RSS, and there’s very little behavioral ad targeting. I’m asked on fun weird podcasts all the time; podcasting feels like the web prior to the roll-up of power by Google and Facebook, with a lot of new voices, some very successful and most marginal, but quite authentic.

So what is Spotify trying to do?

First, Spotify is gaining power over podcast distribution by forcing customers to use its app to listen to must-have content, by either buying production directly or striking exclusive deals, as it did with Rogan. This is a tying or bundling strategy. Once Spotify has a gatekeeping power over distribution, it can eliminate the open standard rival RSS, and control which podcasts get access to listeners. The final stage is monetization through data collection and ad targeting. Once Spotify has gatekeeping power over distribution and a large ad targeting business, it will also be able to control who can monetize podcasts, because advertisers will increasingly just want to hit specific audience members, as opposed to advertise on specific shows.

- Matt Stoller, BIG

Join the discussion


  • I’ve never heard of Joe rogan. He’s not “must have” content as far as I’m concerned, and I don’t use Spotify anyway.

  • It was ever thus. New mediums come along and they are fringe curiosities to begin with. They then either die out or become successful. It happened with cinema, radio, television and video games. The fact that it’s now happening with podcasts is no surprise. What happens next is that some people will moan about it and complain about ‘big corporations’ being the bad guys (whilst often simultaneously using their services) and others will get on with creating the next podcasts, social media, printing press, etc.

    If you think this cycle is ever going to stop or change then you are going to be disappointed. It doesn’t mean you have to like it but don’t kid yourself that one day will live in a world where this won’t happen.

  • I tend to disagree…

    Podcasts and Youtube videos have become an essential part of my life, both as entertainment and as a source of information. I have given up entirely on the mainstream media and rely on these independent voices. These voices are giving me a great deal of value, and yet there is no satisfactory existing system by which they can be rewarded. Voluntary giving such as Patreon has far too low a payment rate, with well under 1% of viewers giving donations; paying for individual memberships such as Sam Harris’ feel a bit heavy handed and expensive for a single voice; advertising is probably the current best model but leaves a lot to be desired.

    I have been hoping for a while that a new organisation would consolidate a large number of independent voices, charge me a monthly fee, and pay the producers a reasonable percentage based on statistics.

    Spotify appears to be doing just that, and I applaud them. I hope that they gather together and pay a high number of creators.

    I do not see how Mr Stoller imagines that Spotify will be able to “eliminate the open standard rival RSS”.

    Is there a downside in terms of monopolisation? Possibly; but the fact is, renumeration for podcasting does not currently work, and this might fix it.

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