‘Joe Rogan Got Ripped Off’

Andrew Wilkinson, writing on the Supercast blog:

In that post, I also speculated that Joe Rogan—the largest podcaster in the world—was likely a billionaire. Even though he probably didn’t realize it. Apparently, Joe Rogan didn’t read my post. But someone else definitely did: Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify, who just closed an exclusive deal with Rogan to move his show (audio and video) to the Spotify platform.

If the numbers are to be believed, it’s a steal of a deal for Spotify: for $100-$200mm they secured the largest podcast audience in the world.

I’m not exaggerating. Spotify’s market cap jumped by $3 billion in the 24h after the news of this deal broke.

The market saw what Rogan missed: Spotify took his oil.

A lot of Wilkinson’s napkin-math numbers are speculative (conversion rates, ad CPM) to some degree, but there’s no arguing with how Wall Street saw Rogan’s deal: as a coup for Spotify. If he’s really only making $100M per year, he sold way low.

Supercast is a service built for podcasters who want to monetize via subscriptions, so you can argue that Wilkinson has a vested interest in the “stay indie” argument. But he’s not arguing that Rogan should have gone with Supercast — he’s arguing only that Rogan should have kept direct control over his relationship with his listeners. And he makes an interesting point regarding Howard Stern:

For context, Howard Stern — who just before his Sirius deal was one of the most widely listened to radio personalities in the world — now has an audience of less than 1 million per episode. When I tell most people my age (early 30’s) that I love Howard Stern, I get a blank stare.

Nobody knows who he is. Stern has lost his impact on culture in exchange for a big upfront payment.

Stern has undeniably made a fortune from his 15 years at Sirius, but he’s also just as undeniably lost a huge majority of his potential listenership. The goal for someone who has poured their life into their show isn’t just to maximize the money they make — it’s to achieve a good balance between maximizing revenue, maximizing the audience size, and maximizing creative control over their work.

Even if you put money aside, Rogan’s deal with Spotify will almost certainly shrink his audience to some degree, and it gives Spotify complete control over Rogan’s relationship with his audience. I don’t think Rogan is a fool — quite the opposite. But I still think he’s underestimating the value of his show.

See also: Bari Weiss’s interview with Rogan for her column at The New York Times: “Joe Rogan Is the New Mainstream Media”.

Monday, 25 May 2020