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Jan. 31, 2022

Spotify's Biggest Problem Isn't Joe Rogan

Spotify's Biggest Problem Isn't Joe Rogan

Spotify has been all over the news in the last week because of Joe Rogan, but Rogan is a symptom of a much bigger problem.

If you haven't heard, the Joe Rogan Experience, one of the biggest podcasts in the world, has come under heavy scrutiny for promoting COVID misinformation.  Several artists, led by Neil Young, have pulled, or are in the process of trying to pull, their music off of Spotify.   And while we still don't have hard numbers, the hashtag "Delete Spotify" has been trending.  The response from Spotify was....lukewarm at best.  The usual talk about free speech but not wanting to promote dangerous misinformation, blah blah blah.  Oh, and they're going to put a warning label in front of podcasts that discuss COVID.  No idea what criteria will have to be met to get the warning.  After all, ubiquitous warnings have worked SO well for Facebook...

The bigger issue here is Spotify's desire to be a closed ecosystem - a sort of podcast and music monopoly if you will.  They've invested hundreds of millions of dollars into podcasting, including $100 million to Rogan himself to become exclusive to Spotify, and not available anywhere else.  In terms of market share, the gamble paid off - Spotify is already the number 2 podcast app behind Apple.  Some believe it's ahead of Apple or will overtake it this year.  But when podcasting started, the idea was for it to be an open ecosystem for all.  That's why shows went up through RSS feeds, allowing anyone, or any app, to pull and display the content for users.  But Spotify is trying to take over.   

Just look at the Anchor platform, owned by Spotify.  It's enticing for new podcasters - you can host your show for free.  But there are questions around who owns your content, whether it will connect to Apple, and even if it will play everywhere!  A change in their file type made Anchor shows unplayable on some podcast players earlier this month.  Trust me, you're better off spending the $15/month on a paid host like Simplecast, Blubrry, or Libsyn - plus you'll get more accurate stats about your listeners.

OK, back to Joe Rogan.  Imagine he was not exclusive to Spotify.  Would it be in Neil Young's best interest to pull his music off of the Internet entirely, or at least everywhere Joe Rogan was?  That means Apple, YouTube, Google, Facebook, and more? Probably not.  But by being exclusive, Spotify puts a giant target on their own back.  It's a good goal to be a leader in the podcasting space.  But when you try to be the only space, you could end up with a major PR problem.   They have an earnings call on Wednesday.  That should be interesting.

For a deeper dive, Podnews published a special edition about Rogan and Spotify today: https://podnews.net/update/spotify-rogan-problem?utm_source=podnews.net&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=podnews.net:2022-01-31

Transcript

Spotify has been all over the news in the last week because of Joe Rogan, but Rogan is a symptom of a much bigger problem.

If you haven't heard, the Joe Rogan Experience, one of the biggest podcasts in the world, has come under heavy scrutiny for promoting COVID misinformation.  Several artists, led by Neil Young, have pulled, or are in the process of trying to pull, their music off of Spotify.   And while we still don't have hard numbers, the hashtag "Delete Spotify" has been trending.  The response from Spotify was....lukewarm at best.  The usual talk about free speech but not wanting to promote dangerous misinformation, blah blah blah.  Oh, and they're going to put a warning label in front of podcasts that discuss COVID.  No idea what criteria will have to be met to get the warning.  After all, ubiquitous warnings have worked SO well for Facebook...

The bigger issue here is Spotify's desire to be a closed ecosystem - a sort of podcast and music monopoly if you will.  They've invested hundreds of millions of dollars into podcasting, including $100 million to Rogan himself to become exclusive to Spotify, and not available anywhere else.  In terms of market share, the gamble paid off - Spotify is already the number 2 podcast app behind Apple.  Some believe it's ahead of Apple or will overtake it this year.  But when podcasting started, the idea was for it to be an open ecosystem for all.  That's why shows went up through RSS feeds, allowing anyone, or any app, to pull and display the content for users.  But Spotify is trying to take over.   

Just look at the Anchor platform, owned by Spotify.  It's enticing for new podcasters - you can host your show for free.  But there are questions around who owns your content, whether it will connect to Apple, and even if it will play everywhere!  A change in their file type made Anchor shows unplayable on some podcast players earlier this month.  Trust me, you're better off spending the $15/month on a paid host like Simplecast, Blubrry, or Libsyn - plus you'll get more accurate stats about your listeners.

OK, back to Joe Rogan.  Imagine he was not exclusive to Spotify.  Would it be in Neil Young's best interest to pull his music off of the Internet entirely, or at least everywhere Joe Rogan was?  That means Apple, YouTube, Google, Facebook, and more? Probably not.  But by being exclusive, Spotify puts a giant target on their own back.  It's a good goal to be a leader in the podcasting space.  But when you try to be the only space, you could end up with a major PR problem.   They have an earnings call on Wednesday.  That should be interesting.

For a deeper dive, Podnews published a special edition about Rogan and Spotify today: https://podnews.net/update/spotify-rogan-problem?utm_source=podnews.net&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=podnews.net:2022-01-31