ProMarket: The Death of Independent Podcasting: What Spotify Is Trying to Do With the Joe Rogan Deal

May 28, 2020 Op-ed

A few days ago, audio streaming giant Spotify announced a deal with podcast king Joe Rogan, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that Rogan will be paid more than $100 million over several years in return for making his insanely popular show exclusive to the Spotify service.

This is huge news.

Investors were pleased; Spotify’s stock was up 8.42 percent, which is roughly $2.5 billion, or twenty-five times what Rogan will be paid. It was up another 7 percent the following day. From the perspective of someone who appreciates independent voices and an independent press, however, I’m concerned.

Back in February, after Spotify bought the podcast production company of Bill Simmons with its bevy of popular content, I wrote up how Spotify is trying to monopolize the podcasting market.

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?