The Joe Rogan controversy is what happens when you put podcasts behind a wall

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Spotify didn’t discover Joe Rogan, and Joe Rogan didn’t create Spotify, but their union portends the future of a closed podcasting ecosystem. Until September 2020, The Joe Rogan Experience was available through RSS feeds, YouTube and podcast players. His content bubbled up from time to time, but basically Rogan did his show, and the various distribution platforms allowed him to do that without having to worry and monitor every episode – if he broke a policy, he could be deleted, and so on. . This is the world in which stans and haters of Rogan can find common ground.

Rogan could have been “deplatformed” in the sense that his episodes would be removed from YouTube or removed from searches on podcast players, but interested listeners could still search for him via RSS. Everyone would win, in theory, unless you think Rogan shouldn’t be released anywhere at all times.

Take Infowars creator Alex Jones for example: Apple Podcasts removed its show for hate speech, as did various other podcast apps, but anyone can still listen through an RSS feed. They have to search for it – it doesn’t appear in rankings or searches and isn’t promoted in the app, but it does benefit from the open podcast system and serves as a counterbalance to any platform controlling what people can and cannot listen.

That’s always been the promise of open RSS: even if a platform doesn’t like your content, you can still be heard. Still, podcasting is moving away from that world, which means other platforms cheering Spotify’s demise should take note of how it’s handling the situation. The backlash is coming for them too, that’s why Amazon Music, SiriusXMand Apple Music leaning on the current controversy to sell more subscriptions seemed shortsighted to me. All three companies have a vested interest in the success of specific podcasts, whether exclusive to one platform or one. subscription service. Just because Rogan is the target today doesn’t mean one of their shows won’t be tomorrow.

Of course, business will do, and obviously Amazon will try to convert some Neil Young listeners to his platform. But what if SmartLess or a Wondery show or my favorite murder turn for the worst? Amazon, which licenses or owns these and other shows, should prepare its strategy.

We are moving away from a world in which a podcast reader functions as a search engine and towards a world in which they act as creators and publishers of this content. That means more backlash and more room for questions like: Why are you paying Rogan $100 million to spread what many consider harmful information? Fair questions!

It’s the cost of big deals and attempts to grow podcasting revenue. Creators and platforms are involved in all content distributed, hosted and sold, and both need to think clearly about how they will handle the inevitable controversy.


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