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Spotify Spends $250 Million on Joe Rogan Podcast. But Users Want HiFi Instead

Wonder why users aren’t happy.

Photo by Harry Cunningham / Unsplash

Amidst the budget cuts with layoffs and cancelling its two biggest podcasts, the streaming giant is holding onto a key asset that ensures its intended dominance in the podcasting arena—none other than Joe Rogan.

The controversial podcast host, Joe Rogan, signs a renewed deal worth $250 million, as estimated by The Wall Street Journal. Apparently, Rogan's exclusivity on Spotify for the past three years was like a fine wine—meant to be shared.

Under this multiyear partnership, the once Spotify-exclusive show will broaden its horizons to platforms like Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and YouTube. It seems Spotify is embracing a newfound commitment to inclusivity, a strategy they initiated back in 2023, allowing Rogan's unfiltered content to reach even wider audiences.

Spotify assured fans that they would collaborate closely with Rogan's team to ensure maximum exposure across various platforms. Ironically, Spotify will now handle distribution and ad sales for the podcast, with Rogan guaranteed a minimum fee and a slice of the advertising pie.

"The Joe Rogan Experience," a magnet for controversy, faced criticism over episodes deemed anti-vax and for Rogan's flirtations with antisemitic tropes. Spotify even hit the brakes on 70 episodes containing the N-word, leading Rogan to dismiss it as a "political hit job." The show, however, has consistently held the crown as the most popular podcast globally for over three years.

In the year of 2022, musician Neil Young made headlines by pulling his music off Spotify in protest of Rogan's anti-vax stance. However, this solitary stand saw almost no echo as other musicians refrained from joining Young's boycott.

Despite the continual surge in podcast consumption—with Edison Research reporting, 42 million regular podcast listeners in the US in 2023, doubling the figures from 2016—the industry is grappling with financial challenges. The lack of broad reach and accountability in podcasting has left advertisers, especially the big spenders, somewhat skeptical. Smaller players, like venture-backed companies peddling mattresses and meal kits via "direct response" ads, have seemingly vanished, as per Business Insider.

The news of Joe Rogan's $250 million renewal with Spotify has sparked a chorus of discontent among users. While the show is set to venture beyond Spotify's walls, some users are questioning the priorities of the streaming giant.

One r/truespotify subreddit user grumbled, "Could that not be spent on HiFi instead?" expressing the frustration of those still eagerly awaiting lossless audio (and those are thousands). Another user chimed in, "250 million on a stupid podcast, meanwhile users keep waiting for HiFi!"

The discontent extends further, with calls for a dedicated app, drawing parallels to Apple's approach. "Make a damn separate app like Apple does," another user added, clear in the sentiment that perhaps Spotify's resources could be better allocated.

Read also: Does Spotify have Dolby Atmos? Spoiler: not yet. 

Despite the criticism surrounding "The Joe Rogan Experience," there's no denying its undeniable popularity, which has propelled it to the pinnacle the podcasting. Since its inception on December 24, 2009, the show has become a podcasting phenomenon, boasting more than 2,200 episodes, each averaging a substantial 2-3 hours in length.

What sets Rogan's podcast apart is his knack for engaging conversations with a diverse array of guests, ranging from environmental epidemiologists and physicians in longevity medicine to retired Navy SEALs, ultra-endurance athletes, and psychedelic research pioneers. The eclectic guest list, which has included the likes of Dave Chappelle, Dwayne Johnson, Robert Downey Jr., Quentin Tarantino, Miley Cyrus, Snoop Dogg, and many more, contributes to the show's broad appeal.

In an interview with Spotify, Rogan himself shed light on his podcasting philosophy, stating, "I never do a podcast just because a person is popular. It’s always from a place of 'I think it would be cool to talk to that person.'"

While controversies have swirled around the show, including episodes with anti-vax sentiments and instances of inappropriate language, "The Joe Rogan Experience" continues to command attention and engagement. It seems that, for better or worse, the magnetic charisma of Joe Rogan and his unique approach to conversation remain a potent formula for podcast success.