Cornering the Cast

Last week’s brouhaha of Neil Young vs Spotify / Joe Rogan went as predicted. Spotify didn’t budge and Young made good on his threat. Joni Mitchell joined the fray and removed her music from Spotify too. But lost in all of this are two critical decisions that have undermined critical cores to podcasting.

The first is exclusivity. Podcasts were never envisioned or built to be exclusive. Sure, some outlets offer podcasts as members-only perks or private ways to access shows. However, podcasting’s lifeblood is RSS. That is an open standard and without it, podcasting would not exist. Spotify decided to build its own way of distributing content because it only lives in their app. You can’t simply plug an RSS link into your podcast app and get Rogan’s shows. Spotify has done what Microsoft did with Internet Explorer and what Google has continuously done with Chrome in the past decade: go it alone. Standards be damned.

The second is this incredible tidbit from Ashley Carman’s reporting at The Verge:

A source previously told me that if marketers buy ads on Rogan, they have to buy ads on the rest of Spotify’s catalog, too, meaning Rogan’s success brings more advertisers to the rest of Spotify’s investments.

The Verge

Think about that for a moment. If you’re any number of companies who wish to advertise on one non-Rogan podcast, you must buy ads on the entire Spotify offering of shows. Even worse is if your company doesn’t want to advertise on other shows, that’s too bad. Carman notes that the minimum ad spend is a million dollars. Spotify reportedly paid $100 Million for Rogan. You know damn well they’re looking to get that money back ASAP and then some. Spotify has advertisers by the balls and they know it.

Combine exclusivity and advertising terms that position one podcast to support others and you get into an area that is the antithesis of what podcasting was about. Of course Spotify was going to side with Joe Rogan. The man makes them lots of money and they aren’t going to turn their backs on that. Neil Young is a legend but frankly has no weight in this fight. Now if it were Taylor Swift or BTS…

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