In a bid to become one of the biggest podcasting platforms, Spotify knew it needed a gem in its kitty, and that happened with the announcement of the Joe Rogan experience. The comedian turned UFC commentator turned podcasting icon is a legitimate force in the podcasting industry. He’s hosted a score of celebrities ranging from politicians like Bernie Sanders to wannabes like Kanye West, smoked a joint with Elon Musk, and schmoozed with massive celebrities like Dave Chappelle & Miley Cyrus. With a self-asserted reach of more than 200 million monthly downloads in 2019, Rogan is comfortably the biggest podcaster to exist.
Spotify hoped he would bring much of that audience along with him when he signed exclusively to the platform in 2020 in a reported $100 million deal, giving it the reach and power needed to take over the podcasting industry. Although Spotify hasn’t detailed any specific numbers regarding Rogan’s listenership since he came on board, it has been constantly boasting about his success. The company confirmed that he quickly became the platform’s biggest podcaster after jumping to Spotify. In a 2021 earnings report Spotify mentioned that the podcast, “stimulated new user additions, activated first time podcast listeners, and has driven favorable engagement trends, including vodcast consumption,” the company wrote. In April of last year, Spotify also mentioned how Rogan’s show had “performed above expectations” regarding adding new users to the platform and engagement.
The podcaster's audio has now become worth more than any musician in world history, but tracing back to the early days of the podcast. It was launched almost a decade ago, in an informal tone, stimulating a conversation between two close friends replete with inside jokes and private moments. As it evolved over the years, spanning 1,000-plus episodes, that same format—one he personally emphasized as “listening and learning”—catapulted him to superstardom. Each episode spans anywhere from two to three hours, and Rogan owns an additional channel where clips of the long-form conversations are uploaded.
With his show, Rogan introduced a mild-mannered regular “bro” vibe, armed with a childish enthusiasm to listen, and understand how the world worked, and his audience were crafted in his image. The conversations were mostly thoughtful and healthy; he rarely pushed back against his guests who ranged from politicians, academics, philosophers, comics to journalists. There were no gotcha moments. There was no artificial conflict. He spoke, often sky-high under mind-altering stimulants, on an ocean of topics ranging from alien abductions, martial arts, elk meat, hunting, DMT experiences, the universe being a simulation, fellatio, and crazy ex-girlfriends.
He criticized feminism and bemoaned the destructive nature of "identity politics". He lashed out against the lying politicians and the fraudulent 'left-right' political systems, he listened enthusiastically, patiently (often agreeably) to every single guest on his show, and bashed mainstream media as “biased, agenda-driven and divisive” Rogan makes for an easy man to underestimate. He spoke openly about his own depth of ignorance on topics, and if a guest delved into topics that he did not fully understand, he made no pretence about it.
He was a rare internet phenomenon, at once a man that existed on the fringes (hosting nutcases, avid conspiracy theorists and controversial personalities who have largely been purged from the mainstream) and a pop culture figure so massive in his influence that even powerful political personalities did not dare ignore him. Rogan himself has said that he has turned down requests from presidential candidates like Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden to appear on the show.
One of the most telling moments of 2019 was the then US presidential candidate front-runner Bernie Sanders made an appearance on his podcast (it currently has around 12 million views on YouTube). In a subsequent show, Rogan indirectly spoke about his support for Sanders and that he would vote for him; the Sanders campaign shared a clipping of the “endorsement” on all their social media platforms.
The podcast has also been rife with controversies all of which have helped Joe Rogan propel his podcast into the pole position in the audio industry, when Sanders touted Rogan's endorsement, he faced a lot of backlashes; several trans-rights groups came out against Joe Rogan and Bernie Sanders, decrying the former's previous comments on transgender athletes. Commentators dubbed Rogan as an “influential bigot who should be marginalized”. He has been called everything from a purveyor of toxic masculinity to a white nationalist and a racism enabler. He has addressed most of the criticism on his shows, explaining that his politics was to the "left of center" and that he was a supporter of policies ranging from universal healthcare to free college education.
All this has helped him shape the entire audio space and become a name that the industry has become associated with. His influence has grown with the podcast becoming linked to a form of self-growth and entertainment that has a demographic for shaping young male adults towards a better future.