Spotify Banks on Joe Rogan’s Free-Wheeling Appeal Despite Inevitable Controversy
“You may agree, disagree, laugh along with or be outraged and offended by Rogan’s guest list, but the sheer diversity of ideas they represent dwarfs the comparably narrow content offered up by most other media outlets.”
It’s been nearly six months since comedian, MMA commentator, and podcasting star Joe Rogan announced his famed deal with Spotify (reportedly worth $100 million) to move his hugely popular show “The Joe Rogan Experience” to the audio streaming platform. The message to his gigantic audience was one of reassurance:
“It will be the exact same show,” said Rogan in a video posted on Spotify’s website.
“The only difference will be it will now be available on the largest audio platform in the world. Nothing else will change.”
So far, that statement holds true — and, not true. Because the deal itself signifies huge changes. And despite Rogan’s reassuring words, his move to Spotify hasn’t been 100 percent smooth sailing.
“Podcasting is all free-balling. It’s the opposite of polished. And because of that, it resonates.”
New York Times
Less than a week after the Spotify mega deal was announced, former New York Times opinion editor and columnist Bari Weiss called up Rogan for a column published on May 25.
The above attributed quote boils down Rogan’s staggering audience popularity to three sentences.
Rogan has said his show garners an estimated 190 million downloads a month. His YouTube channel has 9.75 million subscribers. Compare that to monthly audience of 3.97 million primetime viewers in June 2020 at Fox News, making it the most watched network in the United States the largest audience, according to the website Statista.
Rogan’s appeal is undeniable.
You may agree, disagree, laugh along with or be outraged and offended by his guest list, which ranges from the most erudite academics such as Harvard University sociologist Nicolas Christakis to polemicists Alex Jones and Stefan Molyneux all the way to raunchy and raw comedians like Rogan pal Joey Diaz and the publicly disgraced comic icon Roseanne Barr. But the sheer diversity of ideas they represent dwarfs the comparably narrow content offered up by most other media outlets.
A typical Rogan podcast lasts well over an hour and can go as long as three. His audience seems to be screaming at the polarized media diet found on cable tv, traditional television and networks, and the Twitter/Youtube clip world that what most consumers want is much closer to the long-form, meandering, and sometimes factually questionable conversations with the not-so-usual suspects.
But the Rogan formula also sets ups an inherent tension with his distributor Spotify. Not long after its bold move to acquire his content, Rogan issued a rare public apology for repeating a debunked conspiracy theory about left-wing activist setting fires in Portland, Oregon, during a recent interview with British conservative political commentator author Douglas Murray..
There are other problems: several of Rogan’s most controversial shows have not – as was publicly promoted – been uploaded to Spotify’s streaming platform. Among them, far-right conservative commentator and Sandy Hook conspiracist Alex Jones, which as of this writing remains absent from Rogan’s catalog of nearly 1,550 shows.
On this issue, Rogan said during his announcement of the initial Spotify deal that clips of his show will continue to be available on YouTube (where his show was originally broadcast) but that “full versions of the show will only be on Spotify after the end of the year.”
There are also reported rumblings by Spotify staff, who are objecting to Rogan’s “freewheeling” content and calling on management for the right to edit his material.
According to a story published in Motherboard, some of the outcry was directed at another Rogan interview with Abigail Shrier, author of the book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. Motherboard reports Spotify management has held a series of meetings with aggrieved staffers and quotes Spotify CEO Daniel Ek as saying, “Joe Rogan and the episode in question have been reviewed extensively. The fact that we aren’t changing our position doesn’t mean we aren’t listening. It just means we made a different judgment call.”
Spotify, owned by Google, is clearly betting that Rogan’s reach can overcome its controversies. Its acquisition was designed to make the streaming platform a worldwide juggernaut in the podcast industry, according to industry insiders.
MIDiA Research managing director Mark Mulligan told Rolling Stone shortly after the Rogan acquisition was announced that it may well turn Spotify into “the single biggest force in audio on the planet the same way Facebook became the single biggest force in social.”
Earlier this month, Rogan himself weighed in on the reported staff rumblings over his content during an interview with comedian Tom Dillion on October 1st, saying that Spotify is yet to reach out to him, adding that “nothing at all” has been said or done about the alleged complaints by staffers.
For the record, Spotify declined my requests for comment.
So it appears the initial skirmishes have been dealt with – for now.
That said, if Spotify is banking on the explosive growth of podcast audiences and even plans to turn its original podcasts into future television and movie deals in a deal announced last month with Chernin Entertainment, then its future relationship with the freewheeling Rogan will almost certainly be rocky.
Catherine Maddux is a Washington DC-based journalist, writer, teacher, and dedicated news junkie. She was trained at NPR, where she worked on several award-winning news programs for 10 years. She went on to cover the war in the former Yugoslavia for the United Nations, and conflicts across Africa and South Asia for the Voice of America.
After Departure of Chuck Todd, What is the Future of ‘Sunday Shows’?
The best political interview show on TV isn’t on Sunday morning. Perhaps embarrassing to us in the actual field of journalism is that the best questioner and keen fact-checker on the fly is Jon Stewart.
The tenure of Chuck Todd as Twitter’s favorite Sunday morning punching bag has ended. NBC’s political director and host of Meet The Press announced his departure yesterday, after a nearly 10-year run, claiming he is leaving “too soon” rather than “too late”.
Todd, who sat in the front row of the White House Press Room while I filled a similar seat at ABC, will now anchor a streaming show and contribute election analysis. He will be replaced by another former White House press corps colleague Kristen Welker in September.
Under Todd’s leadership, MTP has gone from first place to 3rd, and he has become the butt of many jokes and criticisms from those who do not believe he pushes back enough on lies and misinformation uttered to his face by politicians. The funniest line and perhaps sharpest critique came at last year’s White House Correspondents Dinner when comedian Trevor Noah called him out from the stage. “Chuck Todd, how are you?…I’d ask a follow-up, but you don’t know what that is”.
Unfortunately, that is a common malady among my former colleagues, and Mr. Todd is perhaps not the worst at fact-checking in real-time. But as salon.com pointed out, he once replied to Peter Navarro, a Donald Trump sycophant and prolific disinformation specialist with “I take your point”, after, without evidence, Navarro accused Democrats of eagerly rooting against the American economy to cripple Trump’s re-election attempt.
Todd can take some solace in the fact that if you read media critics and Twitter he is also disliked by right-wing “fake news” proponents who claim he shows bias against Republicans. Our old adage among journalists was if both sides hate you, you are doing something right. And the longing for Tim Russert is overplayed because we never got to see how Tim would have done up against the avalanche of disinformation that is today’s politics.
So what’s next? The Sunday shows are my favorite part of the week. The panels are civil and well thought out. Meet The Press has some very smart people from the left and right and unlike CNN or Fox, none who refuse to acknowledge the integrity of the 2020 election. ABC was often more entertaining, if not more informative with panels featuring Rahm Emanuel, now Donna Brazille on the left, and Chris Christie on the right. Face the Nation concentrates more on policy and less on pure politics.
But the best political interview show on TV isn’t on Sunday morning. Perhaps embarrassing to us in the actual field of journalism is that the best questioner and keen fact-checker on the fly is Jon Stewart, a comedian who hosts his own show The Problem with Jon Stewart on Apple TV.
Best example: Stewart’s interview with Oklahoma state senator Nathan Dahm, who has proposed less gun control and a ban on drag shows. It started with a simple question: “You want to ban drag show readings to children. Why?” Answer: “The government does have a responsibility to protect children.” Stewart’s clap back: “What’s the leading cause of death among children in this country? Here is a hint, it’s not drag shows.”
It’s not that hard to do. Stewart was not busy thinking about his next question or trying to fit too much into the interview. He prepared, had facts at hand, and listened to the state senator’s reply. Then calmly shut him down.
Here’s hoping my friend Kristen Welker watches a few of Stewart’s interviews. He routinely chops through talking points and knocks politicians off balance because he is quick, smart, and familiar with the concept of a follow-up.
Jim Avila serves as a weekly columnist for Barrett News Media. An Award-winning journalist with four decades of reporting and anchoring experience, Jim has served as Senior National Correspondent, 20/20 Correspondent, and White House Correspondent for ABC News. Prior to his time with ABC, he spent a decade with NBC News, and worked locally in Los Angeles and Chicago for KNBC, and WBBM. He can be found on Twitter @JimAvilaABC.
News Media Calling Out Anti-Catholic Bigotry
It’s been hard not to notice these attacks on Catholics, and Christians more broadly, as they have spread across the country.
As most Americans watch in disgust, some corporations and ringleaders continue creating division and animosity through one woke cause, initiative, or month after another. Meanwhile, many are ignoring a large group of Americans who have been increasingly targeted and disparaged. And their plight receives barely a mention in the mainstream media.
This past weekend, Fox and Friends aired a segment focusing on the escalating vitriol and violence aimed at the Catholic Church. Such persecutions of Christians are not historically new; what is new is the apparent acquiescence of certain political and cultural leaders, as the frequency of such events continues to increase.
Rachel Campos-Duffy began the Fox News segment by laying out the facts as they stand in mid-2023.
“Attacks on Catholic churches on the rise, and yet the charges are being reduced,” Campos-Duffy began. “In California, five were arrested in 2020 for felony vandalism, after tearing down the St. Junipero Serra statue, and now they only face misdemeanors. The DOJ is recommending zero jail time for a transgender person who caused over $30,000 in damage, smashing church windows. Even spray painting an employee’s face in Washington State. And a D.C. man won’t see time behind bars after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for destroying three Saint statues at a Catholic school. So why are these incidents not being treated as hate crimes?”
Added to these points is the increased frequency in which Catholic Church-goers have seen a police presence as they arrive for mass. Tommy Valentine, Director of the CatholicVote Accountability Project, joined the program to offer his insight.
“Explain to me why vandalism, acts of violence directed towards Catholics are being treated differently than, say, other faiths or other religions?” Campos-Duffy asked.
“Thank you for shining a light on this issue, because we certainly aren’t hearing about it from the Biden administration,” Valentine said. “Look, we live in an era where we see condemnation of bigotry in most forms. Just last month there were a couple of mosques that were vandalized. The Biden Administration spoke out immediately against that, and we agreed, a place of worship should never be vandalized in this country.”
Valentine went on to mention a couple of recent catalysts for attacks against the Catholic Church. And although he didn’t mention the media specifically, many feel it was they who continue to fan the flames whenever possible.
“What we’re seeing is over 300 instances of attacks of violence and vandalism against Catholic churches in the United States over the last three years, in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. And then another surge of 160 attacks since the leak of the Dobbs decision last May. And so I think what’s really troubling to a lot of Americans in the pews is that they feel like their places of worship are not safe. And when the federal government does get involved, it’s to advocate for reducing or dropping charges against these criminals as you mentioned,” Valentine pointed out.
The director was clear in his estimation of where the blame belongs. In this case, he feels local police and authorities have done all they can to help quell violence and prevent vicious events.
“We’ve only been able to document instances of arrest in about a quarter of these attacks. And it’s not because local law enforcement is not willing to do the work. It’s that they do not have the resources on the local level to combat what is really a nationwide surge,” he told Campos-Duffy. “And so we’ve been calling on the federal government to devote the appropriate resources to these attacks against churches over the last two years. And they just haven’t been willing to do it.”
“It seems counterintuitive, right? That the Biden administration wouldn’t care. Here we have Joe Biden, a Catholic. He campaigned carrying rosary beads. He likes to talk about his faith. Somebody who wrote an article about his Catholicism got some sort of big, fancy prize. So it’s something he touts, and yet he’s not doing anything about it,” Campos-Duffy noted. “I’m sure CatholicVote has looked at this. What do you attribute this rise in anti-Catholic hate around the country and even in other parts of the world? What is driving it?”
“Well, unfortunately, I just think we have a climate where everything is politicized. And it’s also a spiritual battle,” Valentine said. “I’ve documented all these cases. I’ve examined them individually. I’ve talked to a lot of the pastors of churches that have been attacked. And I know of one parish in Maryland where a gentleman came in the church, set everything on the altar on fire that could be set on fire, and also set fire to a confessional door.”
It’s been hard not to notice these attacks on Catholics, and Christians more broadly, as they have spread across the country. In fact, many popular celebrities and athletes have spoken out against the recent decision by a Major League Baseball team to host a radical, bigoted group at one of their baseball games.
“I think what you’re seeing with this story about the Dodgers honoring an anti-Catholic hate group, which just makes a travesty of our faith and commits the most sacrilegious outrages that they can imagine. I think Catholics can’t help but feel under siege,” he concluded. “And it’s something where if you can’t feel safe going to church in the morning on Sunday, that’s a really troubling place to be in America that we haven’t seen since the 1800s.”
Rick Schultz is a former Sports Director for WFUV Radio at Fordham University. He has coached and mentored hundreds of Sports Broadcasting students at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Marist College and privately. His media career experiences include working for the Hudson Valley Renegades, Army Sports at West Point, The Norwich Navigators, 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, Time Warner Cable TV, Scorephone NY, Metro Networks, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, Cumulus Media, Pamal Broadcasting and WATR. He has also authored a number of books including “A Renegade Championship Summer” and “Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues”. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @RickSchultzNY.
Nick Kayal Moved From Sports to News, And is Seeing Results at 1210 WPHT
“We hit the ground running from day one, and our audience has grown month-by-month against different demos and platforms.”
During the pandemic, Nick Kayal, a former sports talk show host, fearlessly pivoted his career to news/talk. This bold move resulted in numerous changes, including his current role as the highly regarded host of 1210 WPHT’s Kayal and Company show in Philadelphia.
With his vibrant and impassioned approach to news/talk, he’s spearheading the evolution of radio to cater to the next generation’s needs.
1210 WPHT stands out for its dedication to connecting with audiences through a variety of platforms. Greg Stocker, the station’s brand manager and a popular personality on Kayal and Company, has led this effort. The station has become a favorite among listeners of all ages, thanks to its focus on live and local programming from 6:00 AM-7:00 PM. As a result, 1210 WPHT has established itself as a significant player in the Philadelphia radio market.
In a recent interview with Barrett News Media, Kayal shared essential perspectives on the advantages of AM radio and the powerful influence of talk radio on Philadelphia’s story. Kayal highlighted 1210 WPHT’s success in captivating audiences with exciting content and attracting diverse listeners.
Ryan Hedrick: Many listeners know you from your background in sports radio. What prompted your transition from sports to news/talk, and how has your experience been? Have there been any challenges or rewarding aspects in making this switch?
Nick Kayal: I was a political science major in college as a freshman back in 2002, so I’ve always had an interest in politics. Then, I got away from that and changed majors to criminal justice and pre-law. I started getting really into politics right around 2015 as [Donald] Trump announced that he was going to run for president, and a lot of my political views always seem to gradually slide from moderate Democrat, to moderate Republican or conservative Republican.
Many things during the pandemic opened my eyes, from the lack of freedom to the control of the government trying to restrict its citizens, and the imposed mask mandates. Equally important is the whole cancel culture movement. The woke aspect of society and people constantly being offended, trying to shut you down because they disagree. Much of that also drove me because I’m a big believer in the First Amendment and free speech, and I don’t believe in silencing opposing viewpoints.
RH: Did you encounter any difficulties or positive experiences when making this change?
NK: It has been gratifying because many great, talented individuals have surrounded me. The feedback has been mostly positive, and all of that has been rewarding. We hit the ground running from day one, and our audience has grown month-by-month against different demos and platforms.
The only challenge, initially, was once I got the job having to stay quiet about it for a few months and then make it public and expecting some pushback from a bunch of liberals that were going to be mad because I was doing so-called conservative talk. Other than a few people I have a good relationship with unfollowing me on Twitter because they didn’t want to see my political views, there haven’t been any challenges. I was put into a situation to succeed.
RH: WPHT has a long history in Philadelphia. What makes the station unique, and how do you strive to connect with the local audience?
NK: What makes WPHT unique right now is that this is the first time in the station’s history that we’ve been live and local 6:00 AM-7:00 PM. We have four different amazing shows. We don’t have four shows that all sound identical and are formatted the same. The hosts are not trying to be Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.
In the morning, we do a modern-day news show for news talk. If you’ve ever watched (Fox News’) The Five, that’s what we do. We hit on the big stories; we have personalities; we talk about pop culture; it’s that kind of variety.
Dawn [Stensland] does her show; she’s also my news anchor and a TV legend in Philadelphia. She does more of what’s breaking and developing. Dom [Giordano] is on from noon-3:00 PM and really gets into the crime issues. Rich [Zeoli] does his thing in the afternoon almost like what he did in the morning, minus the supporting cast he once had, and of course, he’s a star in the industry.
As far as connecting with the locals in Philadelphia, it’s no secret. If you are a fraud, the audience will know it. I have a blueprint, and it’s called COPE. It stands for content, opinion, personality, and entertainment. If you check off those four each day, the results should come.
RH: As a morning host, what are the critical elements of a successful morning show? How do you keep the content engaging and relevant for your listeners?
NK: When you are doing mornings, you must be entertaining. How you define entertaining is up to each host. The last thing I want to do is do a 20-minute dissertation on the debt ceiling; my job is to wake my audience up, not to put them back to sleep. I don’t do anything long-winded.
In my opening segment, after we set the show-up and chit-chat, I do a piece at 6:10 called the “Big Take”. It’s five to seven minutes long, and that’s kind of my opening monologue. I used audio and video. After that, we hit on a couple of stories, and I get Dawn [Stensland] and Greg [Stocker] ‘s opinions on it, and whatever organically develops from that is how I keep the show moving.
We have a show sheet, but we are not beholden to it. It comes down to creating a game plan and letting your radio instincts take over.
RH: What role does talk radio play in shaping public opinion and fostering community dialogue?
NK: I’ve always been torn on shaping the narrative. I go into a show with my opinion each day. I try not to watch other people’s shows too much or listen to others because I don’t want those opinions to corrupt my views. Regarding shaping narratives, I’m not sitting there telling you what to think. You can agree or disagree.
Still, one thing I promised I would never do is to be an apologist for the Republican party or conservatives in general or MAGA Republicans. My job is not to improve your feelings but to get ratings, and I take the approach of getting ratings and eff the feelings.
RH: Can you share any memorable experiences or interviews you’ve had as a morning host? Is there a particular moment that stands out to you in your career?
NK: We have not gone heavy on interviews because we have a three-mic show between Dawn, me, and Greg. I can not give one specific interview.
Indeed, in sports, there were prominent people that I spoke with. When I was in the South, I talked to Nick Saban. Things may be different in 2023-24 if we may have somebody like [Ron] DeSantis on the show or [Donald] Trump, Tim Scott, or whoever that will be.
But so far, we have steered clear of interviews. To this date, the one thing that I am most proud of is the money we raised for the Travis Manion Foundation. Every year we do an annual radiothon, and this year we set a record in the mornings when we raised $92,000 in four hours.
RH: How do you see the future of talk radio and morning shows evolving in an era of rapidly changing media consumption habits? What strategies are you implementing to adapt to these changes?
NK: The way we view it, we are no longer a talk radio station. We are an audio and video content distribution platform or network of platforms. People listen to us when they want or when they have the time. They might be listening 45 minutes behind on a delay on the app or just catching up. They might go to the website and download the podcasts. Or they may go to YouTube and watch all four hours live on our channel.
We’ve had people tweeting us pictures of their smart TV’s where they’ve had YouTube up, and they’re watching us in their living room on their 65-inch flat screen, and it looks like we are doing a TV show. We are a variety platform now.
RH: What are some key advantages of AM radio over other mediums, and how can stations effectively communicate these advantages to listeners and advertisers?
NK: As crucial as ratings are, you will only last long with the advertisers and the revenue. It’s a matter of selling people on the value of AM and, indeed, to the automakers. AM radio is still how people get weather alerts, travel advisories, etc. There’s a human safety element. AM radio reaches over 40 million Americans weekly, well over 10 percent of the country. We still get a massive amount of people.
The biggest challenge is attracting the Gen-Z listener. I wonder if you can. That’s another audience we can tap into. There will always be that demand for talk radio because you know you can never replace live and local personalities. News/talk is expensive to operate when you’re live and local, but the value remains.
RH: Lastly, are there any exciting upcoming projects or initiatives you’re working on that you’d like to share with your listeners and readers?
NK: More than anything, our brand, WPHT, is where free speech lives. We encourage dialogue, discourse, and discussions, and, indeed, debate. We have some people in our audience who are not conservatives. We have people that disagree with us. The great thing about WPHT is that we offer well-rounded conversations and various shows.
We have some other things in the works that our Brand Manager, Greg Stocker, has been pushing for, and hopefully, in the weeks and months, we can get some of this rolled out. A lot of people say the station has never sounded better. Greg Stocker has only been in his position as Brand Manager for over a year, and he’s taken the station to new heights.
Within our doors and walls at Audacy in Philadelphia, there are very happy with how things are going at the station.
Ryan Hedrick serves as the Assistant Program Director and Co-Host of the Morning News Express at WFMD. Prior to WFMD, he hosted an afternoon program at News Talk 103.7 FM in Chambersburg, PA. He has worked at Sirius XM in Washington D.C., WBEN in Buffalo, NY, and for stations in Baltimore, MD. He has also worked at WIBW-AM in Topeka KS, earning the Kansas Association of Broadcasters (KAB) award for Major Market enterprise reporting in 2016. To connect with Ryan, find him on Twitter @SureToCover.