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Joe Rogan's brand value
Spotify's acquisition of the Joe Rogan Experience was a clever audience acquisition strategy.
Last week was full of interesting news and development. But one piece came out of nowhere and caught the media landscape off guard:
Joe Rogan, comedian and host of one of the most popular podcasts in the world, is taking his show to Spotify. The Joe Rogan Experience will soon become a Spotify exclusive, meaning episodes’ full audio and video will only be available through the platform starting later this year. Up until now, Rogan’s show has never been available on Spotify, let alone exclusive to any platform.
The show will become available on Spotify globally starting on September 1st, and it’ll become an exclusive sometime after that point. Listeners won’t have to pay to access the episodes, but they will have to become Spotify users. Spotify said in a press release that Rogan retains creative control over his show. It didn’t disclose how much it spent on the deal. The company will also work with an ad agency to jointly sell ads against the program. Rogan said last year his show reached about 190 million downloads a month.
This is a massive get for Spotify, which has made podcasting a core focus. It acquired Gimlet Media, Anchor, and Parcast last year, to start, and then signed more Spotify-exclusive deals. It’s working with the Obamas’ production company exclusively and committed to deals with other big names, like Joe Budden and Amy Schumer, and acquired The Ringer.
According to the Verge, The Joe Rogan experience was one of the most-searched-for podcast on the platform, which led it to buy exclusive rights. It’s considerable that Rogan’s show was not even on Spotify before the acquisition.
I don’t think this acquisition is related to Spotify’s recent drop in organic traffic I dissected in the most recent Index Watch but it will surely compensate nicely in brand awareness and publicity during the drop. I also think that this deal will increase the 19% podcast market share I wrote about in the race to create the first audio search engine.
In this episode, I want to take a closer look at Rogan’s brand value and how he feeds it.
Brand value = reach
A brand’s value is defined by two factors: audience size and popularity.
A brand must be well-known (popular) but also reach a certain size of people to be the most valuable. This concept leaves us with four quadrants.
No names are obviously the worst spot to be in because nobody knows or wants you. The opposite are the Forbes 100 most valuable brands, of which Apple took the first spot three years in a row. In the upper left corner, you find smaller brands that are popular in their niche. In the lower right, you get white labels products that are not very popular but attract a large audience (think AmazonBasics or Supermarket’s own brands).
To rank the list, Forbes looks at EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, deprecation, and amortization), subtracts -8%, and applying the maximum tax rates in the respective country over the last 3 years.
Joe Rogan’s podcast sits in the upper right corner of the quadrant, of course. He has the largest and most famous podcast. Let me explain how that comes together and whether the $100M are justified or overprized.
According to Joe, the show has ~190M downloads/month and is running since 2009. That means most people must listen on Apple Podcasts or Rogan’s site itself because his current Youtube channel has 8.44M subscribers and exists since 2013.
Some of the most successful episodes got over 10M views, e.g. the first Elon Musk interview (34M), the second conversation with Alex Jones (20M), or the podcast with Dan Bilzerian (16M).
Rogan truly is the new Howard Stern of our times. Just the keyword “joe rogan” has a global search volume of 2.9M on Youtube, according to AHREFs (1.4M on Google Search). SEMrush reports that the related keywords have a combined search volume of 1.7M.
Even his wife, or better said the keyword “joe rogan wife” gets 90,500 searches/month. That’s more than “joe rogan experience”, the actual podcast, with 60,500.
His official site is joerogan.com, which gets around 200,000 visits per month, based on AHREFS data. podcasts.joerogan.net gets 3.3M visitors a month, according to SEMrush traffic analytics (50% from direct traffic 77% of traffic from the US). Weirdly, joerogan.net redirects to joerogan.com but podcasts.joerogan.net resolves in a 200 status code. If you read this, Joe - which you won’t - fix it!
Rogan also gets a lot of social reach with some of his episodes being shared over 200,000 times, e.g. the one with Bernie Sanders. Joe understands how to maximize controversial guests: Elon Musk “smoking” a joint, Alex Jones coming on, Bernie Sanders campaigning.
Forbes reported that the Joe Rogan Experience made $30M last year and Joe Rogan the highest-paid podcaster of 2019. Just to put that into context, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the makers of "My Favorite Murder", made ~$15M last year. That’s 50% of revenue of first place for second place.
On #6 of the 2019 biggest podcasts in 2019 sits Bill Simmons from The Ringer, which was also bought by Spotify, for double the amount they paid for Spotify: $196M (source).
I also found a ton of fan sites like
That alone speaks for Rogan’s popularity.
Let’s talk dollars.
Midroll mentions that podcasters can ask for $18-50 per 1,000 listeners (CPM) in sponsorships. If we apply the 190M monthly downloads to that model, the show would make anything between $3.4-9.5M/month. That’s $40.8-114/year. I don’t believe that the Joe Rogan podcast would sell for $100M if it made $114M a year. Even if we consider 20% of that, Rogan would make $8-22M per year. Spotify would have recouped the cost in 12-5 years if it hadn’t made $1.7B already.
Is the Joe Rogan Experience worth $100M?
I say yes.
Here’s why: the reach Spotify gets + the potential to monetize it with ads is huge. Forget about the cap table.
Take just the 10 guests from the episodes with the most viewers on Youtube. That’s over 5.7M monthly searches on Google alone.
Now imagine having a huge platform that doesn’t need search engines and social networks because people come to it directly - with high attention spans. If Spotify can integrate ads into podcasts and monetize each of those listeners for just a dollar, it’d make over $5M just from the top 10 guests alone.
To me, that sounds like a good deal.
The bigger picture
From The Verge:
A recent survey of Canadian adults found that 43 percent of people “went to YouTube for podcasts in the past year.” That put YouTube ahead of Apple Podcasts (34 percent) and Spotify (23 percent).
Taking Rogan exclusively is a shot against Apple Podcasts and Youtube. The bigger picture here is that more and more people are coming to Youtube for podcasts and Spotify wants to cut that trend’s head off.
The strategy Youtubers like Rogan use is to split long content, mostly interviews, into separate clips to better address specific interests of their audience. Whereas a long-form interview might scare some users away, a highlight or clip can work much better. They’re easier to watch and share. According to the Verge article, those small clips often attract more views than the long ones.
Joe Rogan’s clip channel has 50% of the subscribers of his main channel.
Another 4M subscribers to add to his massive media empire.