Is Spotify exclusivity worth it?

New data shows that Joe Rogan's influence decreased after he pulled his podcast from other apps.

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Is Spotify exclusivity worth it?

Over the last week, several media outlets published interesting stats relating to Spotify’s exclusive podcast content.

The first comes from Podnews, which published a ranking of Spotify’s top 10 most-played podcasts in the US. Of those 10, five are exclusive to Spotify, meaning that the platform either owns the shows outright or paid to license them. This indicates that exclusivity helps boost a show’s audience, at least within Spotify’s ecosystem. Is it because Spotify is incentivized to promote its own podcasts, or do these shows benefit from a concentrated audience that isn’t spread out over other apps? It’s probably a little of both.

The second set of stats comes from Insider, which published a chart comparing the audience sizes of various Spotify-owned podcasts. The piece quotes an anonymous Gimlet Media staffer who complains that the sheer volume of Spotify shows can result in poor distribution: "They brought on a ton of podcasting companies at once and they can't promote all of them super aggressively.”

The third set was published by The Verge. The reporter there pulled together data from both Twitter and Google Trends to show that Joe Rogan’s audience and reach have declined since his podcast was pulled from all non-Spotify apps.

Why do I find all these stats so interesting? Ever since Rogan announced his $100 million deal with Spotify, there’s been an ongoing debate as to whether podcast talent should enter into these exclusivity arrangements. Sure, the upfront money is great, but are you harming your career by choking off your reach? When the Rogan news broke, I saw some Twitter users brazenly predict that he’d live to regret it once the deal expired and it became impossible to rebuild his audience on other apps.

On the one hand, I find it silly to suggest that a content creator should never trade wider distribution in exchange for money. A huge portion of the media industry is predicated on locking content behind a paywall — whether you’re a book publisher, a cable network, or a movie studio. Careers can flourish without open distribution on the web.

At the same time, I wouldn’t blame a creator for considering reach when weighing their options. The podcast company Luminary spent tens of millions of dollars to license exclusive podcasts, and yet its subscription numbers are tiny. I’ve seen reports that some of its talent regretted locking their content in a place where very few people could listen to it.

As for Rogan, I don’t think he’s losing any sleep over the deal. Spotify has 325 million users and his interviews still regularly make headlines. If he ever does return to distributing on non-Spotify platforms, I’m pretty sure he’ll have no trouble picking up exactly where he left off.

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Quick hits

Apparently Quora has a paid writing program. [Medium]

"Subscription revenue makes up 45% of The Atlantic’s business (the rest is advertising, events and business-to-business revenue)" [Digiday]

Washington City Paper profiles several Twitter users who are among the first to report on shootings in DC. [WCP] This is a good example of how social media users can fill in the gaps left by local news outlets.

TikTok is going local. [The Verge]

The creator economy is bigger than you think it is. [YouTube]

"We don't think that we're going to get a lot of younger teens who grab their parents' credit cards and all of a sudden want to subscribe to the [Washington Post]. But we also know that we are building a fandom." [Insider]

A fascinating deep dive into the world of Ice Cream TikTok. [YouTube]

ICYMI: What it takes to operate a physical podcast studio

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It’s like an exclusive club

I’m talking about my private Facebook group. I locked down the privacy setting so you can’t find it unless you have the link, and I only share the link at the bottom of this newsletter. That guarantees that only those within the media industry gain access. You can join all 600 of us over here: [Facebook]

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Simon Owens is a tech and media journalist living in Washington, DC. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn. Email him at For a full bio, go here.