“The Joe Rogan Experience” has been attracting subscribers for more than a decade

A taekwondo regional champion and kickboxing enthusiast as a teenager, Rogan became an Ultimate Fighting Championships commentator in 2002, a job he still holds. He has also appeared on broadcast TV,  hosting the reality show Fear Factor for seven seasons in the early 2000s.

Rogan, who dropped out of the University of Massachusetts Boston before entering show business, launched his podcast in 2009. He and a friend self-produced the weekly show, which has covered a mix of subjects, including Big Foot, cannabis, and what he sees as an overzealous cancel culture. By the time Spotify paid a reported $100 million for his show in 2020, he had spent more than a decade drawing people to the podcast and amassing a personal fortune, without the support of a network or label who might have reined in some of his excesses.

Indeed, he has crafted an image of himself as a free thinker who will own his mistakes and contradict himself when proven wrong. “I got through the fucking net and I’m swimming in open waters,” he said during one 2021 episode, in what, as the New York Times points out, felt like a mission statement.

Even Joe Rogan’s popularity may not be enough to protect Spotify from losses

Spotify’s share price has dropped since the Young boycott began, and the company’s market cap fell by $2 billion, from $35 billion. In a public statement, Spotify defended its decision to keep Rogan on the platform, citing its commitment to giving artists creative control. (The firm has removed other podcasts that shared misinformation.)

The company has also said it bans “false or dangerous deceptive content about covid-19, which may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health.” On Jan. 30, it posted its platform rules in response to the growing outcry over Rogan’s podcast. Under its description of the kinds of dangerous content that would be removed from the site, the company specifically listed “content that promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive medical information” including claiming diseases like covid-19 and AIDS are hoaxes or suggesting vaccines cause death.

Daniel Ek, CEO, also published a post on the company’s blog explaining other measures Spotify was taking to counteract problematic content on the platform. For example, it will now add a “Covid-19” tag to all relevant content, and the tag would direct users to an information hub that will host credible, scientifically sound articles about the virus.

A few hours later, Joe Rogan posted a video on Instagram apologizing for the storm, promising to present more balanced views, and pledging to be more prepared for each discussion. “These podcasts are very strange because they’re just conversations,” he said, “and oftentimes I have no idea what I’m going to talk about until I sit down and talk to people, and that’s why some of my ideas are not that prepared or fleshed out, because I’m literally having them in real time.”

“It’s a strange responsibility to have this many viewers and listeners. It’s very strange,” he also said. “It’s nothing that I’ve prepared for.”

By the next morning, his video had attracted more than 4 million views.

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