Turning podcasting into a commercial medium, the new normal?
“It will be the exact same show. I will not be an employee of Spotify.” Joe Rogan
This week news broke that one of the biggest names in the podcasting ecosystem has agreed to move his show over to Spotify. This story puts a spotlight on an issue that has started to crop up as this podcasting becomes more and more popular. Should giant platforms like Spotify be able to turn podcasting into a commercial medium? Just as we have seen with other content-driven platforms such as Instagram the question persists of whether the podcast ecosystem will prevail and maintain its integrity as a free forum for all or whether the acquisition of popular shows will become the norm
I personally hope the ecosystem will prevail - podcasting exists to share ideas and opinions and I hope that it remains this way in its rawest, unfiltered form.
Loss of authenticity - Exclusive is Bad:
As news broke of Joe moving to Spotify the comments started to flow and one jumped out in particular. "Exclusive deals in the podcast world are bad. Podcasts were supposed to be platform-independent audio files. Making things exclusive is going backwards.”.
I couldn’t agree more with this stance. The thought of going back to radio or any other regulated medium comes to mind. As these corporations get involved, it makes it easier for regulatory associations to appear such as the CRTC in Canada. It becomes a slippery slope as these regulatory boards begin to start introducing taxation on profitable content etc.
Podcasting is more or less an unrestricted medium, sure there are some compliance standards that podcasters have to adhere to on certain platforms, but its an open field. With the move to go exclusive, hosts are required to stick to corporate content policies, rules, regulations, branding standards and other forms of “red tape”. There are a number of channels that corporations currently monopolize and we have seen the quality of the content diminish due to rules and regulations, the obvious one is radio!. Why are we reverting back? Generated content risks being governed by branding standards, lawyers, and shareholders … the core message gets diluted by a bunch of corporate minutiae.
Changing the course of eco-system:
Motivation. This word is extremely relevant as more commercial entities start to infiltrate the podcasting medium. Motivation to create content shifts, it becomes more about the monetary gain and less about creating thought-provoking content. We saw a similar shift in Instagram - as more and more commercial businesses started to endorse content creators, the authenticity of their message weakened, somehow Gillette started to represent women empowerment. There is nothing wrong with corporations promoting their brands, it is more of a discussion of them entering into channels that are meant for a meaningful exchange of ideas.
We like Joe Rogan because he says it like it is, he is controversial, thought-provoking, and entertaining. Being unrestricted is everything his personal brand represents. My brain hurts thinking about how he will be able to fit into the confounds of a large corporation. However, he will likely find a way at $100M price tag and we will lose more and more creators rapidly. The days of independent audio files will become a novelty and just as we have seen before, teams of people working around the clock to mass-produce quick hits of entertainment.
Accepting the new normal:
In the era of COVID-19 we have been hearing that we all need to “accept the new normal”. It got me thinking, this is something we have been forced to do regularly. Perhaps, we just need to accept that once a new app or medium starts to build traction commercial eagles swoop down and begin to establish their territory. The Joe Rogan and Spotify deal is one of many that exist in the space and let’s face it when motivation in the size of the deal he just closed comes your way - it’s difficult to say no. The hope is, however, these deals do not infiltrate and start mass-producing what Instagram models are to social media.
Podcasting represents organic thought leadership and expression …here’s to hoping that the ecosystem can remain strong and stomach the influence of the corporation.