Spotify Bets Big on a Marquee Name in Podcasting

With 190 Million Monthly Downloads, Comedy Talk Podcast King Joe Rogan Shows the Value of Podcasting

Podopolo Founder Melinda Wittstock on What Spotify’s $100mm+ Bet Means for Podcasting

Podcasting is becoming big business.

For most of its life podcasting has been the backwater “sleeper” of the media industry, an open door to any hobbyist, activist, journalist, expert or business owner with little more than a computer, a mic, and an idea.

Now podcasting is the hottest media trend, growing faster than any other. So, it’s not surprising Hollywood studios, major media, and global empires like the music streaming service Spotify are moving swiftly to capitalize on fast-growing listening.

Spotify is staking its claim as a destination for marquee podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience, one of podcasting’s longest running and most popular shows, with an astonishing 190 million downloads – more than CNN has ever achieved in its entire history.

Since its 2009 launch, The Joe Rogan Experience has built a large, loyal and engaged fanbase tuning in to hear the former “Fear Factor” host and standup comedian spar with actors, musicians, comedians, MMA fighters, authors, artists and controversially fringe far-right conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones.

The fact that the music streaming service, now with 286 million monthly active users, believes the value of this one podcast is worth north of $100 million for exclusive distribution says a lot about where podcasting is going.

Spotify’s acquisitions in podcasting are heading towards the $1bn-mark, acquiring podcast producer Gimlet Media and services provider Anchor for $340mm, then Bill Simmon’s media company The Ringer for $196, and Parcast, a scripted-entertainment podcast studio for an undisclosed sum. And it is enabling them to make a play to ‘privatize the podcast directory', and now taking active market share away from Apple and Google.

Where will it leave small independent podcasters?

Spotify’s move has sparked a lot of negative chatter about the negative impact on the openness of the podcast ecosystem and the move from RSS feeds to APIs that leads to more walled gardens.

The Rogan deal has also led a lot of podcasters to move swiftly to add Spotify to their distribution mix – and it makes sense to be distributed as far and wide as possible.

Yet it’s also clear Spotify plans to focus its attention and resources on the big names it owns outright – or for which it has an exclusive license – exacerbating the challenge 99% of podcasters have being found, discovered and monetized.

The vast majority of podcasts have small, yet loyal, niche audiences – and they struggle to make money because advertisers and sponsors demand big listening numbers with a traditional “major media” mindset. 

Podcasters have become used to placing their content on platforms like Apple, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify and a whole host of emerging podcast aggregators like Himalaya and Castbox. There is no fee for distribution on those platforms because no services – promotion, production or advertising sales – are provided.

If the product is free, then YOU are product.

The vast majority of podcasters provide a product that others monetize.

They get locked out of that revenue because they don’t “own” their own audience – the listening data, the demographic and psychographic analytics, or the community – that directly correlates to advertising and sponsor revenue.

That data has remained a “black box” to podcasters – making it impossible for them to prove to advertisers or sponsors their content is actually reaching audiences qualified for an advertising offer.

Add to that how hard it is for high-quality niche podcasters to be discovered up against major players like NPR, Joe Rogan and big-name celebrities, and you see why 85% of podcasters don’t make money from their content.

Spotify is telling us that there is true value in content – and that it is not “free”.

And by playing in traditional major media territory, Spotify is also telling us that there is a huge opportunity for new entrants like Podopolo to solve the business model problem for the vast independent sector of podcasting.

Podopolo is the first network to specifically solve all the challenges faced by podcasters: discoverability, engagement, and monetization.

With its “gamified” socially networked platform enables unprecedented discovery and community interaction, including incentives for listener recommendation, sharing and daily community engagement, Podopolo is changing the game. It is also the first and only network to transparently share its deep AI-driven audience intelligence with podcasters – and also provide unprecedented opportunities for even podcasters with the smallest audiences to monetize their content and community on-app and on-air with targeted advertising and sponsorship, plus a paywall for bonus and premium content.

Think of Podopolo as “Spotify + Facebook” with all the transparent data analytics, gamification and advertising sales representation thrown in – putting power in the hands of the content creators for the first time.

Most podcasters will never be Joe Rogan.

Most podcasters will struggle to be found and monetize up against the consolidation being driven by Hollywood, Big Media, and Big Tech.

The good news is that most podcasters can now profit from podcasting on Podopolo.

Melinda Wittstock is a 5-time serial entrepreneur in media and technology and the founder-CEO of