Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told employees Wednesday morning that the streaming service does not control controversial podcast host Joe Rogan because the company sees itself as a distribution platform for Rogan’s show, not a publisher for Rogan, according to two employees who listened to the remarks.
Ek told employees at the company’s mayor’s office, which was broadcast live, that “Spotify does not approve of Rogan’s guest list, they don’t view his content until it’s available and therefore they don’t have editing rights,” said one employee who asked anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “They just review it after it’s already on the platform and remove it if it doesn’t comply with the rules.”
At the staff town hall, both Ek and CMO Don Ostroff “used the phrase on numerous occasions”.if we were a publisher, which implies very strongly that we’re not a publisher, so we’re not editorially responsible “for Rogan’s show,” said a second Spotify employee who listened to remarks – and who, like some listening Spotify employees, found an executive position ” at best, a dubious assertion.”
In a chat linked to City Hall’s livestream, “most of the angry comments were that the Spotify exclusive with Rogan means it’s more than just a regular platform,” one employee said.
Spotify did not respond to a request for comment.
The distinction between “platform” and “publisher” can be academic for regular Spotify users. But Ek’s stance on Rogan’s downfall, which Spotify has been reluctant to explain publicly, is a revealing look at how the company’s management interprets its responsibility (or relative lack thereof) for what Rogan and his guests say on the service’s most popular podcast. “The Joe Rogan Experience”. critics accused the show of spreading potentially dangerous “misinformation” about vaccines or treatments for COVID-19.
When a company serves as a platform for user-generated content, it typically doesn’t tell users what to post and may be protected from legal liability for being loaded on his services. When a company acts as a publisher, it has more editorial control over what is said and often creates or pays for certain types of content that can attract a lucrative audience.
Critics, including some at Spotify, accused the streamer of trying to do both with Rogan. In 2020, the company signed an exclusive multi-year licensing agreement with Rogan worth approximately $100 million. The deal made Spotify the sole distributor of Rogan’s show, which used to be hosted on competitor sites like YouTube. Rogan is number one. 1 podcast in over 90 markets, Ek told investors on Wednesday.
But Spotify didn’t make Rogan’s program an in-house editorial product he oversees, as it does with podcast companies he’s acquired, including Gimlet Media, Ringer and Parcast. Following the licensing agreement, Rogan repeatedly stated that Spotify did not attempt to interfere with his program. Post on company website announcing the partnership, it says, “While Spotify will become JRE’s exclusive distributor, Rogan will retain full creative control over the show.”
After weeks of pressure on the Rogan show from doctors, scientists, and boycotting artists like Neil Young, Spotify executives shuddered and vowed to add content warnings over the weekend to podcasts related to COVID-19, including Rogan’s podcasts. The company also released its internal guidelines to remove “disinformation” about COVID-19, which it has lagged behind many industry peers in online disclosure.
“We don’t change our policy based on a single author, and we don’t change it based on any media cycle or calls from anyone else,” I said in an earnings call Wednesday afternoon. “Our policies have been carefully written with input from a range of internal and external experts in the field, and I truly believe they are appropriate for our platform.”
He also said it may be too early to tell what impact the Joe Rogan Experience controversy could have on Spotify’s business.
“Usually when we have disagreements in the past, they are measured in months, not days,” I said. “But I’m happy with where we are in relation to this and the underlying trends still look healthy.”
During one part of the revenue discussion, Ek, without specifically addressing Rogan, mentioned Spotify as a platform for audio creators and suggested that it could one day have over 50 million active creators, compared to the 11 million it has now. In addition to acquiring podcast companies in recent years, Spotify has acquired audiobook production company and the business that created live audio application.
“We are building a platform that will allow the entire ecosystem to work together on a global scale,” I said. “So think of it as 50 million small and medium enterprises that we can support by giving them the infrastructure and resources to grow.”