Joe Rogan won. Neil Young lost. There is no other way to look at Spotify’s current quarterly figures.
The audio-streaming service’s most important metric — total active monthly users — is up 19 percent since the explosive row in January, when Young canceled the service and called for a boycott of Spotify over Rogan’s questionable guest selection.
Revenue is up 24 percent, and the portion of its service used as podcasts grew double-digits.
So Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s calculation that his $200m bet would stave off Rogan Young’s attempt to stir the world’s conscience over Covid disinformation was correct. Spotify thrives on controversy like any other media company.
The fascinating thing about the numbers is not only the increase in user numbers or that the number of premium users has increased from 158 million to 182 million. Advertising revenue also shot up by 31 percent to 282 million euros.
In other words, nobody boycotted Spotify because of the Young
Rogan disinformation series. No advertisers, no users… and no artists.
If Taylor Swift, or Drake, or Phoebe Bridgers, or U2, or Coldplay — or anyone else — had decided to support Young’s stance, Spotify would have been in big trouble. It would have become known as the music streaming platform that might be missing your favorite artist. Supporting a controversial podcaster over ethical complaints from a respected, conscientious and legendary singer would have called Ek’s judgment into question.
But no one stood up for Young. Everyone nodded sympathetically. We all agreed the Covid disinformation was terrible. And then we all kept paying for our Spotify subscriptions or didn’t cancel our accounts anyway.
Will this now encourage those who want to make potentially dangerous disinformation public? Will it encourage podcast platforms to promote “edgy” podcast hosts, underpinned by the precedent Spotify’s endorsement of Joe Rogan appears to have set?
Perhaps. But maybe it’s just the latest example of a platform being a broad church of content that can be accommodated more robustly than is sometimes thought.
Ask anyone who works at a major network or newspaper — or any other major corporation for that matter — and they’ll be able to give you examples of colleagues they vehemently disagree with, to the point of calling them… classified as potentially dangerous. Are they going in protest? It happens, but very rarely.
Public morality is messy, layered and complicated. It looks like our reaction to Spotify’s incident with Joe Rogan followed a similar theme.
A lesson for the media
How can newspapers survive in 2022?
In her Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography Washington Post Publisher Katharine Graham shared how her family took up and eventually overcame competing publications in Washington.
In the 1940s, her family started with a tiny circulation and significant annual losses from a very low base. But they paid special attention to things like quality artists, distribution logistics, and cultural trends like women’s issues. By the time the newspaper’s greatest triumph – the Watergate Inquiry – caught the world’s attention, it had already become a strong national and international player in the industry.
Last week the New York Times gave an interesting insight into his biggest growth equity so far this year: Wordle.
The seven-figure purchase of creator Josh Wardle’s viral game has brought tens of millions of new users to the newspaper, according to the US media giant’s latest reports. Besides, said New York Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien, it made people stay on the app, play other games, try recipes, and sometimes even read the news.
It led to NYT reports best-ever quarter for subscriptions to games costing $5 per month.
This basic idea that a news media app is itself a destination for all parts of your daily routine — gaming, cooking, discussions — is rarely delivered by news outlets. Most of the time we’re really not that interested or unwilling to really invest in deployment. Even if we are, we’re not that good. Can you imagine a news app designed and developed as fluidly, intuitively, pleasantly and unobtrusively as a typical social media app, streaming or gaming app?
Perhaps the closest we’ve come to endless scrolling in the media world is MailOnline, the web’s premier tabloid app. And even that is mostly just for celebrity photos and gossip.
This is not to disparage what we do well, which is providing much-needed transparency and scrutiny into what goes on in public life. Nor is it downplaying how hard it is for the social media, streaming, and gaming platforms that do it well.
For those we take for granted, their management spends billions developing and maintaining the apps. Very few media companies have had the ambition to really play on this scale. Our core business is still capturing and packaging information – not creating the most sophisticated and compelling user interface to deliver it.
What would Katharine Graham (or her father and husband, who spearheaded the early development of the newspaper) have done if she had been building a media company in 2022?
It’s a fair bet that they’ll be guided by how apps like Wordle can contribute to a more enticing, relevant overall package.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/news/spotifys-bottom-line-boost-from-the-neil-youngjoe-rogan-row-shows-morality-is-the-loser-41623354.html Spotify’s ultimate win from the Neil Young/Joe Rogan series shows that morale is the loser