New Orleans We’re learning some interesting things about podcasts these days thanks to Joe Rogan, the popular conservative talker, and Neil Young, the iconic rocker from back in the day. Many of these lessons we already knew, but some are new.
Even in the age of social media communication, it is hard to run a successful boycott. Spotify has hardly offered more than a limp hand wave at the protest over its continued support of Rogan and his role in vaccine misinformation, despite Young, Joni Mitchell, and others pulling their content off of the site. Rogan is their most popular podcaster and the beneficiary of a reportedly $100 million deal with Spotify. Listeners may be leaving Rogan’s podcast, but we can’t know unless Spotify tells us, just as it will be a bit before we know if the boycott reduced their growth. They may be hardest hit by the aggressive way Amazon and Apple have moved to fill the gap and raid their listeners. Neil Young reportedly made $300,000 from Spotify, about 60% of his streaming income, but his uptick in Amazon and Apple is over 50%, so he’s paying, but he’s still earning. Spotify’s biggest apology has not been to the public or the artists, but to its own staff that are being raided and running from their transparent avarice and lack of community conscience.
More interestingly to me is that Spotify in some ways is having its Facebook moment. It’s pretty clear that they do next to no content moderation, which really means that anything goes until you get caught. Even then, the net is only likely to snare the whales like Rogan with big listenership, not the gazillion minnows who are putting out podcasts. My precious daughter several years ago told me that “podcasts would change my life.” Perhaps, but not yet. Learning now that you can say just about anything without a worry in the world about consequences may mean that they change lots of lives, although not for the better.
Facebook’s reputation was shredded by its inability to prevent the use of its platform for racial and ethnic violence as well as election abuse and misinformation both domestically and around the globe. In his techno-naivete Mark Zuckerberg famously claimed that their algorithms could fix this, but of course that was fantasy. Facebook was at least dealing with some written exhortations. Podcasts by definition are all oral. Moderation, if Spotify bothered, would mean putting thousands of ears on this stuff. That would cost money, and Spotify has now proven it is all about the money, moderation be damned.
I’m not sure anyone else is any better though. With the gazillions of podcasts out there I’m not sure that Apple or any of the other platforms are really giving them much bother. Sure, if you make the front pages as a Class One Hater, you might have some trouble, but the little crazies probably fall through the net easily and dangerously.
Hey, you might be reading this but you might also be hearing this on the radio, since its recorded. It’s also a podcast on the radio websites we service and all of our websites, if and when we can keep up with them. We’re not going to court the chaos, but it seems we could. I listened to an interview with a young fellow who had started the internet conspiracy, “Birds Aren’t Real,” pretending that all the birds had been killed some years ago and replaced by facsimile drones that were spying on us all. This is satire, but like the War of the Worlds radio spoof back in the day, who is to say that they don’t have true believers among the lost looking to be found.
Once we get finished having a laugh, we need to hope that these platforms, like Spotify, Apple and others, are getting a wakeup call in this boycott that they need to do something about their content when the issues become life and death.