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Joe Rogan helped create a podcast culture on YouTube, and now he’s leaving it

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Joe Rogan is largely moving on from YouTube, a site that helped transform his podcast into a viral video-making factory, earning him nearly 10 million subscribers in the process. It’s the latest sign that creators who found success on YouTube see other platforms as the next step, but it doesn’t mean that YouTube is anywhere close to being cut out of the podcast game.

Later this year, Rogan will bring his mega-popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, exclusively to Spotify. It’s not just Rogan who’s leaving YouTube behind, either. At a time when video podcasts on YouTube are more popular than ever, some of the platform’s biggest personalities have been taking their content to other services. YouTube star Emma Chamberlain launched her podcast off platform; Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl moved their show, Psychobabble, away from YouTube; and, like Rogan, Daniel Keem and Ricky Banks just signed a deal to bring their YouTube show, Mom’s Basement, to Spotify.

These creators’ success, though, often came from optimizing around YouTube as a platform in the first place. The Joe Rogan Experience YouTube channel has just under 8.5 million subscribers, with videos collectively pulling in more than 2 billion views since it launched in 2013. On top of those, Rogan currently runs on a secondary channel where he posts clips from the podcast, which are able to easily spread across the site by being recommended to new viewers.

“So much of consumption of [Rogan’s] stuff, especially for people who don’t know or don’t care about downloading a podcast app, is on YouTube,” Owen Grover, the former CEO of Pocket Casts and current CEO of TrueFire Studios, told The Verge, “both the full length interview and the 4-6 minute clips of whatever he’s done. The way he reaches his audiences — he just keeps coming up in their recommendation feed.”

It’s important to note that under the Spotify deal, some of those clips will still find their way to YouTube. That’ll allow Rogan to continue using the platform to grow his audience (and make money), even while locking the entirety of his content inside Spotify’s app. Rogan can also use YouTube to air shorter clips he thinks will go viral and command additional attention.

Other YouTubers are focused on this same strategy, using channels dedicated to their podcasts. The hosts of Cold Ones, Chad Roberts and Max Stanley, have a channel with more than 1 million subscribers; the creators of Tiny Meat Gang, Drew Gooden and Cody Ko, have a channel with more than 600,000 subscribers; and Jenna Julien from Jenna Marbles and Julien Solomita boasts close to 1 million subscribers.

Rogan managed to use video and audio platforms, like YouTube, to “create different entry formats that scratches different itches,” Grover said. His audio podcast grew because his YouTube channel developed an entirely new audience. With the exclusive deal, he stands to lose a main entry point for an audience — arguably, a much younger one — that knows him from his YouTube videos alone. The growth he’s seen on YouTube proves just how crucial the platform was to growing his brand, Grover argued.

Gaming streamers have faced a similar issue as they sign lucrative deals with streaming platforms. When Tyler “Ninja” Blevins moved from Twitch to stream exclusively Mixer, he brought a good number of followers with him, but Twitch’s viewership base still dwarfs Mixer’s. Blevins loses out on new Twitch users stumbling onto his channel and subscribing. While his Mixer channel continues to grow, Mixer as a whole is still not seeing the viewing numbers that Twitch brings in.

Podcasters know they have to meet listeners where they are instead of trying to bring them over to one specific platform. Gaming and entertainment company Rooster Teeth started its podcast business in 2008, and it has grown into a mini-empire since then. Accessibility and approachability is a priority, as Rooster Teeth tries to entertain longtime fans and appeal to a broader new listener base, say Rooster Teeth’s A.J. Feliciano, director of partnerships and strategy, and Gus Sorola, a co-founder. Sorola pointed to new podcasts Rooster Teeth is working on as an example of “trying to make sure that we can we can be as friendly and approachable as possible.”

Part of that strategy means being everywhere. Feliciano argued that someone in their 30s who lives in New York City might rely on Spotify and Apple, but a teenager at home might associate podcasts with YouTube. The YouTube versus Apple and Spotify debate isn’t just about audio or video; it’s how “those particular audiences have been conditioned to consume content — period,” Feliciano said.

Rogan is a rarity. His audience will likely follow him to Spotify, and shorter clips he continues to upload on YouTube can still help find a new audience. Other exclusivity plays have proved less successful thus far. Luminary, a subscription-based podcast platform that boasts Hollywood celebrities, is burning through cash to make podcasts while struggling to build a subscriber base. Part of that issue is that exclusivity limits discoverability and accessibility — areas in which YouTube thrives.

“By limiting yourself to a single distribution platform, it can affect your revenue and whole brand building initiative by limiting to just one thing,” Feliciano said. “The big issue for a lot of podcasters right now is figuring where that new opportune audience is and how do we stand out from the millions of million other podcasts that are out there?”

In the end, it’s about what lets hosts command attention. Rogan’s most viral, talked-about moments — including when Tesla CEO Elon Musk got high on the show — were on camera. The most viral moments from all of his episodes are because of the video component: screenshots, GIFs, sharable clips. Although Spotify has a video component, it’s not yet meant as a way to find new things to watch.

Those viral moments are important, and YouTube’s reach is unparalleled. Top podcasters may be happy to take an exclusivity deal, but they often only got there because of the success they found building a massive following on YouTube.

Podcasts

Joe Rogan’s podcast is becoming a Spotify exclusive

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Joe Rogan, comedian and host of one of the most popular podcasts in the world, is taking his show to Spotify. The Joe Rogan Experience will soon become a Spotify exclusive, meaning episodes’ full audio and video will only be available through the platform starting later this year. Up until now, Rogan’s show has never been available on Spotify, let alone exclusive to any platform.

The show will become available on Spotify globally starting on September 1st, and it’ll become an exclusive sometime after that point. Listeners won’t have to pay to access the episodes, but they will have to become Spotify users. Spotify said in a press release that Rogan retains creative control over his show. It didn’t disclose how much it spent on the deal. The company will also work with an ad agency to jointly sell ads against the program. Rogan said last year his show reached about 190 million downloads a month.

Rogan’s YouTube channel will remain live, but it won’t contain full episodes. There might be clips or other supplementary content which could benefit from YouTube’s search algorithm and push people to listen to full episodes on Spotify.

This is a massive get for Spotify, which has made podcasting a core focus. It acquired Gimlet Media, Anchor, and Parcast last year, to start, and then signed more Spotify-exclusive deals. It’s working with the Obamas’ production company exclusively and committed to deals with other big names, like Joe Budden and Amy Schumer, and acquired The Ringer.

Although exclusive deals seem to be the company’s main listener acquisition strategy, Spotify didn’t immediately move Gimlet shows to an exclusive model. Instead, it produced ancillary, exclusive content like Gimlet Academy and extra Reply All episodes while keeping existing shows widely available. In this case, the company will seemingly move relatively quickly to make Rogan a Spotify-only offering.

Spotify’s podcast ambitions always directly targeted Apple, which, up until now, has been the biggest name in podcast players. But with the Rogan deal, Spotify also has another new target: YouTube. When it began testing its video podcasting feature earlier this month, it did so with the backing of two popular YouTubers. Rogan is one of the most popular YouTube podcasters, often with millions of people watching each episode, so losing his voice on the platform is a major hit to YouTube and a big gain for Spotify.

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Questions about Facebook’s oversight board, Quibi’s popularity, and the Pixel 4A

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On this episode of The Vergecast, hosts Nilay Patel and Dieter Bohn welcome on a few of our colleagues to discuss the week’s important stories.

First up, deputy editor Dan Seifert stops by to cover our recent 13-inch MacBook Pro review, what is going on with the next Pixel phone, and why Windows’ laptop design has gotten so good.

In the second half of the show, Silicon Valley editor Casey Newton joins to discuss the implementation of Facebook’s independent oversight board that’s dealing with censorship and free speech on the platform and how it can establish a precedent for other social networks.

Last but not least, Verge reporter Julia Alexander is back to update us on how the streaming wars have been handling the world staying at home, how well Quibi is doing after launching last month, and whether WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service, HBO Max, can be successful in a very crowded field.

Listen here or in your preferred podcast player to hear it all.

Stories discussed this week:

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First looks at Surface Go 2, Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Xbox Series X gameplay footage

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There have been quite a lot of bulletins within the client tech world this week, with new {hardware} from each Microsoft and Apple, plus some promising early gameplay movies for the Xbox Collection X console.

This week on The Vergecast, co-hosts Nilay Patel, Dieter Bohn, and Paul Miller stroll by these bulletins: the Microsoft Floor Go 2, Floor Ebook 3, and a brand new 13-inch MacBook Professional from Apple. The crew additionally discusses how the Xbox Collection X can have video games optimized for the console with sooner load instances, ray tracing, and 4K video.

This episode can be Paul’s final common look on The Vergecast. We are saying goodbye to him with a montage of his final 100 segments on the present, and he delivers one final addition to his section “So long, and thanks for all the Bitcoin” to wrap the podcast.

Hear right here or in your most popular podcast participant to listen to all of it.

Tales mentioned this week:

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