Does Joe Rogan’s antics signal an impending misinformation problem at Spotify’s hands?

Joe Rogan strikes again. This time, the popular Spotify podcaster used racial slurs after a montage video surfaced showing him saying the N-word repeatedly. In an Instagram apology, Rogan (pictured) shared that the The incident was “the most regrettable and shameful thing” he had ever had to speak about publicly, and added that although the video was taken out of context, it still looked “awful” even to him. .

Rogan’s apology came shortly after singer India Arie decided to pull her content from the platform.

While Spotify CEO Daniel Ek also condemned Rogan’s actions, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Ek said he doesn’t believe in the creator’s silence. Ek added that the platform has “clear lines around content” and “will take action when they are crossed,” but “cancelling votes would be a slippery slope.”

Rogan’s second apology comes shortly after facing backlash over COVID-19 misinformation on his program, The Joe Rogan Experience, to which Spotify said it would add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion of COVID-19, and direct listeners to its dedicated COVID-19 hub. Rogan’s content on COVID-19 also led 270 scientists and medical professionals to sign a letter earlier this month urging Spotify to take action against Rogan for spreading lies on the podcast.

Following the letter from scientists and medical professionals, singer-songwriter Neil Young sparked a protest by posting a now-deleted public letter to Spotify asking the platform to choose between him and Rogan. Spotify has since removed Young’s songs from its platform as per his request.

Following the incident, Ek said, “We’ve had rules in place for many years, but admittedly we haven’t been transparent about the policies that guide our content more broadly.”

Spotify has made significant investments in the podcasting space and signing a multi-year deal with Rogan, expected to be worth more than $100 million, has been a key pillar of its strategy. It also acquired podcast companies Gimlet Media for US$230 million, story-based podcast studio Parcast for US$56 million, and Anchor Podcasts for over US$100 million.

In its latest fourth-quarter financials, Spotify also said it acquired Whooshkaa, a podcast technology platform that offers a specialized tool for broadcasters to turn their existing audio content into on-demand podcast content. The technology is now integrated into the Megaphone suite which will bring more third-party content into the Spotify Audience Network and is meant to “connect advertisers to more audiences and enable broadcasters to expand reach and increase monetization”. .

While it’s safe to say that podcasting as a stream of content will remain front and center for the company, Spotify also needs to ensure it has the ironclad guidelines in place to deal with the spread. misinformation and brand safety concerns as more content creators venture into the space, industry players have said INTERACTIVE-MARKETING spoke to.

In fact, while platforms such as Facebook and YouTube have struggled with misinformation and brand safety issues for some time now, Spotify has always managed to keep its reputation clean, with the platform being used by many. for its large music library. But the question remains, will it last?

According to Andreas M. Vogiatzakis, media veteran and former CEO of Star Media Group, the threat of misinformation is not what Spotify faces alone, but all media platforms with user-generated content. Ultimately, it comes down to the measures put in place to control the narrative and ensure it is true.

Vogiatzakis, who is currently the founder and executive director of AMVPLUS ADVISORY, added that there is a fine line between allowing, encouraging and nurturing free speech versus blocking misinformation.

“One does not negate the other, and media platforms must bear this in mind and ensure they act accordingly. If we are stealing freedom of speech and expression in the name of misinformation, we stifle creativity and freedom which are values ​​dear to a free world,” he said. However, it takes prudence, diligence and care to foster freedom, not stifle it, he added.

Trademark damage

According to a Forrester Research blog post published last week, 19% of Spotify customers surveyed in the US, UK and Canada said they had already canceled their subscription or were planning to do so in the near future. to come up. The same proportion said they would consider canceling if more artists left the platform.

However, in a blog post, Mike Proulx, VP, Director of Research and Kelsey Chickering, Principal Analyst at Forrester said:

It’s hard to pull off a brand that’s embedded in her daily routines.

Features like personalized Spotify recommendations, social graph, and year-end features make the platform sticky. For consumers, it’s hard to part with years of manually curated playlists, and third-party migration tools add friction to tracking. This gives Spotify additional resilience to mitigate the impact of cancel culture.

According to Nishant Kaushal, head of data, strategy and solutions at ADNA, in an era of heightened sensitivity to online information, the perception that the company is profiting by letting misinformation fester will be detrimental to the value at long-term brand. If there is enough momentum, the impact can also be seen in the short term.

Commenting on Forrester’s research findings, Kaushal said it’s likely that a significant proportion of them won’t take action. He said:

The innovation research we have conducted at ADNA often shows that there is almost always a gap between expressed intent and actual behavior.

“The news about Rogan’s repeated use of racially inappropriate language has only brought more attention to [his content and style]. Spotify will be well advised to learn from platforms such as Twitter and Youtube and set its own rules and regulations that its content creators and users must follow,” Kaushal said.

Won’t feel the impact of advertising dollars

In the fourth quarter, Spotify said revenue of $3,065 million grew 24% year-over-year on significant strength in advertising and favorable currency movements, and strength of podcast revenue was led by the Spotify Audience Network.

Overall, Spotify’s ad-supported revenue reached a record 15% of total revenue in the quarter and continued to benefit from higher impressions sold, increased CPMs and demand. growing within the Spotify Audience Network. Additionally, podcast revenue benefited from strong growth at existing Spotify studios and exclusive licensing deals.

Kaushal added that when it comes to music streaming, the balance of power is very skewed in favor of global distributors over content creators. The three major global music giants, Spotify, Apple and Amazon, control around 60% of the global music streaming subscription market, with Spotify leading with more than half. Unlike countless content creators who want to reach people through these platforms, the platform is unlikely to feel the pinch.

“The loss of a few artists is unlikely to have a significant impact on Spotify’s business unless it accelerates into an avalanche of leverage and/or end customers taking adverse action,” Kaushal said.

Proulx and Forrester’s Chickering added that if the 2020 advertiser boycott has taught us anything, it’s that these incidents don’t usually leave a lasting impact on results.

“Facebook’s 2020 advertiser boycotts had little effect on the platform’s behaviors and no negative impact on its bottom line, despite advertising accounting for 97% of Facebook’s revenue. On the contrary, only 13% of Spotify’s revenue comes from advertisements. The rest (87%) is generated by its premium subscriptions,” the post said.

Plus, while ads power Facebook, talent powers Spotify. It can be argued that Spotify should be responsible for the talent it licenses and promotes, just as Facebook should be responsible for the content it is paid to advertise.

And marketers, as brand stewards, should be responsible for guiding their media buys away from misinformation and toward content and platforms that align with their brands’ norms and values.

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