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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Joe Rogan’s Meteoric Rise – A Case Study

The Rise of Joe Rogan

The life story of Joe Rogan is the perfect example of the adage “follow your passion”. Since his childhood, he was interested in two things: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Media Entertainment.

Rogan himself was a champion in the field of martial arts at the age of 19, however, due to circumstances he had to drop his pursuit as a fighter and chose to become an instructor instead. During this time, he also picked up an interest in periodic stand-up comedy routines and decided to focus on it more.

It was not easy, however, as he had to work several low-end jobs including driving cabs and distributing newspapers to make ends meet and survive.

Over the next decades, Rogan had his gigs of stand-up comedy and live events but also started securing TV deals which would later help his exposure. His first limelight of success started when he was a presenter and analyst on UFC and was seen as someone who was passionate and had a profound knowledge of the game.

This was a breakthrough moment for him as when he did get a permanent spot on the analyst roster in 2009, he could combine his two interests (martial arts and entertainment), and truly appear as a genuine and passionate person that resonated with people instead of being termed as a ‘money-hungry’ shill.

After garnering exposure and experience in the showbiz industry, he ventured into a side-project that started out with no monetary or financial motive but would end up changing the future of the format of streaming content forever.

Marketing of Joe Rogan Experience

Initially, the Joe Rogan Podcast was just a side project he started with his friend Brian with little hope or intention to make money off it. As he recalls it, it was just them looking up various topics on their laptops and voicing their unfiltered crude opinions on them. As it can be seen from the picture above, his first podcasts were very rudimentary and fundamental in nature with an extremely low budget.

First Stage of Marketing Joe Rogan Experience (JRE)

Six months into the launch, Rogan decided to brand the show and aptly named it the Joe Rogan Experience. During this time, his popularity soared as he produced and uploaded content regularly and consistently and managed to enter the iTunes Top 100 list of Podcasts. This rapid growth in the number of people consuming his product led SiriusXM Satellite Radio to sign an exclusive deal with him. By signing for SiriusXM, Rogan did the smart thing in his early days as he now had a reliable source of monthly income.

Since 2013, Rogan has made sure that JRE stays relevant on the biggest content sharing platform, YouTube, by uploading either parts of his stream or snippets to keep viewers enticed and persuade them to watch the content on his platform. Combining YouTube and his platform’s revenues, his podcast revenue was growing much faster than expected:

  • Ad revenue from SiriusXM and their exclusive deal
  • Ad revenue from iTunes
  • Ad revenue from his main YouTube channel

Rogan achieved the two hardest tasks involving a venture starting out, he found a reliable source of income on a monthly basis, and he had the freedom to experiment with his guests and his podcast formula which kept it fresh for the viewers and in turn created a more engaging platform than his competitors.

Over the years, his guest pool has been varied and non-biased which is yet another reason as to how his product is popular; Every consumer can relate to at least one of the guests called on the show, which ranges from Mike Tyson and Connor McGregor to Elon Musk and Neil DeGrasse Tyson among hundreds of other celebrities that have been invited to the show.

Second Stage of Marketing JRE

YouTube has for long been the platform for gauging entertainment success and Rogan did not want to be left behind on the trend. Since 2013, JRE started uploading podcasts on YouTube as well to reach a wider audience and provide another engaging platform to retain more viewers.

Joe Rogan's Youtube

As people found out about JRE from a plethora of channels like social media, shares, and recommended videos, the number of audiences also increased exponentially. This is reflected in the YouTube subscriber charts being on a continual upward trend.

Impact of the Rising Revenue

A bigger audience equates to a premium for his advertising space due to higher demand. For example, just in the year 2019, his podcast revenue was $30m~ (source: Forbes). With numbers like those, it’s easy to see big companies like Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, and other content hosts being interested in the advertising space and the large audience that Rogan commands.

SPOTIFY Deal

joe rogan's tweet

The deal between Rogan and Spotify (Reportedly $100m) marked a new era for Rogan and podcasting in general.

The deal also marked a new era for content creators, paving a way for marketing through exclusivity. Spotify did not have an intention to just license Rogan’s show, they wanted the whole show and the relevant package that comes with it for themselves.

Joe Rogan podcasts

This deal has had its advantages, but it has also had its fair share of criticism.

With Rogan, millions of listeners of the JRE are now moving to Spotify to listen to him, creating an influx of users for Spotify. In return, Spotify has access to a huge gold data mine due to the influx and has a wider audience to reach through his podcast.

The drawback is the loss of the YouTube acquisition channel that allegedly kept his podcasts at the top of the algorithm and provided a constant subscriber base.

However, Joe found a workaround. Though his podcast is now an exclusive Spotify product, he continues posting best bits & selections on his own YouTube channel. This is one of his strategies to keep his podcast relevant even outside of Spotify and at the same time increasing the number of his audience. 

Other Revenue Streams of Joe Rogan

UFC Commentary

It could be argued that this job was his crucial stepping-stone at a pivotal point in his life that helped him understand the entertainment business better by getting to be an insider looking out.

After a few stints in the other areas of the media industry including cable shows, he returned to UFC.

The growing popularity of UFC in recent years has only bolstered Rogan’s popularity as there is an exchange of audience between the two contents. Rogan’s fans might tune in to UFC to watch him, while UFC gets new fans and revenue as a result. A win-win situation.

Stand Up Events

Besides being an excellent presenter, Rogan has always had an interest in stand-up comedy since the early 90s. After JRE’s explosion in brand popularity, he did not stop his focus on comedy and instead used his newfound popularity and influence to get high-paying gigs and exclusive contracts including several comedy specials on Comedy Central Special (2014) and Netflix (2016, 2018).

On top of this, he still tours and fills the venues across the country, making it an excellent source of a non-primary revenue stream. His most recent tour The Sacred Clown sold-out venues such as MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas

Merchandise

Rogan uses Merchandising to ‘personalize’ his brand and add more flavor to it that the viewers can relate and resonate with. His brand Higher Primate sells official JRE merchandise powered by Spotify.

This way he accomplishes three important things:

  • He increases awareness by establishing his brand.
  • He provides items to his fanbase so that they can feel a sense of belonging, essentially creating a cult around his personality.
  • He adds another source of revenue stream.

Takeaways From Rogan’s Empire

Rogan’s first show was in the year 2009 and his popularity explosion as we know it today happened in 2018. By then he already had a catalog of 1000 episodes! The objectivity behind this is that consistency and frequency are the forces behind which a business like this can grow, not an overnight miracle. Rogan worked hard and grinded out his earlier years but made sure his uploads were frequent and on a consistent schedule, the results of which can be seen today. The key takeaway point is that motivation and persistence always achieve the desired goal.

If the public in the U.S is asked about Joe Rogan, chances are that 8 out of 10 people will respond to knowing him, this is because he has made himself indistinguishable from his content and worked profusely on his brand marketing to make sure that when people think of JRE (the show), they are automatically thinking of the individual Joe Rogan. Even after closing the deal with Spotify, both Rogan and the platform cleared the doubts and skepticism of the audience by making it clear that “Spotify had no creative control over his podcast.” This further strengthens his brand image and assures his fans that they will get the content that they expect from a JRE show, with no compromises.


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Kiara Dawson
Kiara Dawson comes from an Engineering background, with a specialization in Information Technology. She has a keen interest and expertise in Web Development, Data Analytics, and Research. She trusts in the process of growth through knowledge and hard work.

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