We Are All Streamers

Joe Rogan and the need for Sovereign Digital Space

Valerian Bennett
Jul 2, 2020 · 5 min read

Recently, Spotify announced it signed Joe Rogan, one of the most popular podcasters in the world, to a multi-year exclusive licensing deal. The move is a blow to Google-owned YouTube where “The Joe Rogan Experience” channel has nearly 9 million subscribers and pulled in over 2 billion views since it launched in 2013.

It is rumored that Rogan earns between $30-$50 million per year based on his YouTube channel. Details of the Spotify deal are not fully known. But, according to a person familiar with the matter, the licensing arrangement is worth more than $100 million.

Clearly, this is a big financial win for Rogan. It’s an even bigger win for Spotify. Since the announcement, Spotify’s market cap added over $20 billion.

Spotify up 84%
Spotify up 84%

Even though the Rogan deal is a move from one centralized platform to another, it is directionally away from monopoly and thus serves as another unmistakable data point on the inevitable march towards a decentralized streaming future.

After all, if the current system was so great and was helping Rogan earn millions upon millions then why would he even consider leaving? JRE podcast listeners will be familiar with the long list of grievances against the Google subsidiary but one issue stands above all: censorship.

Free Speech Ain’t Cheap

As a defender of free speech in the era of political correctness, these elements clearly became untenable. The NY Times interview with Rogan immediately after the announcement paints a very vivid picture:

The ability to be free of censorship is perhaps the thing Rogan prizes most — and he’s very concerned about censorship, especially inside the tech companies that control the most powerful forms of mass communication the world has ever seen.

“What has made society better today than it was hundreds of years ago is not just our prosperity. It’s the evolution of ideas. Anything that wants to limit discussion is dangerous to the evolution of ideas.”

If censorship resistance is Rogan’s highest value then the move away from YouTube makes perfect sense. Major social media platforms are shifting from being neutral carriers of information to arbiters of truth and taste. This trend has resulted in the targeted economic censorship of controversial friends of Rogan like Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

But, the process can be indiscriminate and without recourse.

YouTube bans crypto videos
YouTube bans crypto videos

The Crypto YouTube community learned this lesson the hard way when the platform banned scores of content creators related to blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Popular figures like Chris Dunn, IvanOnTech, and the official Bitcoin.com channel spent years developing their brand and building massive content libraries while attracting a large number of followers…all to have the result of their own labor taken from them.

YouTube is a private company and is allowed to do as it pleases. However, the public should be terrified by this behavior.

With the pandemic, streaming has grown exponentially in an extremely short period of time. It was already estimated that streaming video alone would account for 82% of all internet traffic by 2020. That number will surely be dwarfed by the end of the year.

In the work-from-home era, we are all streamers.

Balaji Srinavasan, former CTO of Coinbase and General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, put it this way, “Every company is now a media company”. Whether you are a crypto trader or mom-and-pop restaurant you must create content to break through the noise in this increasingly digital-first world.

We are having this discussion in the context of streamers getting kicked off YouTube. But, what if you got banned from Zoom?!

Think of the ramifications. For many, that would be a digital death sentence administered unilaterally, inconsistently, and with zero transparency.

If our livelihood, identity, and well-being are all directly affected by our ability to freely stream online then letting unaccountable corporations impede that flow will undoubtedly have cataclysmic consequences. Deplatforming and demonetization are acts of corporate violence in the context of our post-pandemic world.

This is why we need to stop thinking of social media channels solely as entertainment and rethink them as we need them to be:

Sovereign Digital Space

Streaming should not be seen as an ephemeral act but rather as a tangible brick in the wall of one’s own Sovereign Digital Space. Just as these bricks stack up to make your digital property, they should be afforded the same rights as property in the physical world.

Rihanna wears the crown gif
Rihanna wears the crown gif
Rule yourself.

But, we can’t expect the same institutions that profit handsomely from keeping us captive in their walled gardens to offer such protections. That’s why we need to secure this new world with the power and values of blockchain technology: decentralized, irrevocable, and unstoppable.

Be Your Own 📺🎙📝

It would be naïve to expect Rogan to jump from YouTube to one of the “decentralized YouTube” blockchain platforms available today. However, the error isn’t based on blockchain transaction speed, network scalability, or any of the other technical challenges facing decentralized media.

The error is thinking we need a “decentralized YouTube”.

In the same way Bitcoin allows you to “Be Your Own Bank” what we really need is a system that allows you to “Be Your Own YouTube” or Spotify or Facebook and on. The goal should be to provide tools to do the job without needing an engineering degree to understand them.

Technology which allows anyone to produce high quality content is readily accessible to nearly every human on the planet. Yet content distribution, discovery, and monetization are still dominated by just a few centralized players.

This gap is a massive opportunity.

At POP Network, we are building a decentralized platform to help creators and communities capture the value they generate from streaming rather than forfeit that value to corporate overlords and their shareholders.

Turning users into owner-operators of the network will result in higher-quality content, a more distributed streaming economy, and greater freedom for all.

The next testnet release of our decentralized content distribution network is imminent. To get the latest updates, please visit https://thepopnetwork.org

Now, join us as we continue building POP Network so it’s an option for Rogan when his Spotify contract is up!

Mingle with POP Network at virtual Singapore Blockchain Week on July 21, 2020 as we discuss real-world use cases for blockchain technology. Get FREE Tickets.

POP Network

Decentralized infrastructure for the Creator Economy