How Joe Rogan Built a $100 Million Podcasting Empire By Rejecting Traditional Marketing

Nick Waghorn
Nov 30, 2020 · 7 min read
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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

This is my social media consumption in a nutshell:

Browse the internet. Too much choice. Overwhelm. Selecting one of a handful of my favourite channels. Repeat.

And on my digital journey, there’s one channel I keep frequenting— The Joe Rogan Experience.

And it’s not just me, there are over 200,000,000 others who download his podcast every month — not to mention the millions he racks up on every YouTube video of each interview. His audience figures are mega, often reaching higher than most billion-dollar news networks like CNN or Fox.

Therefore it’s not surprising that Spotify snatched up the JRE for a record-breaking $100 million deal — making him the streaming service’s highest-paid talent even amongst chart-topping musicians like Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande.

Remarkably, it’s the deal’s considered by many as a steal for Spotify, who believe that Joe Rogan’s podcast vastly exceeds the $100 million valuations.

For many, including myself, Joe Rogan’s rise appears utterly baffling.

With zero traditional marketing efforts, he’s built one of the world’s biggest news platforms. And this only becomes even more jaw-dropping when you realise that the operation nothing fancy. It’s just him and his tech assistant in a small studio — that’s it.

Regardless of whether you listen to him, there’s plenty that we can learn from Joe Rogan’s meteoric rise. Here are five inspiring takeaways that I’ve found:

1. Become a Media Company

Perhaps there is no better takeaway to realise that in the digital economy — content is currency.

Or as Bill Gates put it, “content is king”.

Joe Rogan has consistently been releasing podcasts for over a decade now, and with each new upload, his presence grows exponentially. Each piece of content contributes to a catalogue that can continue to offer value long after its initial release.

For most of us, the internet has democratised entrepreneurship. Instead of working your way up a traditional media network, where there were minuscule odds of being selected. We can all whip our phones out, write an article or social media piece, record a podcast or video and potentially reach millions. And the beauty is that we’ve got the freedom to post about what we’re innately inspired by.

As Gary Vee shares, “Whether you like it or not, every person is now a media company. … It literally doesn’t matter what business you’re in, what industry you operate in, if you’re not producing content, you basically don’t exist.”

Joe Rogan makes a living by chatting to fascinating people. And although we may not think of this as a traditional “business”, it’s an exciting reminder that we’re able to build a lifestyle that entrepreneurs in the past could only dream of. We’re beyond fortunate for simply the opportunity to build a business based on your interests.

2. Always Start with Passion

Entrepreneurship requires a serious sacrifice of hard work and long hours. So if you don’t love what you’re doing — stop and find something you care about.

Success requires patience. It won’t appear overnight and, for some, it may never arrive.

Therefore, we must learn to appreciate the journey. A brilliant artist doesn’t aspire for fame and status, they revel in creating art itself. It’s about learning the craft of self-expression.

The Joe Rogan Experience started as Joe chatting to his buddies. No assistants. No million-dollar house. No celebrity interviews. Just him expressing his thoughts and cracking jokes through the medium of a podcast.

And over 1,567 interviews later, he’s still excited to get up and go to work. The scale of his operation has grown significantly — but it’s still him in a room chatting guests.

He’s genuinely curious about other people and this shows in his conversations. Regardless of whether he is interviewing Kanye West or an unknown academic — his fascination with people and their personal stories remains at the heart of why people continue to tune in.

It’s an obvious point, but a crucial one. You’ve got to enjoy your work. If you don’t, you won’t stick at it long enough for it to succeed.

There are two huge reasons to make sure you’re excited about your work: it impacts your quality of work, and it impacts how your audience responds to you. Creating content about your passion may require a pay cut and some extra hours to kick-start, but if you truly enjoy your work — the reward will always be worth it.

3. Own Your Expertise

The key to building a powerful brand lies in becoming an authoritative voice. When people think about your industry — your name is the first to come up. People appreciate the value of your content and trust its integrity.

Joe Rogan has two main expertise that forms the bulk of his interviews: fighting and comedy.

As a stand-up comedian for over thirty years with six comedy specials — he’s deeply embedded in the comedy scene. And in fighting, he was a Taekwondo State Champion, holds a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, and has been commentating with the UFC for over 18 years.

It’s Joe Rogan’s background that makes him stand out. Whether he’s interviewing a fighter or a comedian — there’s a shared understanding of the craft.

Everyone’s unique life experience makes them qualified to talk about a topic as an expert. Of course, it will take time to establish yourself as an authority but with practice, it gets easier.

Side-note — If you find that you’re unable to break into an industry, you might be casting your net too wide. For example, instead of becoming an expert in “digital marketing” being a “PPC copywriter for SaaS companies” — you dramatically increase your chances of getting in front of mind.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Look Stupid

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room,” — Confucius

Joe Rogan frequently invites legitimate geniuses onto his podcast. Whether it’s entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, countless Ivy League Academics or any other subject expert.

As an interviewer, Joe Rogan’s job isn’t to establish his intellect, it’s learning from his guests. By risking embarrassment, he grows his own understanding and competence.

It’s this humility that draws people to his podcast. When he slows a conversation down, clarifies points and asks sometimes obvious questions — he makes even the most intellectual conversations accessible.

This is a quality integral to successful entrepreneurship.

If we’re authentic and aren’t afraid to ask questions, it allows us to build a firm foundation of understanding. We expand our tree of knowledge as Elon Musk calls it.

It’s difficult to admit that we don’t get something or ask for help. But it’s those people that take the hit to their ego and authentically fill in their gaps in knowledge. It allows them to grow and master their skill set and perfect their business offering where many others stagnate.

5. Don’t Mistake Growth for Profit

When I was around eleven, I learned a powerful entrepreneurial lesson from Dragon’s Den (UK version of Shark Tank).

Don’t confuse turnover with profit — there’s a big difference.

A hopeful entrepreneur will walk into the room.

They’ll desperately start off their pitch with a flashy performance — which, often, has got nothing to do with the product.

Then it gets to the serious stuff — the numbers.

They promise a big turnover and then swiftly move on to their business growth projections.

Everything looks wonderful. To their relief, there are no hiccups. But it’s not over yet.

They invariably get to the million-dollar question (pun fully intended) — profit.

“Once you take away all the expenses, how much money are you earning?” the Dragons say.

It turns out they are operating at a tremendous loss. No “cash injection” could salvage an idea that’s far too expensive to run. It was being propped up with the money, but once the well runs dry, it’ll come to a painful halt.

Alas, they’re dreams of sailing away to the Bahamas crash and burn into a ball of flames.

This is why Joe Rogan’s business is so phenomenal — it’s insanely profitable.

For over a decade, it’s been just him and his tech assistant. All his guests (regardless of status) voluntarily travel to his studio (except with a few recent pandemic exceptions performed on Zoom). Aside from Joe Rogan’s personal social media accounts (which he runs himself), he spends zero dollars on traditional marketing or promotion. Everything has grown organically through word of mouth.

The operation costs are so minimal that the return on investment is breath-taking.

Although it’s tempting to think that business growth is all about bigger and better. More staff. Bigger budget. Greater range of services. This is often misleading, sometimes the best approach is to just do one thing that you love, and then do it long enough to master it.

Conclusion

As a small team who are single-handedly dominating many of the world’s biggest news networks, Joe Rogan is a potent reminder of the seismic shift in modern content consumption.

It’s not necessarily about the scale of your operations or marketing budget — it’s about your ability to consistently create quality content, voraciously master new skills and tell phenomenal stories.

And for brands, like the JRE, who successfully capture attention in the digital age will come both remarkable profit and long-term customer loyalty.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +756K people. Follow to join our community.

Thanks to Entrepreneur's Handbook

Nick Waghorn

Written by

Cornish B2B copywriter obsessed with marketing, storytelling and self-improvement.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +756K people. Follow to join our community.

Nick Waghorn

Written by

Cornish B2B copywriter obsessed with marketing, storytelling and self-improvement.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +756K people. Follow to join our community.

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