Joe Rogan: The Platform-Proof Creator

Spotify’s No-Win Predicament

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As a narcissistic newsletter writer, there is no phrase that brings me more unadulterated joy to type than “I was right.” 

Well, ladies and gentleman, I was right. Weirdly, I have Joe Rogan to thank for this. 

In September of last year, I proposed a new method by which media companies should be evaluated: I call it Double-Bind Theory. Drawing on research performed by Facebook, I argued that consumer engagement skyrockets the closer you get to violating community standards. Crucially for today’s discussion, this happened regardless of where that line was drawn. 

This theory is important because it shows why platforms will always beat publishers in the attention game. Companies like Spotify just have way, way more people producing content, meaning that the one person who drives maximum engagement will always rise to the top.

Red dots represent small amateur efforts, yellow dots represent large professional efforts.

Because it is easier to be a shameless individual than a shameless institution, it means that individuals can regularly beat traditional media companies at their own game. As I said in September:

“This results in a content Darwinism where the edgy thrive. The people who don’t create content that’s close to the line tend to either pivot towards the edge, go out of business, or hit an audience plateau earlier than they would have if they were more shameless.”

However, there is an extreme downside for platforms:

“No matter where you draw the line, your content moderation decisions will put you in a double-bind where you can't win. Double-Bind content theory is that the edgiest content will be the one that garners the most attention, however by virtue of it being edgy it will have negative social outcomes and thus negatively impact business outcomes.
The most popular content and creators will be flirting with the line, and you will experience pressure to let it slide by. If you stand firm, you risk losing them to more permissive platforms. You’ll also lose out on the revenue that the content would have generated. If you let their content go through, you risk having to testify in front of Congress (Facebook), or getting pressure to shut down by your banks (OnlyFans), or some other kind of repercussion.”

Joe Rogan is the living embodiment of my framework.

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