Banter Logo 220

An indie podcast from a pair of gaming stars has unseated Joe Rogan on his own turf. The Spotify-exclusive The Joe Rogan Experience has been knocked out of first place on the app’s ranking of most listened-to podcasts on its platform. The new number one is a just-launched podcast called Banter, hosted by gamers Sapnap and Karl Jacobs. They pushed Rogan’s podcast back to second place.

So who are the men that topped the comedian and host that is pulling in a reported $100 million a year from Spotify? Outside of the gaming world, Jacobs and Sapnap are relatively anonymous. But inside, they are stars. Jacobs has nearly three million subscribers to his YouTube channel where people watch him play Minecraft. Sapnap’s YouTube channelis similar and it has even more subscribers with 4.1 million people who watch him play Minecraft. On the first episode of their Banter podcast, the two interview YouTube superstar and Jacob’s boss, Jimmy Donaldson – known to gamers as Mr. Beast – about his near-death experience.

The announcement of Banter describes the show as a “weekly podcast where Sapnap and Karl Jacobs bring on one of their friends from the content creation scene to talk and be cool” and says it will be featuring their celebrity friends and colleagues. New episodes of the podcast will be released on Saturdays.

Whether they remain at No. 1 will remain to be seen. And to be sure, Rogan is still a big show on Spotify where his podcast is available exclusively. When Spotify reported its year-end 2020 earnings it credited Rogan for having “stimulated new user additions, activated first time podcast listeners, and driven favorable engagement trends, including vodcast consumption.” The Joe Rogan Experience was Spotify’s top podcast in 17 countries last year. The company has not released how many streams his show has, but it is estimated the number could top 11 million per month.

But questions have grown louder in recent months about whether Rogan’s move to become an exclusive to Spotify – while financially lucrative – is paying off in other ways. The Verge looked at the cause and effect of how many social media followers guests on his show received after an appearance, and it suggests that the walled-off distribution model may be undercutting Rogan’s reach and influence. 

Prior to being a Spotify exclusive, guests on The Joe Rogan Experience typically added about 4,000 followers on Twitter during the week after their episode was published. Some even added as many as 18,000 according to the Social Blade analytics data. But ever since he went exclusive on Spotify last December, guests add only half as many – averaging about 2,000 new Twitter followers. 

There could be a variety of factors at play, including many conservatives moving away from Twitter after the platform blocked former President Trump. Rogan also found himself in the middle of a controversy surrounding the COVID vaccine rollout

Yet those controversies have not had the same impact on the web as in the past. The Verge says Google Trends data shows that searches about Rogan have dipped even since his show became a Spotify exclusive. But the numbers also suggest that Rogan simply does not have as many listeners as he once did. 

Speaking at an investor conference last month, Spotify CFO Paul Vogel said keeping shows they produce from other platforms, or windowed for a period of time, boosts engagement on their own app.

“It helps bring people into Spotify,” said Vogel. “Some of the most expensive content has actually been the most productive for us in terms of cost per listing or cost per time spent metrics.” He said once a listener comes to them for originals and exclusives it allows Spotify to use their algorithms and promote other shows to keep the listener. “We’ve seen it in terms of the growth of podcast users, the growth and podcast engagement, and the growth in the number of people who we engage with podcast content,” said Vogel.