No, it’s not consistency and patience.
Joe Rogan is to podcasting what Stephen King is to writing.
Their careers weren’t set from the start. They took random jobs to pay the bills. Both honed their crafts in early adulthood and pumped out content like crazy. To date, Joe published 1615 episodes, Stephen 62 novels.
Stephen is among the richest authors; Joe is the highest-paid podcaster.
In the past year, I published 149 articles and 61 podcast episodes. I’m still a bloody beginner. But I want to learn from the best.
I spent some hours analyzing Joe’s success and was surprised. Many online creators preach consistency is key. But Joe’s story adds deeper layers to the common advice.
From Kickboxer to Kickass Podcaster
Joe’s journey wasn’t clear from the start. In 1988 he set out to become a stand-up comedian and kickboxer. He said he tried to pay the bills by delivering newspapers, driving limousines, and construction work.
Between 1995 and 2006, he appeared on TV shows, continued with stand-up comedy, and became an interviewer and commentator for the UFC. In 2005, he hired two full-time employees to film him on tour.
In short: Joe had a ton of different jobs before starting his podcast.
The Joe Rogan Experience launched on December 24, 2009. If you look at one of his early videos, you see he even was a bloody beginner. You find snowflakes on-screen and identify the background as one of his house’s spare rooms.
In a podcast with Jon Stewart, he says about his early days: “The early episodes sucked. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t think anyone was listening. It was just for fun.”
And while his Comedy career and TV shows contributed to his conversational qualities, his career path hasn’t always been clear.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
— Steve Job
Joe’s dots connected in the future. These days his podcast gets 200 million downloads a month. If we look at the pricing for podcast advertising, he charges something between $22 and $50 CPM. Joe makes somewhere between $53-$120 million a year solely based on podcast advertising.
His real income is likely higher as he generates revenue from his 8 million subscribers YouTube Channel. Plus, Rogan signed a hundred million dollar deal with Spotify. Joe is indeed the highest-paid podcaster.
What Makes His Show Successful?
To be successful in anything, you need to be persistent. That’s the prerequisite. If he had stopped a few years in, he would have never gotten where he is right now.
But I’m pretty sure there are a few hundred other podcasters who started in 2009 and continued for five or even ten years without ever seeing the success Joe is seeing.
Two traits made his show so successful — courage and curiosity.
In his 1,600 episodes and counting, his guests range from comedians, over fighters, and thinkers including Elon Musk, Tim Ferriss, Sam Harris, and Rhonda Patrick.
If his guests have one thing in common, it’s that Rogan doesn’t pick them by fame but by sympathy. Every conversation feels like a small journey as he really tries to understand his guests.
Often dialogues drift into surprising directions. For example, the conversation with Metallica singer James Hetfield was less about heavy metal and more about bees and alcoholism.
But Rogan’s also not afraid to ask hard questions and discuss controversial topics. If somebody delivers sound arguments, he likely changes a stance on topics he was very certain about.
A person who lived like Joe Rogan for six weeks summarized the charm of his mission perfectly: “Hear several facets of a narrative, entertain disagreeing viewpoints, and decide positions from a place of the reason all without losing one’s cool or resorting to petty insults.”
To entertain disagreeing viewpoints is a rare gift of our time and super needed. Joe is genuinely interested in the position of someone who thinks differently, as in his interview with Ben Shapiro.
The unscripted, interested, sometimes, hour-long conversations make his guests open up. He creates an atmosphere where you can disagree without discomfort. He detaches arguments from a personal level. Even in disputes, he aims to find common ground.
In a time where the media often takes aside, these open-minded moments are gold. Politically Rogan is probably one of few public figures whose attitudes are difficult to assign.
As this article analyzes, Rogan advocates introducing the unconditional basic income as suggested by Yang, the legalization of cannabis, and marriage for same-sex couples. He identified himself as a supporter of left-wing Senator Bernie Sanders. On the other hand, he complains about high taxes and is hostile to transgender activists.
I disagree with Jordan Peterson on most of his positions, but in his reasoning for Rogan’s success, he couldn’t have been clearer:
“You’re very very curious but also very very tough. It’s interesting watching you because if you don’t understand something you will go after the person […] you’re really good at pursuing things you don’t understand instead of assuming that you know what you’re talking.”
Joe is by all means not perfect, and there are viewpoints I disagree with. But his courage and curiosity help him produce episodes millions of people want to hear.
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