In the startup world, a unicorn is a singular company that reaches a billion-dollar capitalization. More informally, a unicorn denotes a company that is unequaled in marketplace reach and influence. Google (search), Amazon (commerce), Facebook (social), and Apple (consumer electronics) are acknowledged unicorns collectively known by the acronym GAFA.
Is there a podcasting unicorn? The team behind the annual Canadian Podcast Listener study suggests there is — at least, according to its attributes if not by a metrical definition. Their blog post suggests that The Joe Rogan Experience is a uniquely influential and successful podcast that stands apart from the approximately 800,000 other shows in distribution.
A phenomenon unto himself, Joe Rogan is the “elephant in the room” of podcasting. –Canadian Podcast Listener
Jeff Ulster and Jeff Vidler emphasized the show in their release of the 2019 Canadian Podcast Listener at RAIN Summit Canada last October. And Tom Webster focused on the show in his keynote presentation at Podcast Movement last August. So there is definitely something about this show which attracts the attention of researchers.
Part of it is the program’s video presence. Joe Rogan gained his early audience on the video platform (starting in 2013, when the show had already been running for four years on Ustream), and now has a whopping 7-million subscribers there. However many listeners result from that base of followers is uncounted in traditional podcast metrics by which shows are compared. (The live host-read commercials, of course, do count in the show’s revenue.) The Joe Rogan Experience is not in Podtrac, so doesn’t appear in that company’s monthly rankers. It is not distributed in Spotify, for unknown reasons. So … there is a certain mystery about the show, and a certain confident disregard from Rogan and his producers for competitive ranking.
However, the show is always ranked highly in major public ranking lists. At this writing the show is #2 in Apple (all shows, U.S.) and #1 in Stitcher (all top shows).
Interestingly, a majority (52%) Canadian Podcast Listener respondents said their first stop for podcast listening is YouTube. The study also notes that Rogan’s audience lines up with national averages of age and affluence. This is different from the overall podcast audience, which skews younger and more affluent. The researchers see that difference as contributing to the show’s purported unicorn status.