May 23, 2022 6:06 AM EDT

I’m probably the very last person you might pick to assess the power and meaning of Joe Rogan. While we both do long podcasts, we’re quite different in terms of origins (journalist vs. comic), tone (persistently tough vs. indefatigably curious), and content (just the facts vs. just asking questions—including to obvious charlatans). But that’s really the point of podcasting, part of a fresh and new media landscape where there’s no question that Rogan has pioneered and plowed the fields like no other. To say he is big is an understatement: his Joe Rogan Experience video podcast averages 11 million people, with a huge and loyal fan base that skews heavily young and male. That’s earned him a fortune, including the $200 million he garnered from Spotify to be exclusive to the platform. He certainly delivers with big interviews from Elon Musk to Dave Chappelle, ranging across the ideological spectrum, which is a critical talent in these partisan times. But he’s also gotten into a lot of trouble this year for resurfaced racial slurs he made—and apologized for—and being a place where COVID deniers get a very easy ride. It’s complicated, of course, but there’s no question that Rogan’s success is pretty simple: the former Fear Factor host has become the nation’s earworm.

Swisher is a journalist and the host of the New York Times podcast Sway

Damon Winter—The ​New York Times/Redux

 

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