Rogan, Goldman and the art of Vodcasting

How to copy the tactics of podcasting and video giants.

Welcome! I'm George Aliferis and this is my fintech marketing newsletter. You can subscribe by clicking on this handy little button:

I used to work with -not at- Goldman Sachs (GS). I was an employee Source ETFs, now Invesco, which was owned by GS and other investment banks. We had an incentive to work together and would join forces on business trips across Europe with GS staff. Visiting clients with their research team, in particular, was a great way to open doors and nurture relationships. The research analyst would talk about the economic outlook, answer questions. The benefit for our products was indirect but substantial.

The last trip was almost a decade ago, but recent news made me think about how that could work today. The news? The $100 million deal between Joe Rogan (JR) and Spotify. You may have heard of him for the first time when Elon Musk smoked a joint on his show. Goldman Sachs's content published under the 'Insights" 'umbrella is the closest thing to the Joe Rogan Experience in the financial world. The content is entirely different, but the frequency, volume and formula they apply are similar.

The comparison may sound a bit ludicrous, but a) it's amusing and b) consider this:

  • Goldman Sachs has published 1,076 videos on YouTube (vs over 2,000 for Rogan), with thousands of more pieces published across social media or Goldman's website.

  • The 150-year old firm repurposes its filmed interviews as audio, text articles or snippets across social media, just like Rogan.

  • The format of the content is similar. Just like Joe Rogan, Goldman Sachs publishes "vodcasts", filmed conversations that you can also just listen.

  • Joe Rogan can also move the markets. Following the "Elon Musk joint" episode Tesla's share price drop by 9%. Following the announcement of the deal with Spotify, the company's shares rose over by 12%.

Why did Rogan and Goldman get started?

Rogan started in 2003 as a way to promote his stand-up comedy career. After a few years, he was able to monetize it via sponsorship deals and merchandise. He observed that maintaining a consistent schedule early on was important in the show's growth, and gradually increased the frequency of the episodes.

Goldman's content series started after the 2008 crisis, at a time when it was under fire for its role in the crisis. It has now become more than that.

For both, the initial content effort grew into something much bigger than initially intended.

Joe Rogan has become a content powerhouse, downloaded over 190 million times a month and worth nine figures. Even before the deal, it was securing him significant revenues and raising his profile in the entertainment world.

In a 2018 article, Goldman Sachs and the future of financial marketing, I examined their content strategy. The management believes in the ROI of its content in terms of creating awareness, showcasing its research clout, and improving client relationships:

Our favorability increases after people view our content rather than see a straight ad.

The journey brought them both further than what they had in mind when they started.

How do they develop content?

A straightforward formula

Both The Joe Rogan Experience and the main Goldman shows consist of:

“Interviews featuring a host in conversation with celebrities, executives and thought leaders to publish episodes”.

Replace celebrities with "Fintech executives", and you get the formula for our own: "The Fintech Files".

If you look into the details of the production, Joe Rogan's show is more sophisticated than Goldman's. All guests come to his studio. There are multiple cameras, allowing the editor to create a smooth edit between guests. On the other hand, when the CEO of GS interviews the CEO of BP, it looks like the rest of us.

It is more than podcasting.

The way the media have reported the deal is misleading. The BBC said, "Joe Rogan has signed an exclusive deal with Spotify, which will see his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, disappear from all other platforms".

  • The "podcast" is filmed and hosted on a YouTube channel with over 9 million subscribers.

  • Although the long-form version of the show will be exclusive, clips and images will continue to be distributed everywhere, including on a secondary YouTube channel.

  • Spotify is no longer just an audio platform; they have launched into video, just before the acquisition.

Similarly, at GS, some of the interviews are filmed but not all:

The interview transcripts can become articles. Videos are re-edited as social media snippets.

The classification of the shows depends on the guests, not on the medium. "Talks at GS" are interviews with guests outside the firm. "Exchanges" are for internal discussions with heads of research departments. The separation between thought leadership (internal research) and engaging conversations (external) is a playbook that enterprise fintech can use.

Applying the formula

We manage our series "The Fintech Files" in the same way. Here is an example based on my discussion with Hirander Misra, CEO of GMEX.

  • We first record the conversation over Zoom.

  • Video snippets using extracts

Both GS and JR have built a content factory that allows them to develop a ton of content across all medium and platforms economically. Their model is replicable.

How much is it worth?

For the Joe Rogan Experience, $100 million is the figure quoted in the media, l. Many were surprised about the amount, considering that Joe Rogan is a self-proclaimed "psychedelic adventurer" that employs only three people. The deal, however, was a bargain for Spotify. It also had a broader impact on the media and tech world. Apple and Amazon reacted immediately. 

How could one value GS's content? Compare different properties with Joe Rogan's and apply a multiple? Use the Discounted Cash Flow method based on potential advertising? 

The obvious answer is: It's not for sale, and the only thing that matters is the value it delivers to Goldman.

Back to my initial question: how would a joint-marketing effort with GS look today?

It's a very hypothetical question, but that won't stop me.

  • The research would reach clients as video and audio on various platforms. (Maybe it is still published as PDFs and forwarded via email that people don't read, but that's becoming irrelevant).

  • There would be more Zoom / Skype, less travelling (that was easy)

  • The data from subscribers activity and engagement on content would lead the sales, rather than salespeople pushing content.

  • The sales process would start later; all the preliminary information is online.

  • The sales initiate on the show! Look at the CEO’s guests, and you will find a list of Goldman clients.

The shows are paying off for both Goldman and Rogan. But can the efforts of the second most popular podcast in the US and a 150-year investment banking titan be relevant for you?

Is it worth it for you?

You may have noticed that I only recently launched a newsletter and a podcast/vodcast. This tweet is a good summary of how I saw things (some of the comments that follow are pretty hilarious).

Everyone also has a website, social media accounts, and now videos. Two questions matter when you start:

  1. Will enough people read/watch/listen?

  2. And how long until the effort starts paying off?

Having launched our show The Fintech Files a month ago, here is a short answer based on my experience:

  1. Targeting a niche means you only have to reach the few people that matter.

  2. About a month

Let me add some details:

  • The episodes reach about 100 people per month, across YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other destinations where we publish automatically. Given it is about enterprise fintech, it's an ok number.

On YouTube, we can see detailed statistics:

  • The viewership of the episodes, 30-minute conversation on enterprise fintech, compares favourably with shorter, catchier videos.

  • Older, unrelated content is getting more traction since we started frequently posting, here is an overview:

  • The traffic to the website, the visits to my profile on LinkedIn have also been on the rise. I have received a few more enquiries than usual (although tbh it's not clear if they are related).

These results are organic. We plan to start paid promotion soon (when we have enough data to know what the most effective way to spend).

I haven't mentioned how much I have learned and enjoyed speaking to my guests, that should probably come first.

Overall: I have enough feedback to be confident about continuing to invest in our episodic content.

Another tweet summarizes the situation:

Three formulas to get started with episodic content

The content can appeal, to the heart, the gut or other parts but the way to climb on giants' shoulders is best expressed by formulas that call to the brain (although these are not mathematical).

  1. Frequency: Σx> x+…+x

  2. Repurpose: 1+1 = 11

  3. Search & Suggestion: Optimization x Quality = Potential success

I will develop this in a future newsletter, but here is a primer.

  1. Publishing N pieces per year with using a regular frequency will have more impact than the same amount of content published randomly. It is something that FMCG advertisers know how to use. It also works for B2B content.

  2. Create 11 (or a few) pieces from each publication. Repurposing, creating audio from video, text from sound and possibly mixing it up is the cheapest way to create quality content and feed various platforms.

  3. Optimizing content has to do with searchability and suggestions; it allows the content to achieve its full potential. You can find more details in this article on YouTube video optimization.

    Making your video or podcast search-friendly requires some steps but is much easier than SEO on a website.

    Suggestions matters once someone lands on a YouTube or podcast page. They will see many suggestions, and they will pick one based on the thumbnails and title. Making them choose you is an art and a science.

Do you need help to create wonderful episodic content? Drop me a line

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George is a fintech marketer and filmmaker and ex-investment banker living in the UK. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.