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Insider January 19, 2023 — Why a conservative podcaster rejected The Daily Wire’s $50 million offer

All he had to do for his money was not get banned from the tech platforms.

Today, I’ve got a deep dive on one of my pet topics: the world of conservative podcasting. I would like to personally thank Steven Crowder and Jeremy Boreing for sharing the terms of their botched contract in excruciating detail. It really makes my job more fun.

What the $50 million Daily Wire-Steven Crowder fight tells us about conservative podcasting

I simply love a business negotiation mess, and this one is a mess. Like waving physical contracts on camera mess. Bellissima 🤌. And as much as I would like to revel in that, there are some ~lessons~ we can learn here about conservative podcasting as a booming — but fragile — business.

First, what happened: on Tuesday, conservative personality Steven Crowder — perhaps best known for making racist and homophobic comments about a Vox reporter — posted a video and podcast announcing that “Big Con is in bed with Big Tech.” The “Big Con” in question is The Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro’s outlet that Crowder would otherwise fit neatly into if his contract negotiations hadn’t gone south. Having just left The Blaze, Crowder is currently a free agent and was sought out by TDW. He appealed to his viewers the injustice of TDW’s offer, which stipulated that his fee would be reduced by various percentages if he were to get kicked off or demonetized by a major distribution platform (like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Facebook). There is a very high risk of that occurring as he has already been demonetized by YouTube (twice!), most recently for going on a racist tirade against Black farmers.

“Those in charge, the big conservative, the Big Con… they’re making it known in their contracts that they will enforce the guidelines of Big Tech and punish conservatives on their behalf,” Crowder railed

Yesterday, co-CEO of TDW Jeremy Boreing responded with his own lengthy video, taking it personally to be considered part of Big anything. He went point by point through the contract, addressing Crowder’s accusations and insisting that they simply cannot pay him his full fee if he loses them large chunks of revenue. Even a company as big as TDW is at the mercy of the major tech channels. He also revealed a detail Crowder neglected to include, which is that the contract was worth $50 million over four years, with an option to extend another two years for an additional $25 million.

First takeaway: there is a lot of money in conservative podcasting. As I have noted many times, conservative shows dominate among top-performing political podcasts. The only outlet on the left that comes close is Crooked Media. TDW has already brought on Jordan Peterson, using the notorious host to bolster its own ad business. Rumble recently brought on several right-wing personalities, including Donald Trump Jr. And as for the $50 million that Crowder scoffed at? That is a pretty massive payday! Definitely one of the largest we have seen in a while, especially for a podcaster that is not a regular in the top 100 podcasts on Spotify or Apple. (He is big on YouTube, but… he doesn’t make any money there.) 

Second, as popular as this right-wing talk content is, the revenue stream may be even more unstable than it is for mainstream shows (which is already not that stable). TDW put the platform issue in their contract because they know it is an ongoing risk, specifically for the kind of talent they seek. They would frame it as conservative censorship, but the reality is that hosts like Crowder run the risk of bumping up against platform rules banning harassment. Additionally, the contract stipulated that pay could be docked if advertising revenue suddenly drops and cannot be recovered within 90 days. Clearly, this is something they are worried about when right-wing hosts, even as big as Tucker Carlson, can lose sponsors at the drop of a hat. But Tucker Carlson has the leeway of being embedded in a gigantic corporation that can sustain that kind of blow. TDW is big in the podcast world, but that’s relative. “If the content simply cannot appear [on platforms], and therefore it cannot not only be used for marketing, can not be used to grow the brand, and also can’t be monetized, well, we can’t pay him the same,” Boreing said in the video.

The third thing that I found interesting is the value TDW placed on Apple Podcasts versus Spotify. If Crowder was to get banned from Apple Podcasts, he would be docked 20 percent. If he was banned on Spotify, it would only be 10 percent. I always had a sense that conservative pods played better on Apple Podcasts than on Spotify just based on charting. And for as much shit as Spotify gets for Joe Rogan, they were willing to ban Bannon’s War Room, while Apple still platforms his show. But the fact that Apple is worth double to TDW than Spotify, despite being second-runner-up among podcast platforms, is surprising. 

If there was anything else you noticed in the contract that you found notable, feel free to hit me up! In case you missed them above, there is Crowder’s diatribe and Boreing’s response.

That’s all for now. See you tomorrow.