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Here’s How the Most Successful Podcast of All Time Started (To Inspire You to Do the Same)

by | Aug 29, 2022 | Success

Some people want to vomit when they hear the name Joe Rogan.

Who cares whether you like him? Go cry to your mommy about it because I don’t care. In fact, people we disagree with can teach us the most. I’m not a Joe Rogan groupie. Sometimes I love what he does. Other times I hate it.

But no one can deny that Joe Rogan has undoubtedly got the #1 podcast of all time. His podcast has more listeners than CNN or Fox news. And Spotify brought him to their platform for $200m.

Whether you want to start a podcast or tell other people’s stories/your own, we can all learn a lot from his podcast.

The strangest time in history to launch a podcast

Joe became famous as a commentator in the fighting scene and later as the host of a tv show called Fear factor.

He hated television though. He had to film back-to-back episodes and listen to everything NBC wanted him to do.

Zero creative freedom.

Joe could see the internet was going to disrupt traditional media. What he loved about it is what I call the permissionless economy.

No more gatekeepers. No more rules. More creative freedom. Less ads. Less polish. More rawness.

So without knowing what the heck he was doing, on Christmas Eve 2009 he launched the podcast to a live audience of around 250 viewers (watch here). Even in these early days he had video AND audio. Other podcasts only had audio.

Make it terrible to make it freaking beautiful

The video was terrible. The background had a sign that said “make me hard.”

Image Credit: Screenshot of Joe Rogan podcast

Not exactly PG for kids.

What’s bizarre about the first episode is Joe turned on this stupid video setting that let snowflakes overlay the video.

It was annoying as hell.

People wrote angry tweets telling him to turn it off. Around the time of this podcast the Tiger Woods scandal broke and famous actress Britney Murphy died. It was the perfect backdrop for a different kind of informal conversation about the world.

The schedule of Joe’s first podcast was so bad it collided with his kids getting to open Christmas presents. He even got a call halfway through the podcast telling him to hurry up and come to a Christmas dinner. Haha.

Controversy was guaranteed

The first episode made it clear that Joe’s podcast would always become controversial if it ever got traction.

Topics included aliens, conspiracies, and even Big Foot.

Joe’s curiosity around these topics no doubt drove him to talk about them from day one. But thanks to that decision it helped him stand out. Americans love conspiracies and their love of freedom of speech makes them appreciate naughty conversations.

I wonder whether Joe’s podcast would have ever become popular if he covered regular topics. Hard to say.

To top it off, Joe’s original sponsor was an adult toy company. An early episode even shows Joe demonstrating how to use it. LOL

Bad equipment is good for authenticity

Joe’s first podcast was done in a bedroom with terrible lighting.

You could hardly see Joe’s face. He used a standard definition webcam and terrible microphones.

The podcast was a livestream which meant there were loads of technical errors and awkward pauses. And of course, zero editing or fancy intros with theme music and sexy logos.

I remember 3 years ago when my employer wanted to make some LinkedIn videos. They spent $100k on a camera crew to film at our office.

We thought it was overkill. The finished video was so perfect and polished, it felt like an ad. No one watched any of it. The campaign was a flop. I gave them the advice I learned from Joe Rogan’s podcast:

“Record the videos on an iPhone and don’t edit anything. No script either.”

Perfection looks like an ad. It’s not authentic and it doesn’t persuade.

The feature Joe took away that everyone loved

One feature of the original podcast was Joe took questions from anyone who tweeted at him. It felt like a group podcast rather than a 1–1 interview.

Joe doesn’t allow that anymore which is sad.

The two best episodes of all time to study

My first favorite episode of all time is the one with Elon Musk.

This episode is genius because Joe managed to make Elon so relaxed that he smoked a blunt on video and said some wild things.

The most epic thing Elon said was “Love is the answer.

It was a profound thing to say at the time. Elon often comes across as a cyborg or a 6-year-old internet troll. Yet for the first time in his life he understood humanity.

My second favorite episode is one with Chris Best who foundered a popular newsletter platform.

Chris basically articulated the entire future of online content. He also went deep on the online censorship issues and why he refuses to implement it at his company. Both Joe and Chris managed to riff the whole time.

At the end they’d created a roadmap to social media that I don’t think either of them planned. That’s the beauty of what Joe can do with guests.

What all this means for you

I know what you’re thinking: “Cool story Timbo, but what’s in it for me?”

Let’s get to it. All of us have creative dreams. We all want to be heard and share our ideas with the world.

Yet 90% of people never do. They have the same power as Joe to launch a permissionless podcast, Youtube channel, newsletter, LinkedIn account, etc.

But they don’t.

Joe’s example helps us defeat the demons of overthinking, procrastination, attention-seeking, and perfectionism.

The blueprint for launching your own creative projects looks like this:

  • Just start. Stop thinking. Joe started on Christmas Eve. It’s never the right time to do anything. So just do.
  • Cover what interests you. You’ll show up more excited and interested.
  • Use your past to build your creative future. Joe used his fighting and tv show background. You could use your 9-5 job or business experience in your creative project.
  • Say what people are afraid to say. I don’t advise going full Joe Rogan, obviously, and intentionally or unintentionally spreading misinformation about bat viruses. But at least take the muzzle off your face and speak up. Society is sick of politically correct culture. We want to speak freely. Those who do get all the rewards. My advice: stay away from politics or religion.
  • Start as a sexy amateur. Creative projects run by amateurs go further because they’re real. The aim isn’t to impress but to inform, entertain, inspire, tell stories, and be useful. We happily watch TikTok videos shot on crappy phones that get millions of views. Why not yours?

Bringing it all together

Love him or hate him, Joe has created the most successful podcast of all time.

What Joe really teaches is to join the permissionless economy.

Stop waiting. Stop asking. Stop hoping for a miracle. Stop using lottery thinking. Whatever your creative idea is, there’s an audience online for it thanks to the billions of people you can reach with the internet. Do.

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