Open Notes

The Waveform Issue 23—Dopesick

The Waveform is a newsletter from Red Cup Agency about the next edge in podcasting. In each issue, I’ll stay on top of things for you. When we launch a new show or post an episode that stands out, I’ll drop that into the newsletter.

I’m Lee Schneider, founder and lead producer at Red Cup Agency. Did someone forward this to you, or are you reading it on the web? You can subscribe for free.

Beth Macy

Beth Macy is a journalist who has written with compassion about the opioid crisis in America. In this week’s episode of The Glo Podcast, she shares her journey into a new understanding of addiction.

We’ve been taught by the war on drugs that drug users are bad. They must go to jail. To deliver care to these people who are suffering, we had to put that war on drug mentality aside. Even for me, I certainly had some biases of my own that I had to unravel as I’ve been I’ve been working on this topic now for 10 years. —— Beth Macy

A million Americans have died from drug overdoses, and only 12% of addicted Americans have received treatment. Beth gives the inside view on how opioid manufacturers influenced and bribed drug reps and doctors to get them to prescribe Oxycontin and Fentanyl. Doctors didn’t tell patients how addicting these drugs are. She also offers some behind-the-scenes stories of filming the Hulu series, based on the book, starring Michael Keaton and Rosario Dawson.

Listen to Derik Mills’s interview with Beth Macy on, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or in your favorite podcast app.

Do Spotify’s Problems Matter?

You may have read about The Joe Rogan Experience, the top podcast on Spotify. Rogan likes controversy and books interviews with doctors who have a casual relationship to science, with folks who don’t understand how vaccination works, and also welcomes guests on the far right who are developing as neo-facists.

As of this writing, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell pulled their music from Spotify, India Arie and Graham Nash promised to, and Brené Brown and Roxane Gay pulled their podcasts. Spotify has been quietly removing Rogan episodes from its catalogue, more than 100 episodes at last count, according to a website that monitors the episodes. Spotify’s problems with Rogan matter because Rogan craves publicity over human decency, and (even more importantly) because Spotify’s leadership refuses to come up with good solutions to the problem of Joe Rogan.

Shutting Down Rogan is Not the Answer

Rogan’s views are not fringe. The people he enables represent how a sizable sample of people think in America. So, it’s a good thing that he and Spotify feel some heat for spreading this disinformation and hate. It might open some minds, and shutting him down would (falsely) prove his legitimacy to some listeners. (The clickbait title would go something like “The Opinions They Don’t Want You to Hear!”) It’s more valuable for Rogan and Spotify’s listeners to know why it’s wrong to spread disinformation and to notice when artists leave the platform in protest.

Here’s an example of how this can work. I teach a media class for USC. As a class assignment, one of my students wants to do a video about how wearing a mask to protect other people against Covid is bad for you. I asked him to bring on some credible evidence for that, not YouTube videos, and if he couldn’t find any, he should find another topic for his video because we won’t use the class to spread misinformation.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s says the service is “not in the business of dictating the discourse” of its creators. This is the same “we’re not a publishing service” nonsense that Facebook has floated. It’s an empty argument because Spotify has purchased the exclusive right to distribute Rogan’s show. That is a publishing service. No way around it. A publisher has the responsibility to keep hate speech and disinformation off its platform. The Spotify chief has said they will put some kind of audio warning label on any podcast that covers the pandemic or vaccines. This is a non-solution as well. It equates the spreaders of falsehood with those who might be giving science a chance. Twitter went through this labeling dance with the Former Guy-In-Chief and eventually made the correct move to deplatform him. Toxic personalities like Alex Jones have been deplatformed as well, and have lost their audience. I left Facebook for good a few years ago, and I pulled my blogs and newsletters from Substack because I think both of those platforms support hate speech. Sometimes you cut the cord.

If Rogan or Ek can’t figure out why vaccine disinformation will damage public health or why neo-facists are bad, deplatforming could be the best, if extreme, course. For now, it’s up to us to place pressure on them. Rogan, an attention-craving comedian, can’t be trusted to do much that is good, but Ek is running a company that is making a dent in the universe. He is a grownup who should know better.

Until next time,

Lee Schneider

Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production and Marketing.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution. We make trailers, ad spots and promos for your podcast, and we find new audiences for you work with cross promotion.