Jan 31, 2022 - Podcasts

What’s next in the Spotify and Joe Rogan controversy

Calls to boycott Spotify exploded this weekend, after musician Neil Young demanded the platform remove his music in protest over its most popular podcast, "The Joe Rogan Experience." Rogan has been accused of spreading COVID misinformation.

  • Plus, how tipping is changing.
  • And, one Florida chaplain on ministering to nursing home residents three years into the pandemic.

Guests: Bonnie Bong, an Episcopalian Chaplain at The Pavilion for Health Care, a skilled nursing facility in Florida; and Axios' Sara Fischer and Nathan Bomey.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Monday, and if you can believe it - it’s January 31st. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what you need to know today: how tipping is changing. Plus, one Florida chaplain on ministering to nursing home residents two years into the pandemic.But first, what’s next in the Spotify and Joe Rogan controversy is today’s One Big Thing.

Calls to boycott Spotify exploded this weekend, after musician Neil Young demanded the platform remove his music in protest over its most popular podcast - The Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan has been accused of spreading COVID misinformation. Other big names have since followed Young's lead. Yesterday, Spotify reacted by saying it would take a few actions, including adding content advisories to COVID-related podcast episodes. Axios media reporter Sara Fischer has the latest – Hey Sara.


NIALA: First - the changes that Spotify announced yesterday based on this most recent outcry, is that enough to quell the anger?

SARA: It doesn't look like it. From my timeline on Twitter, people seem pretty angry. They're saying that this is not enough, that Spotify should do better, but what it does do is it assures at least some of the professional community, people who are evaluating whether or not to continue their contracts with Spotify or whether they should pull their music, it does give them some assurance that Spotify is at least now starting to acknowledge the problem.

NIALA: And on the other side of this, can you explain what exactly is the controversy around Joe Rogan's podcast and how popular it is?

SARA: He's the most popular podcast on their platform. I mean, we're talking millions of downloads per podcast, and that's why Spotify paid over a hundred million dollars for a multi-year deal to be able to exclusively distribute Joe Rogan's podcast. But the problem is that some argue that Joe Rogan needs to be censored or that his comments are not appropriate because they wade into anti-vaccination territory. Now, a lot of platforms do have anti-vaccination content moderation policies. Spotify says they had them. They said they've taken down 20,000 podcasts since the beginning of the pandemic for this problem, but they'd never broadcast those policies. It wasn't until Sunday night, when they finally came out and said, “Hey, look, this is how we take action on that kind of content.”

NIALA: What are you watching for next?

SARA: Well, I want to see if more musicians and podcasters come forward and start to sort of boycott the platform. You saw Prince Harry and Meghan Markle said that they wanted this issue addressed and that it was something that they were looking at. They have an exclusive partnership with Spotify as well. So I think you're going to see more voices, popular people, celebrities, podcasters come out and start to put more pressure on Spotify unless they feel like more meaningful action is taken.

NIALA: Axios’ media reporter Sara Fischer. Thanks Sara.

SARA: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: In 15 seconds: managing seniors’ isolation in one skilled nursing facility.


NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today - I’m Niala Boodhoo. At the start of the pandemic, we were talking a lot about isolation among the elderly and how to care for their mental health while in lockdown. As the pandemic enters its third year, it’s less of the focus… But the problem remains. Especially as high-skilled nursing facilities have lost thousands of jobs. Since the pandemic started, the nursing home industry has lost over 420,000 jobs. So we wanted to check in with one chaplain - Bonnie Bong, an Episcopalian Chaplain at The Pavilion for Health Care, a skilled nursing facility in Florida about how their residents are doing two years later. I met Bonnie through my mother, who volunteers at this facility. Hi Bonnie.


NIALA: So you were a chaplain here before the pandemic. Do you think people are still talking about the effects of social isolation on seniors like they were two years ago?

BONNIE: I think some of our volunteers are very much talking about it because they're so limited and we depend on volunteers a great deal at Penney Retirement. That's part of our program here. And that is so critical for staff because it relieves them of so much.

NIALA: Where are you guys at right now with the facility in terms of how many people are allowed to come in?

BONNIE: We do allow people to come in, one person at a time in a room. That's one of the, harsher things about this is because we're open, we're closed, we're open, we're closed, or we're partially open. We're not open. And that affects the staff as well as volunteers. And of course, our residents in their rooms.

NIALA: What do you hear from the residents about how this affects them?

BONNIE: When I see their faces and they're just not smiling as much and they don't respond. So they're a little careful about their responses. They miss going to our big church. Some of their folks could go out and they can't, if they're limited to their rooms or they're not in the activities room, able to play games and exercise some, and if physical therapy is shut down, you know, it affects their movement. And that, that can be devastating to much older people that are ill. And I know that our administration has been very concerned about some of the changes in people and depression because they're not being stimulated and they miss being with people.

NIALA: So do you consider yourself a chaplain for everyone who's there for the residents, as well as the workers?

BONNIE: I do. I do. I care very much about him and it's very hard on me because of the turnover, because of the pandemic, we lost a lot of people for different reasons. And, and of course when people die, I'm there. And that often triggers memories for the staff and for, you know, for all of us and because I'm there and can pray with them and listen to their stories. I often do that.

NIALA: Well, Bonnie, thank you. Thanks for sharing this with me. I really appreciate it.

BONNIE: It's an honor.

NIALA: The pandemic has changed how we tip and how much. Here's just one example. Uber has started to prompt its users to tip before a ride is complete, and tips given before the trip is even over, have risen 20 fold since. Nathan Bomey, Axios’ business reporter, is here to talk about this trend. Hey Nathan, welcome to Axios Today.


NIALA: Nathan, where have we seen the most change in tipping behavior?

NATHAN: I think the biggest change in tipping behavior is the fact that we're being prompted to tip in so many places where we were never prompted before. And that's causing people to tip more often. There we're talking in large part about carry out and takeout. So what we've seen is the percentage of remote transactions in which someone has tipped has skyrocketed. These are transactions where the credit card is not in person. So it's if you insert your credit card number into an app or to a website to make a purchase, the percentage of those types of payments, where the person actually does a tip, has gone from 46% before the pandemic, to about 86% now. This is, of course, on a percentage of transactions where a tip is offered. But the point is that we're seeing a really massive cultural shift where Americans have decided that they are going to begin tipping on things, where they often didn't before.

NIALA: Do you think these trends will be permanent?

NATHAN: Once you get the cat out of the bag, there's really no way of going backwards. This is a trend that I think the restaurants can't afford to reverse because they're not doing as much business in person. And so if you want to have your servers and you know, your wait staff, well paid or appropriately paid, then you have to provide an option to tip on these transactions where they’re not in person.

NIALA: Meanwhile, there are some people who are opposed to the current tipping system. What are they saying about this?

NATHAN: Not everyone likes the fact that the tipping economy is expanding. You know, there are people who feel like the tipping economy in America is not fair to restaurant workers, and other people like, say your stylist, who rely on tips. They think that we should pay people an appropriate living wage, and we should do that by increasing prices to cover the wages that they deserve. Restaurants that have tried to eliminate tipping often end up getting bad reviews online. And that is, you know, not a good sign if you're a fan of getting rid of tips.

NIALA: Axios’ business reporter and co-author of the Closer newsletter, Nathan Bomey. Thanks, Nathan.

NATHAN: Hey, thank you so much.

NIALA: Before we go: tomorrow is the first day of Chinese New Year, which according to Chinese astrology means it’s the year of the water tiger. We realized yesterday that half of our Axios Today team are born in years that make them tigers – Not me, I’m a rabbit. Tiger years have the potential to be explosive, we’ve learned – but because water tigers are more open-minded…that could mean we’re in for a passionate, less aggressive year. Here’s hoping. Happy Lunar New Year! That’s all for today – as always, I’d love to hear from you – if you have feedback, or story ideas, send a text message to (202) 918-4893. You’ll get me directly, and I try to respond to every single message. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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