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Apple to launch podcast subscriptions?

· By · 5.6 minutes to read

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From Podcast Network Asia: Boiling Waters PH is one of the top Spotify Exclusive podcasts in the Philippines that provides a wholesome take on love and health relationships.
Libsyn released some data in The Feed saying that 44.8% of its creators use Macs; with its publishing backend also being used by Windows (30.8%), iOS (20.3%), and Android (3.4%).
Libsyn has atttracted a big hitter: The Joe Budden Podcast with Rory & Mal were using SoundCloud since their break up with Spotify, but now appear to be hosting with Libsyn. It’s the #1 music show in Apple Podcasts in the US.

Analysis

Apple’s “podcast subscription service”, which it has apparently discussed with partners, seems a good fit within its existing Apple One subscription plan. US$14.95 a month gets you music, tv+, a games product called Arcade, and an increased storage capacity on iCloud; US$29.95 adds news and fitness products and more storage for a whole family.

Yet, one of the benefits of podcasting has been access to all. Audio’s relative ease of production fits well with a “anyone can be listed” policy: whether you’re a public radio station or book publisher, or just someone in their spare room with some free time, everyone’s been able to be listed on Apple Podcasts so far.

A level playing field seems incompatible with a premium subscription service of the type that is being contemplated here. If it’s similar to Audible, Spotify or other apps, commissioners would need engaging, contracts would need signing, and lawyers would need employing.

However, subscription revenue could mean freedom from having to carry advertising; and freedom, perhaps, from what some see as privacy violations in ensuring these ads are correctly targeted.

If a podcaster was able to sell a podcast at a set price, that may offer benefits to podcasters in the long run: and enable shorter-run podcasts to be more effectively monetised. A four-part fiction podcast is difficult to monetise with advertising, especially outside of a network.

Apple already has experience of selling digital products at low prices, through their app store. A developer can, after a US$99 initial payment, sell an app for as little as $0.99). Apple takes 30% and also deals with local taxes and any hosting cost; the developers keep the rest. This service is massively complex to set up in a way that is simple and easy for developers and customers alike; yet is already available in 175 countries.

By accepting one-off payments for podcasts - “Subscribe to this season for $2.99” - Apple could significantly change the revenue base of podcasting, and encourage less reliance on intrusive advertising.

Further, the revenue Apple could earn from this would make a business case for an Apple Podcasts app to join Apple Music and Apple TV on Android. And we also learn that Apple Podcasts is being tested on Windows: why would Apple be doing this if it weren’t planning to earn revenue from podcasting?

By allowing podcasters to choose whether they wish to continue with ad revenue for their podcasts or take payments through the existing Apple App Store ecosystem, Apple could offer significant opportunity for independent podcasters, remove the burden of advertising, and significantly threaten Spotify’s business by offering a music and podcast product across all platforms.

Is that to be welcomed?

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