One of the hot news items from Apple’s March event was Apple News+. Apple News+ is a $9.99 per month subscription that includes access to 300 magazines and a handful of popular newspapers. Apple News+ got me thinking about an Apple Podcasts+ service to help drive revenue for podcasts.
Zac Hall had this to say about Apple News+
The proposition is interesting. If you really do want to read tons of magazines or content from the newspapers and digital publications included in Apple News+, the $9.99/month price is a great value. More sources will surely be added over time which will only make the price an even better value, and the one-month free trial is useful for test driving the new service.
I’m not currently a big magazine reader, but I do see appeal in carefully written and selected stories captured in monthly issues as a contrast to the infinite stream of the online publishing world. Even if the same stories are available in both places, the magazine model ideally surfaces the best content and not just the latest or clickiest.
I feel the same way about Apple News+. I am doing the free trial, but I am not sure I’ll keep it long-term. It’s not a terrible value, but it’s just not something I want to pay $120/year for. I do hope the service is successful, but it just doesn’t fit how I consume news right now. I already follow a number of my favorite websites in Apple News (click here to subscribe to 9to5Mac on Apple News), and I am not looking for more ways to read content.
One thing that has been increasing in my life is podcast listening through Apple Podcasts. On top of that, my wife and are increasingly joining Patreon or other premium memberships of podcasts that we really enjoy. I think now is the time for Apple to consider Apple Podcasts+ as a way to continue evolving the podcast market while building ways for shows to build revenue streams. They should do this while keeping the entire market open.
Keep Apple Podcasts Open
When you read about an Apple Podcasts+ service, you might think that I want to create a walled garden approach to podcasting, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I believe in the open nature of the market, and I am concerned with what Spotify is attempting to do with their movement into original podcasts. The Athletic recently announced they were venturing into original podcasts, and they will be inside their own app. Even as a subscriber to The Athletic, I’d prefer to listen to them in the app of my choice.
The podcasts will only be available on The Athletic’s owned and operated channels, and will not be accessible anywhere outside of its paywall, like on Spotify or Apple Music. The hope is that by keeping the podcasts behind a paywall, the company will be able to attract new segments of sports fans who engage with sports differently.
In my opinion, a podcast is only a podcast if it’s an RSS feed that any client can use. I think podcasting has been successful because of the decentralization of how media can be created and distributed. Today, anyone can make a show. You don’t have to work at a big media firm to get started. You can buy a microphone, sign up for a hosting account, and share your show. An Apple Podcasts+ service, like Apple news+, needs to be an add-on. Podcasting works because it’s free and open. Apple Podcasts+ would be an addition to Apple Podcasts.
As a side note, I’d love to see password protected feed support come to Apple Podcasts in the near future.
Patreon-style Revenue for Podcasters
Plenty of podcasters are using Patreon as a way to drive revenue for their shows. You can donate $X per show or per month, and they will give you rewards. The problem is the friction of hearing about the rewards system, and then signing up. Patreon supports RSS feeds, so plenty of podcasters publish bonus episodes as well.
All of this could be built into Apple Podcasts+. If I enjoy a certain show, I could see a “Join Apple Podcasts+” link on the screen. Joining Apple Podcasts+ (for $9.99 per month) would enable me to receive all of that show’s bonus content. The possibilities are endless (bonus episodes, email Q&A newsletters, etc.), but it would be an additional revenue stream for creators.
Single Show Subscription Options
Instead of a flat $9.99 per month as a blanket subscription, Apple could also allow users to directly support certain shows. Creators could then build custom donation amounts they could pitch to users. It would be an easy value proposition to tell users to tap an icon on the Now Playing screen to support the show. All of the payment and checkout would be handled by Apple, and it would be listed in the user’s Subscription list under iCloud. All of the other options I mentioned earlier (rewards, etc.) could still be used.
Overcast has implemented an easy way to do it using third-party links for membership, so it’s certainly nothing new to the industry.
Integration into Apple Podcasts Connect
Apple could integrate all of the back-end work into Apple Podcasts Connect. That’s how the money could be deposited into accounts, where rewards are added, etc. Like with everything Apple does, user privacy would be considered, so people could elect to keep their information private or share it.
What do you think? Am I off base here? I love podcasts. I love how I’ve always got a new show to listen to. I love how shows like Lore Podcast started as a podcast, and then it branched into books and a TV show. I love that many of my friends are able to make a living off a new medium that is thriving. I love that previously niche topics can be sustained for fans. Podcasting is great, and I love Apple’s support of an open podcast market. It seems that a lot of companies don’t love the open market, though. With the ability to listen to podcasts on an Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, Apple has made it easy to listen to podcasts. I’d love to see them experiment with easy ways for fans to support creators.