WSJ backs report of Apple podcasts subscription; creators compensated ‘directly’

A report yesterday suggested that today’s Spring Loaded event will see the launch of an Apple podcasts subscription, potentially branded Apple Podcasts+. A new report today corroborates this, but has a somewhat different take.

The WSJ says that creators will be compensated “directly” by listeners …

Background

Apple’s Podcasts app has so far conformed to the classic model, acting as a searchable index and playback mechanism for freely available audio shows. Anyone can host a podcast anywhere, create an RSS feed for it, and that will be picked up by podcast apps, including Apple Podcasts. Many consider this model to be integral to the definition of a podcast.

Spotify created controversy almost a year ago when it broke this model by announcing Spotify-exclusive podcasts, which focused on high-profile names like Josh Rogan and Michelle Obama.

Apple has so far created a small number of original podcasts like the  For All Mankind companion show and true crime series The Line.

Apple podcasts subscription reports

A Vox report yesterday suggest that we’ll today see the launch of an Apple podcasts subscription service.

Vox Media’s Peter Kafka says that he believes Apple will announce a new podcast subscription service on Tuesday, at Apple’s April ‘Spring Loaded’ event […] A premium paywalled service, perhaps called Podcasts+, would see a catalog of Apple-exclusive shows debut inside the Apple Podcasts app, similar to how Apple TV+ TV shows and movies can only be found inside the Apple TV app.

The WSJ corroborates the idea of a subscription, but has a somewhat different take.

Apple on Tuesday is expected to reveal its annual update to high-end iPads, among other new products, and introduce a paid subscription option within its podcast app […]

The rollout of a paid subscription option within its podcast app will allow listeners to compensate hosts directly, according to people familiar with the effort.

It underscores a core strategy that Chief Executive Tim Cook has been championing before the pandemic, one focused on building out the company’s digital services to fuel growth and make Apple’s ecosystem even more sticky. Apple’s services division generated almost $16 billion in sales in the quarter ended in December, an almost 25% increase from the same period the previous year.

Conflicting takes

Yesterday’s report suggests that Apple will commission exclusives, charge a subscription to users, and then compensate the creators of those Apple-only shows. The WSJ report doesn’t mention Apple exclusives, and suggests that creators will somehow be compensated “directly” by users.

The latter report seems somewhat contradictory. A subscription implies a fixed sum paid to Apple, with the iPhone maker then distributing a share to creators. Listeners paying creators directly implies more of a tipping model. While there would be ways to reconcile the two, they would be messy.

All in all, it seems more likely that the Vox report is correct, and the WSJ one is based on something of a misunderstanding. As we suggested yesterday, it’s also possible – or even likely – that a Podcasts+ subscription would be thrown in free with an Apple Music or Apple TV+ one.

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