Oh boy has this sphere seen plenty of action of late. In the last year, look at what has transpired.
- Spotify has spent millions as it’s looked to dominate the music and podcast game. In early 2020 they bought Bill Simmons media company, The Ringer, for $200 million. Then they signed Joe Rogan for $100 million. This doesn’t even count what they did before in buying Gimlet and Anchor. Spotify’s sole aim to is to be the Netflix of audio. They’re on their way.
- Clubhouse, the live audio app that caught the internet on fire a few months back, has given a new look to how we can converse with instant chats. The audio quality is not as good as podcasts and its numbers have fallen precipitously since February with copycats emerging, but even still, what they offer is unique and could change the audio landscape.
- Facebook has also come out in this arena with news that it will be launching several audio designs within the next few months. One format will be short “sound bites”, while another will be something similar to what Clubhouse if offering. I’m still not convinced this will take off as I just don’t see many users wanting to use Facebook for audio.
Then there’s Apple, the platform which essentially started this medium back in 2005 when they added podcasts to iTunes. Since then, they’ve been hanging back with their influence compared to how they’ve managed other features they control, namely the App Store and Apple Music. That is, until now.
From The Verge:
The most popular podcasting app putting its weight behind subscriptions could be monumental. Apple has the chance to popularize paid subscriptions by making it easy to listen and subscribe in one place, and it could influence the industry to shift slightly away from its dependence on advertising at the same time. Plus, unlike other solutions, Apple will also allow listeners to try these subscriptions for free for a limited amount of time, giving people a chance to preview what they’re paying to access. Apple’s not precious about the content podcasters offer there, either. Shows and bonus content don’t have to be exclusive to the platform, and they can mix free and paid content.
It’s easy to understand why they’ve come out with this now. Spotify is emerging. Apple dominates the landscape currently, but they won’t forever and adding subscriptions will help balance the arena, which ultimately is good for everyone.
The way I see it, Apple moving into subscriptions is big news for guys like me who currently produce a small local podcast. If I can monetize our work by putting each episode up for say $1, this revenue will help give our podcast added cash flow, which in time will help us to develop our brand. What Apple is doing here in adding subscriptions isn’t far off from what Patreon already offers, outside of the massive 30% cut they’ll take versus Patreon’s 10%.
Nevertheless, even in light of this blatant tax grab, there’s a sizeable added bonus to working with Apple.
Apple has a massive user base. This is what separates them in this field. Plus Apple will control all payments, which is good in one way and bad in another. The good starts when a listener wants to listen to my podcast, if they have Apple pay set up, all they’ll have to do is double click and voila, they’ll have access to that episode just like that. The ease of use is mightily important here. The bad, however, is that I don’t get to control or learn who my listeners are. Not the hugest deal, but this is where the Patreon model has an advantage.
Regardless, for small players such as myself, adding subscriptions will be big in the long run. For companies like Malcolm Gladwell’s Pushkin Industries, they’ll absolutely gain a wide berth of subscribers naturally, however, I wonder if that will compete with their current ad revenue or if they’ll just continue with both? Probably both I assume.
Ultimately this is good news for creators and the industry overall. The sooner listeners get used to paying for podcasts, the quicker everyone involved can garner their fair share. Netflix has shown that subscriptions are the way to go. You get a much richer relationship versus going the old ad model path. I’m excited to see how this plays out.