There was murmur on Monday that Apple might launch a podcast subscription service. Today these rumors came true. Kind of like. Instead of Podcast + we get a redesign of the Apple Podcasts app:and Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, a new Patreon-like program for developers.
The announcement is not a total surprise. Code fragments in the beta version of iOS 14.5 were hinted at these changes came to Apple’s podcast app, and to Apple earlier this month Premiere of an original podcast to promote The line, a new documentary about true crime for Apple TV +. Plus, it’s not like Apple has been shy for the past two years to further engage users in its ecosystem with services that complement the hardware. (See: Fitness +that connects to Apple Music, Apple TV, and the Apple Watch.) We knew Apple was up to it something, although it looks like the rumor mill misinterpreted it as a Podcast + service … instead of what it actually is.
Starting in May, listeners will be able to sign up for premium subscriptions, which may give them perks curated by each creator. As in, you can subscribe to a specific podcast and get ad-free listening, bonus content, or early / exclusive access to new content. Many popular podcasts already do this. The difference now is that you can do this through Apple. Already enrolled partners include Tenderfoot TV, Pushkin Industries, Radiotopia from PRX, QCode, NPR, the Los Angeles Times, Athletic and Sony Music Entertainment.
Another change is that the app itself is debuting what it calls “channels”. These channels are shows that have been grouped by the creators – and there will be free and paid versions of each. There will also be an expanded Search tab and Smart Play button that will automatically start episodic shows from the latest episode and serialized shows from the start of the series. You can also save individual episodes for offline playback.
So how much is it all going to cost? According to Apple, the actual monthly or annual subscription price is set by the creators themselves. So, contrary to the rumor mill assumption, it is not a podcast streaming service. As with other app subscriptions, you can manage these through your Apple ID account settings, as well as the Listen Now tab in the Apple Podcasts app. You can also share a subscription with up to six people using Family Sharing.
As for the developers, Apple is also launching a website called Apple Podcasts for Developers as a kind of Podcasting 101 resource. An updated one will also be released Apple Podcasts Connect Dashboard that allows you to track metrics and access marketing tools to track or grow your podcast. To get access to all of the tools required for premium subscriptions, developers can pay $ 20 a year for the Apple Podcasters program (which you can sign up for through Apple Podcasts Connect).
This overhaul comes at a time when most of the podcast-related headlines belonged to Spotify (which, by the way, is reportedly considering its own podcast subscription service). Although Apple helped popularize the format earlier, it has gained a foothold in recent years. Spotify has invested heavily in building a podcast empire from Acquisition of Gimlet Media, a few others Podcast-connected Companiesand a lot of exclusive, original audio content. It’s not that Apple is completely irrelevant – who hasn’t heard a podcast that the hosts ask you to rate highly on Apple Podcasts? However, this is drawing attention to platforms like Patreon – and Spotify – as it makes it easier to monetize content within the Apple ecosystem.
Apple Podcasts subscriptions are available in over 170 countries and regions and require iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and MacOS 11.3. You can also access saved episodes through watchOS 7.4 and tvOS 14.5. All of these software updates will be available next week.