While Apple may not always be ground-breaking with new features, their market dominance certainly forces people to pay attention when they finally do make a move.

Similar to how Patreon and other services have allowed content creators (including podcasters) to earn money from subscribers in exchange for exclusive and premium content, Apple is now offering a similar feature right within its existing ecosystem.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services had this to say on the launch of the podcast subscription service.

“Today, Apple Podcasts is the best place for listeners to discover and enjoy millions of great shows, and we are proud to lead the next chapter of podcasting with Apple Podcasts Subscriptions. We’re excited to introduce this powerful new platform to creators around the world, and we can’t wait to hear what they make with it.”

Beginning June 15th 2021, podcast creators are able to offer premium subscriptions on Apple Podcasts. This will allow podcasters to set a price for listeners to subscribe to the show, and in return, get benefits such as ad-free listening, early access to new series or seasons, or access to exclusive content. Podcasters can also offer free trials and provide sample episodes to audiences interested in signing up.

For podcasters who will be offering subscriptions, Apple provided the following tips:

  • Use artwork that is simple, recognizable, and legible.

  • Clearly communicate the benefits you are offering subscribers.

  • Ensure you are uploading enough subscriber-only audio to provide a premium experience.


What Does This Mean for Podcasters?

As a podcaster, you may be wondering what exactly does Apple’s Podcast Subscription announcement mean to you?

Well, it may be meaningless, or it may add a completely new revenue stream to your show.

Consider the following:

  • Are you already monetizing your show somehow?
  • If you were to start creating premium/paid podcast content now and use Apple’s subscription features, the content would (at least right now) ONLY be available to iOS users.
  • Creating alternate versions of your podcast episodes means additional work and costs. Will it be worth it?

There is virtually an infinite amount of free content out there, so you need real die-hard fans if you expect anybody to pay for your content. Patreon did prove this was possible, so it’s unsurprising that Apple followed suit.

Patreon’s premium podcast content can be accessed from any device, not just Apple devices. So, any podcasters already using Patreon may prefer continuing to do so.

On the other hand, having this subscription feature integrated into the Apple Podcasts app introduces it to a whole new world of users. Those who weren’t interested in signing up for a new app like Patreon now have the ability to press a few buttons and sign up for a paid podcast subscription, just like purchasing an app. We know how Apple likes to make things easy for its users.


What Challenges Does This Present?

While it may be simple from a user perspective, there are challenges and considerations for the podcaster as well. Using Apple’s podcast subscription features add a set of complexities, since you cannot accomplish this through your normal podcast hosting.

For example, if you were to do a free ad-supported version of your episodes, along with a paid version without ads for subscribers, here’s how it would go down:

  • Produce two separate versions of every episode. One with ads, one without. This means additional editing time and/or costs.
  • Upload the free version to your hosting as usual.
  • Login through Apple Podcasts Connect to add the paid version.
  • Paid subscribers on Apple will get their respective episode. Free listeners, and listeners on all other platforms (other devices + websites), get the version with ads.

As you can see, now there’s the added step of uploading audio directly to Apple each time you publish a new episode. There are more details on Apple’s website for setting up your podcast as a subscription.

Of course, if a subscription model ends up being a healthy revenue stream for a podcaster, the added work is no problem at all. If not, it’s a waste of time and over-complication. You can even just offer extra bonus content to subscribers and not necessarily create the ad-supported and ad-free episodes. Apple also charges a small annual fee to offer subscriptions, though it seems negligible if you are actually generating income with the feature.


What Should You Do?

Don’t feel like you need to do anything with the introduction of Apple’s new podcast subscription features.

It’s just another feature, and it essentially already existed with Patreon and other services. If you wanted to give listeners the ability to subscribe and support your show, you could have done it by now. Though, perhaps not with the ease and availability provided by Apple.

If you’ve been podcasting and found a model that works for you, there’s not necessarily any reason to change. If you have paid sponsors, there’s nothing wrong with continuing like that. Remember that this paid content, at least for now, would only be available on iOS devices anyway.

For full details on everything podcasting with Apple, check out their podcasters website.


Looking Towards the Future

One big takeaway here is the positive sentiment generated for podcasting by having a large company like Apple make such an investment into the space. Spotify and others are making similar moves and investments into content. This is very promising for those who already podcast, or have been thinking about starting. The future for podcasting is bright!

It’s also worth mentioning that Apple may have even bigger plans for the future, and no doubt podcasters will come up with some clever ways to use this new feature. There were some bugs with the launch, so the idea of sitting back for now and waiting to see what happens is also an option before diving into making changes to your own podcast.

As well, on the heel’s of Apple’s announcement, Spotify revealed that they too are launching a subscription service. At this time it is only available to a select group of creators, and there is a waitlist for the rest. Consider the other options like Patreon and SupportingCast, and you potentially have a complex situation on your hands as a podcaster trying to take advantage of these premium subscription features.

Looking for help starting a podcast, or making life easier by outsourcing the editing and show notes writing of your existing podcast? Book a call with us today.

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