Apple is launching podcast subscriptions next week, according to an email from Apple to podcasters obtained by The Verge. Beginning June 15, you’ll be able to pay to subscribe to select shows and networks to receive content early and ad-free.
The podcast subscription service was announced at Apple’s Spring Loaded event back in April, with initial plans to launch in May. The launch was delayed so after issues with Apple Podcasts Connect, the analytics portal where podcasters submit shows for approval, were discovered. Apple also noted it would take care of a few other back-end issues, including “additional enhancements” to its Library interface.
The new service will let podcast hosts and networks set prices and perks, including early and ad-free feeds, and offer bonus content. Of course, Apple will make some money off this, keeping 30% of the subscription fees in the first year and 15% in subsequent years. The fee cut after a few years is an incentive from Apple to get podcasters on board and keep them in the ecosystem.
Subscriptions have become an excellent way for supporting podcasters. Full disclosure: I am a podcaster, and I host two shows on two podcast networks that offer ad-free tiers. Services like Stitcher have offered podcast memberships and bonus content with podcast networks like Earwolf for years, while Patreon seems to have cornered the market for fans-only feeds.
Spotify also announced it would adopt paid podcast subscriptions, and it’s already pushing through a setlist of indie shows and upcoming titles from NPR. There’s a waitlist available for podcasters, and Spotify won’t take a cut for the first two years, though you’ll have to pay transaction fees. (Apple also requires a $20 annual fee.) Spotify’s solution doesn’t allow people to subscribe within the app. Instead, it requires navigating to an external webpage on Anchor, the micro-podcasting service it bought in 2018.
The battle is on to monetize podcasting and do it in a way that makes it easy for people to click and pay. Apple’s in-app podcast subscription service isn’t the first to come to market, but its existence helps normalize the idea of paying podcasters for content. It’ll be interesting to see if more independent creators flock to Spotify, which has been pushing podcasts more fervently along with its algorithm-driven playlists. Or if Apple’s legacy as the purveyor of podcasts—it helped coined the term, didn’t it?—will make people stick with it because of the promise of better discoverability.