For 16 years now, Apple hasn't seen or reported revenue from its investment in podcasting. That’s why Tim Apple Cook spent exactly one minute announcing Apple Podcasts Subscriptions during Tuesday’s Apple event. Though one minute is a lot more than he’s spoken about podcasting in previous events. Maybe the most since Steve Jobs’ announcement from 2005?
With the new Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, Apple sees a significant revenue opportunity for them, so podcasting is finally getting the attention it deserves.
Seamless Podcast Listening Worth Paying For
At its most basic, Apple Podcasts Subscriptions allow for a frictionless way to let listeners pay for podcasts without having to manage multiple shows, feeds, etc. And while there have been many cogent posts on why other paid-subscription options are actually better for facilitating a relationship between publisher and listener—all arguments I agree with in principle—I think Apple sees a markedly different future for Apple Podcasts Subscriptions.
I don’t think Apple is directly going after the premium/private podcast market. Instead, I think they’re trying to replicate their success with the App Store and introduce that paradigm to podcasting.
Thinking Like A Podcast Developer
The current mindset of serious podcasters is one of a publisher. We see ourselves most like publishers of print media, perhaps blogs, or really any other kind of lean-back digital content. We publish. They consume. And we don’t really care where or how they consume.
But developers think a little differently, if only because Apple makes money—a lot of money—from the efforts of developers. So Apple has built out an ecosystem to bring in as much money as possible directly from the developers and from those who buy apps from the developers.
What benefits might podcasting see as part of an Apple-incentivized ecosystem? For starters, it might finally solve that “discoverability” problem too many podcasters gripe about. There are twice the number of apps in Apple’s App Store than there are podcasts in Apple Podcasts. And while I’m sure plenty of developers lament their apps don’t get the attention they feel they deserve, people search for and find apps well enough. But developers can always jump ahead of the queue with Apple Seach Ads, a keyword-based paid listing service. Click through on that link and just look at some of the metrics before you poo-poo the notion. Think differently, as Apple might say.
App developers have multiple revenue models, all supported by Apple. It’s not a stretch to assume they’ll make those same (or quite similar) options available to podcasters if we think more like app developers than podcast publishers.
Why would Apple do any of this? Money. Apple is very good at cranking up the volume on things that make them money. Because every time a developer makes money with their app, Apple makes money. So with a similar situation in play for podcasts, Apple now has a vested interest in promoting shows that bring Apple the highest levels of income, whether that income comes from paid subscriptions or something else like app developers have available to them, like ads.
Apple made $15.8 billion on services in the first quarter of this year. Not computers or phones. But services, like Apple Music, Apple TV+, iCloud, and the App Store. It's projected that Apple will see $89 billion of annual revenue from services by 2025. That’s less than four years from now.
And that’s without revenue they’ll start earning from their newest money-making service, Apple Podcast Subscriptions.
Apple Brings The Power Of Apple
There's a misconception out there that every attempt to paywall podcasting content has failed. But that's not exactly true. Many attempts to do so have fizzled out, but some still struggle on, appealing to a small user base who are willing to pay for content.
No, none have been breakout successes. But Apple hasn’t been behind any of them. And Apple is Apple.
Apple already has a well-defined, well-established, and friction-free commerce platform with the App Store. They’re nicely positioned at the middle of the equation and are incentivized to keep all of those adjectives in place so the money keeps rolling in.
Why wouldn’t they do the same with podcasting? Imagine the full force of Apple’s marketing machine working hard to re-introduce that little purple square to every iPhone user.
But yes, I must acknowledge that the rollout has been the opposite of smooth. But it’s early days, and I see the massive mistakes and outages as more evidence that Apple has much bigger plans than just collecting 30% of subscription revenues from the tiny fraction of podcasts who currently use competing premium subscription services. I have every confidence an army of engineers are furiously working to get past these early hiccups in the next few days.
Are You Ready To Make Money With Apple Podcasts?
There are lots of opinion pieces in the market already. And while I encourage you to read all of them, I highly recommend you set aside an hour or so to pore over the info pages Apple has already created that detail all the current options available with Apple Podcasts Subscriptions. If you read those pages carefully and try to think more like an app developer, you’ll discover plenty of intriguing items.
As always, I find these “what if?” deliberations work better with friends. I had some great conversations with friends about this yesterday which led me down this path. So I suggest you share a link to this episode with a podcasting friend of yours and then schedule a call to talk through what parts intrigued each of you the most.
And because you can't yet pay to subscribe to my podcast on Apple Podcasts, you’ll have to go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and you show me some love that way.
I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.