Media Fortune Fame & Folly

Podcast options heat up

With the subscription craze becoming even hotter, it should come as no surprise that two of the largest players in podcasting are both launching features to help creators put their podcasts behind a paywall. 

First up is Apple. During its big event last week, the company revealed that it was introducing the ability for partners to launch paid subscription podcasts. Creators will need to spend $19.99 per year to gain access to the feature and then give Apple 30% of revenue in year one and 15% in all subsequent years. 

According to The Verge:

Podcasters will have to upload their subscription content through Apple’s backend, not through RSS and their hosting provider. Their regular feed, however, can still operate through RSS. Because the subscription content goes through Apple, podcasters also won’t receive specific data about their paying listeners, like their email, names, or contact information. Apple essentially owns the relationship.

Not to be outdone, Spotify announced this week that it was introducing its own subscription platform for creators. According to Axios:

Creators using Spotify’s podcast creator platform Anchor will be able to mark episodes as subscriber-only and publish them to Spotify and other podcast listening platforms, the company said in an announcement Tuesday.

For the next two years, being a part of this podcast creator program will be free for podcasters, meaning they can pocket 100% of their subscriber revenue, excluding payment transaction fees. Starting in 2023, Spotify says it plans to introduce a 5% fee for access to the monetization tool.

To be completely honest, the operator in me feels uncomfortable giving control of subscriptions over to those companies. As The Verge said, “Apple essentially owns the relationship.” They’re not your subscribers, but rather, Apple’s. That’s fine for most creators, but I’ve obviously got strong feelings about building on rented land. 

That said, this is very much not a debate about Apple vs. Spotify for the creator. This isn’t a zero sum game unlike the coming newsletter battles. With a newsletter, you’ve only got one homepage and one list. Therefore, Substack, Revue, Ghost, etc. all need to convince you to go exclusive with them. In the case of these audio apps, there is no exclusivity. For your listeners on Apple, they can subscribe on Apple. And for your listeners on Spotify, they can subscribe on Spotify. 

Now… I can foresee a future where creators start coming up with incentives to move subscribers to Spotify because the revenue share is in their favor. Perhaps Spotify subscribers get different access than Apple subscribers. Or maybe the episodes are released earlier. 

Suffice to say, the multitude of options available to creators is increasing. And the smartest will figure out ways to leverage these tools to build their businesses. But I return to a point I made above. Building a business on someone else’s property can be a dangerous move long-term. Today, the platforms are fighting each other for creators’ attention, therefore creators benefit. In the future, that might not be the case.

  • Reproduced with permission from A Media Operator, the twice-weekly subscription newsletter for people building digital media businesses.