Apple will launch podcast subscriptions next month

Apple confirmed that podcasts will be its next subscription offering. The company is adding paid subscriptions to its Podcasts app, so podcasters can charge listeners for content directly. The new feature will be added to the Podcasts app in May, and will be available in 170 regions and countries.

Each podcast creator will be able to set their own prices, as well as what’s included with a subscription. For example, paid subscribers may get ad-free shows, exclusive bonus content or early access to new episodes. Podcast creators can also offer free trials and sample episodes to lure new subscribers.

Initial partners include Pushkin Industries, QCODE, and NPR. It appears that content creators will have to pay Apple $19.99 per year in order to offer subscriptions, and Apple will take 30 percent of revenue for the first year and 15 percent for the years following.

The app is also getting a redesign with channels to help people find new content curated by their favorite creators. These channels will feature artwork, titles, and descriptions unique to Apple Podcasts, and some might promote free content while others are paid. Luminary, a subscription-based podcast app that launched in 2019, is an initial channel partner. The company said today that people will be able to subscribe to Luminary shows from Apple Podcasts, as well as in the Luminary app. The Athletic appears to be offering a similar setup, too.

Other new features include a “Smart Play” button that’ll allow listeners to automatically start episodic shows from the newest episode and serialized shows from the beginning of the series. Listeners can also save individual episodes, which are downloaded for offline playback.

Overall, Apple is seemingly taking a bigger interest in the creators who use its platform to reach listeners. People widely speculated that Apple would launch a subscription service to promote its own original content, which has focused on companion shows for its TV Plus and Books content. Now, it appears that Apple instead sees an opportunity to make money off the podcasters themselves without investing in its own exclusive programming. This could set Apple up to more directly compete with platforms like Patreon, which have courted podcasters. Patreon only takes up to 12 percent of subscription revenue, however, so it seems unlikely successful podcasters will switch their models over to Apple Podcasts exclusively.

Apple’s move into paid podcasts comes as competition heats up in the audio space. Facebook announced several new social audio features, including a collaboration with Spotify to make podcasts available directly in its app. Apple has also experimented with its own in-house podcasts. Longtime Beats1 DJ Zane Lowe has hosted a series of interviews with artists since 2019.

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