Snell on Apple Podcasts

Six Colors: “Leaving big, bad Spotify aside, consider Overcast or Castro or Pocket Casts. These independent apps are likewise prevented by Apple’s policies from doing what Apple is doing. Even if they could figure out a way to implement Apple’s per-podcast subscription approach, they would have to hand Apple its cut, which is basically the same cut that Apple’s taking from Apple Podcasts Subscriptions.

You knew it was only a matter of time before Apple created its own Podcast service. They’ve had the plumbing for years by serving the largest podcast directory in world. It’s still there and it’s still free, for now.

If I were a podcaster I’d worry about that benevolence continuing forever. Talk about an easy to Sherlock industry. With Apple holding the keys to the directory, a new paid service, and the most popular podcast player it would leave me going hmmmmmm, if I had a podcast or a podcast network.

For those, like Snell, who have invested years of blood, sweat, and tears to build their own networks I have to imagine they’ll have some restless nights trying to decide if they should just go with the flow and move their catalogs to Apple Podcasts 100%, keep their podcasts on their own network, or do a 50/50 split between their network and Apple’s.

An observation. At one point the podcasts I listened to were all ad supported. I have to believe advertisers, for some reason, decided the money they were paying for podcast advertising wasn’t paying off. Most of the tech podcasts I listen to began offering memberships. Those memberships may include special stuff for subscribers, as Snell points out.

That to me was a signal of a change in the podcast market. Advertising dollars were drying up or, at the very least, not as lucrative, so business models changed.

Enter Spotify and now Apple. We expect Facebook to announce their own podcast network. Being an indie is going to become as difficult as being an indie app developer or blogger who makes a living from their website. I fear we’ll see a lot of podcasts we love disappear as soon as they no longer make a living for their hosts.

In the end it would be really nice for Apple to offer a way for podcasts to use their own payment systems for subscribers. I’ve thought about this for indie app developers too. Having a way to provide Apple approved payment providers would be amazing. This would give players like Stripe or PayPal the ability to qualify as a payment provider for Apple Podcasts and the App Store. That alone would open the App Store and Podcast ecosystems to a new world of possibilities, not to mention possibly putting more money into the pockets of developers and podcasters.

On the client side Apple could provide a payment kit, possibly StoreKit, that allows for multiple payment providers to be selected by app developers for in app purchases. That framework would also provide third party podcast apps with a way to subscribe, download, and play podcasts from Apple Podcasts. Even if it means podcast players need to do work to support this system at least they’d be given the choice to support the framework or not. More choice is better, right?

As for the definition of a Podcast. I don’t think Apple or Spotify’s service meet the definition of a Podcast. To many of us a Podcast is an MP3 file delivered to a client via inclusion in an RSS feed. It’s not simply spoken word delivered by a proprietary service. It’s specifically connected to the open RSS format. That may seem a bit pedantic but that’s how we feel about it. To layer a service on top of that is fine. But to call it a podcast seems disingenuous.

By Rob Fahrni

Husband / Father / Developer