In its April press event, Apple kicked off by talking about its podcast platform, which first launched in 2012. The newly designed app will feature dedicated pages for each podcast, channels to help you find new shows and recommendations to explore. The biggest change though was that publishers could now charge a fee for premium content.
While some may balk at the idea of paying for podcasts, you needn't worry, as this won't affect existing channels. Instead, it gives publishers the chance to offer an ad-free or premium version. Think of it like watching a classic movie – you can watch it on TV and accept that you also need to sit through the ads, or buy the DVD and watch it ad-free and get a bunch of extra content, too.
Premium podcasts allow creators to be paid for their work in a more straightforward fashion. Right now, their income mostly comes from advertising and endorsements. Some channels offer Patreon memberships as a form of regular payment but this involves users going to different sites. The Apple Premium Podcast solution means you can pay for and download your premium content all in one place.
While advertising revenue can be significant for bigger podcasts, offering a paid subscription means a more level playing field for smaller podcast creators. It allows them to make money, purely on the strength of their audience, without having to add sponsored clips or product endorsements. In the long term, this move could make podcasts more sustainable.
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Publishers can set their own prices for premium podcasts, starting from 49 cents a month in the US. Apple then retains 30% of any subscription fees (dropping to 15% after the first year), which means that podcasters will make $34.30 per month for every 100 subscribers, going up to $41.65 after year one, based on a $0.49 subscription. Popular podcasts are likely to charge more, and with the potential for thousands of subscribers, it could generate significant income.
There is some doubt to whether people are prepared to pay for their podcasts, outside of the die-hard Patreon fans, and will stick with the free options. However, that argument was also used for apps, streaming TV and paywalled websites.
Paid podcasts are, in many ways, a trial and we expect at some stage for premium podcasts to be offered as part of the Apple One subscription that already encompasses music, TV+, News+ and Fitness+. In the meantime, we don’t think that paying less than 50 cents a month for great entertainment is a deterrent. Sign me up, already.