Apple Officially Launches Podcasts Subscriptions and Channels Worldwide (Here’s How It Works)

The service is now live, offering thousands of premium podcast subscriptions to listeners in more than 170 countries worldwide.
Apple Podcasts Supscriptions Marketplace Credit: Apple
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Apple officially launched its new Podcast Subscriptions marketplace today, bringing its long-anticipated paid tier to the Apple Podcasts app and service.

Although we’ve been hearing rumours of an Apple Podcasts+ service for a couple of years now, this isn’t exactly what we had expected. Instead, during its Spring Loaded event back in April, Apple explained that it would simply be bringing an online store to the Podcasts app, allowing users to subscribe to individual premium podcasts on a more “à la carte” basis.

In other words, this is more like the App Store or iTunes Store for Podcasts than it is an all-you-can-eat subscription service like Apple TV+ or Apple News+.

During its April event, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the goal of the new service was to allow podcasts a new way to monetize their content, allowing their fans to “build their business and fuel their creativity.”

Cook also hinted that the subscription option would be about more than just straight paid content, with the ability for podcasters to offer their paid subscribers benefits like ad-free listening, early access to new episodes, and more.

Live Now in 170 Countries

According to Apple’s newsroom announcement, the service is now live, offering thousands of premium podcast subscriptions to listeners in more than 170 countries worldwide.

While not all content will necessarily be available in or appropriate for every region, any geographical restrictions are up to individual podcast creators, and not Apple. Creators can choose to make their podcasts available in all 174 countries where the service is offered, or choose to select only specific ones. In some countries, users will also need to explicitly opt in if they want to be able to see or hear any podcasts that have been marked by their creators as containing explicit content.

Creators will also set the subscription fees for their podcasts, and determine what benefits to offer, with pricing starting at $0.49/month.

Podcast creators who wish to offer subscriptions will pay a $20 annual fee to become members of the Apple Podcasters Program (or the equivalent in local currency), in addition to paying the usual commission to Apple for every podcast subscription. Just like subscriptions on the App Store, this will be set at 30% for the first year of each auto-renewing subscription, after which is drops to 15% for users who stick around for more than a year.

Naturally, Apple also has several rules around podcast subscriptions to keep everyone honest. For example, podcast creators won’t be able to charge for ad-free listening unless their free content actually does include ads. Similarly, paid episodes must not be available for free at the same time as paid episodes in the same country; offering early access to episodes for subscribers is totally fine, however.

Apple also emphasizes that subscriptions must “supply ongoing value to subscribers.” While it acknowledges that this differs for each subscription, the key point is that Podcast Subscriptions should not be used by creators to unlock one-time bonus content.

In addition to early access, however, podcast creators will also able to provide access to archived episodes as a subscription benefit, allowing paid members to listen to episodes after they’ve disappeared from the free podcast feed.

What’s On

Naturally, Apple is highlighting some paid subscription content that’s available on Apple Podcasts right on day one, including everything from independent voices to premium studios and leading media and entertainment brands.

This includes “Birthful” with Adriana Lozada, “Pantsuit Politics” with Beth Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland, “Snap Judgment” with Glynn Washington, and “You Had Me At Black” with Martina Abrams Ilunga along with Lemonada Media, Luminary, Realm, Wondery, CNN, NPR, The Washington Post, and Sony Music Entertainment.

Other major media companies that will be offering subscriptions through Apple Podcasts include ABC News, Axios, Billboard, Bravo, CNBC, Crooked Media, Dateline, Entertainment Weekly, Futuro Media, The Hollywood Reporter, LAist Studios, National Geographic, MSNBC, NBC News, NBC Sports, New York Magazine, The New York Times, SiriusXM, SB Nation, Southern Living, The Verge, TODAY, VICE, Vogue, Vox, and WBUR.

Listeners can’t get enough of their favorite podcasts and want a simple way to support the extraordinary creators who make them possible. Now, listeners can enjoy new content and additional benefits for thousands of new and popular podcasts, alongside millions of free shows, with more arriving every week.

Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats.

Apple is emphasizing this as a way to support creators, which is certainly fair, although it’s also worth keeping in mind that Apple is still taking its usual piece of the action in the form of a 30% commission on first-year subscriptions.

The hope, of course, is that podcast creators will stand to make more money through a simplified subscription model than they would through other channels. Further, unlike the App Store, Apple isn’t prohibiting podcasters from monetizing their shows in other ways.

Apple Podcasts Subscriptions will help creators grow their businesses and continue to make podcasting an important source of information, entertainment, connection, and inspiration for hundreds of millions of listeners around the world.

Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats.

Firstly, Apple isn’t taking a cut of any advertising, sponsorship, or other commercial messages that are contained in podcasts. Podcasters are also free to direct users to other products, services, and payment methods in their podcasts.

Further, while all subscriber-only podcast episodes on Apple Podcasts must be processed by Apple’s own payment system, there don’t appear to be any restrictions that would prevent a creator from selling their individual episodes, or even entire subscriptions through other channels or competing services.

To use Apple Podcasts subscriptions, you’ll need an Apple device running iOS 14.6, iPadOS 14.6, or macOS 11.4 or later. Subscription content can also be played on Apple Watch with watchOS 7.5 or later and via the HomePod, HomePod mini, and CarPlay.

As an added bonus, Apple Podcast subscriptions will include the benefits of other digital content purchases from Apple, including the ability to use an Apple Gift Card and get 3 percent Daily Cash back if paying with the Apple Card. All Apple Podcast Subscriptions also include Family Sharing, meaning they can be accessed by up to five other family members.

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