Apple Could Make Podcasting Better for Everyone

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

John Gruber: Nilay Patel and Walt Mossberg on Spotify’s Ambitions to Dominate Podcasting

Apple’s not doing nothing in the podcast space, but it seems to me that their Apple Podcasters Program that launched last year hasn’t really had much of an uptake. I could be wrong about that. But even if Apple’s Podcasters Program is successful, it’s not open. It’s a system where podcasts are hosted by Apple, listener subscriptions are paid through Apple, and those podcasts can only be listened to in the Apple Podcasts app.

Apple has done excellent by the world by making their podcast directory open to anyone who wants it, but it is discouraging to see them move in the direction of Spotify when it comes to podcast creators getting paid for their shows.

What I'd prefer to see is Apple work on improving the standards for podcast feeds and how they display shows in their directory that third party apps can access. For example, if I'm listening to an episode of Connected, then I should be able to find in the podcast app I'm using a way to subscribe to Connected Pro from the app. This would require the directory to understand that Connected and Connected Pro are the same show, but the Pro version is paid, it would require Apple's and third party apps to display this premium option to users in the UI, it would require a link (or an API integration) out to the payment page to sign up for the premium version of the show, and it would need to allow for a form of authentication showing who has access to the premium feeds.

All of the above is possible, and I think it could do wonders for shows converting their most loyal fans into paid subscribers in a way that's true to the open history of podcasts. As you may have already concluded though, why would Apple do this? There isn't money to be made from updating standards and making it easier for podcasters to make money outside Apple's ecosystem, so how is this going to jump up the company's internal stack rank of things they want to build?

The implementation details matter, and obviously this could be done poorly, but I just look at how many podcasts rely on paid members to diversify their income and how poor an experience that is for users who need to:

  1. Find a link
  2. Leave the app
  3. Make a payment
  4. Get a feed URL
  5. Figure out how to paste that feed into their podcast app
  6. Delete the old non-paid show form the app

This process should be easier, and right now there's not a good way to do this in the open podcast world.