Is Apple Podcasts’ Subscription Program A Paywall for Creators?


Amid Department of Justice scrutiny over alleged power abuse in other areas, Apple could find itself in pay-for-play-type turmoil as the company tries to promote its podcast monetization program, which offers premium show subscriptions in exchange for a cut of the profits.

As it stands, Apple Podcasts offers a coveted promotional spot at the top of its feed. To secure this prime placement, creators traditionally submit their shows through a formal application process. However, a more direct route to gaining this exposure involves joining Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, which allows for the sale of premium content through the app.

Recent observations reveal that a significant portion of podcasts featured in the Apple Podcasts app’s “browse” carousel are part of this subscription service. According to Semafor, podcast industry insiders have shared that Apple has been encouraging creators to enroll in the subscription program as a strategy for securing promotional space.

While not all top-slotted shows are subscription participants, Apple has allegedly been actively funneling creators into this service, offering them enhanced app features and reserved spots in the carousel.

Apple’s dominant interface and the challenge of standing out among numerous podcasts make the app’s top banner a key promotional tool. However, Apple’s subscription model, which takes a 30% cut of subscriber revenue in the first year and 15% thereafter, presents a steep margin compared to competitors like Substack and Patreon.

The company’s new approach to subscriptions suggests a push towards a model that benefits both Apple and content creators, despite the absence of third-party ads and a history of non-monetization in its podcast service.


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