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Apple Confirms Subscription Podcasts Launch, Unveils Redesigned App.

In the biggest update to Apple Podcasts since it launched 15 years ago, Apple has unveiled Apple Podcasts Subscriptions. Launching in May, it will allow podcast creators to offer listeners subscription-based content across 170 countries and regions, opening a new way to monetize their podcasts.

CEO Tim Cook said the subscription feature will allow podcast consumers to access new content and enjoy benefits like ad-free listening and early access to episodes. “Now you can help your favorite podcaster build their business and fuel their creativity,” said Cook during the company’s “Spring Loaded” virtual event Tuesday.

Cook said Apple is also redesigning the Apple Podcast app giving every show and episode a dedicated page that can be more easily shared on social media. “These major updates will make listening to podcasts easier and more enjoyable than ever before,” he said.

Apple is also rolling out a feature called Channels – groups of shows curated by creators with unique titles, descriptions, and artwork. Cook said it will help with discovery by directing listeners to podcasts from their favorite creators.

Apple did not say what its cut of subscription revenue will be, but a program agreement points to a 30% rate. It did announce that through Family Sharing, up to six family members will be able to share a subscription.

Podcasters Embrace New Option

NPR is among the podcast companies to embrace Apple Podcast Subscriptions. “Apple has been a valued partner to our podcasting work since it all started back in 2005, and we support their plan to enable a new revenue source for content creators on their platform,” said CEO John Lansing. NPR has not yet announced any specifics of how it will utilize the new option.

Tenderfoot TV President and cofounder Donald Albright said they’ll launch TenderfootPlus+ through Apple, offering exclusives, early-access and ad-free listening.

No podcast company is more closely associated with subscriptions than Luminary and it too is embracing Apple’s move. It will launch a new channel on Apple Podcasts when the new subscription platform debuts in May, making all Luminary Original Podcasts available globally to Apple Podcasts listeners.

“When we founded Luminary, we believed that supporting premium subscription podcast content was important to listeners and creators alike,” said Luminary co-founder Matt Sacks. “Distributing our content on Apple Podcasts is a critical step in fulfilling our vision,” he said.

Luminary said all of its original podcasts will continue to be available for subscribers on its own app in the 12 countries where it is currently available. The price will be same on both apps.

Pinna, the subscription service that targets kids 3-12 with ad-free audio content, is also on board. Its podcast will be available for $3.99 per month.

Apple has also lined up The Athletic, Pushkin Industries, PRX’s Radiotopia, Lemonada Media, QCode, the Los Angeles Times, Sony Music Entertainment, and other publishers. Each will be allowed to set their own prices with the option to create an annual plan and offer free trials. Any creator that wants to enlist will need to pay a $19.99 fee to join the Apple Podcasters Program.

“Podcasting totally changed my approach to storytelling, and Apple Podcasts Subscriptions is a mind shift,” said Pushkin co-founders Malcolm Gladwell and Jacob Weisberg. In a joint statement, they said they believe that paid subscriptions are what independent creators need to succeed and thrive over the long term.

New Tools For Podcasters

Apple said Tuesday it is also launching a new Apple Podcasts for Creators website to help creators learn more about podcasting, stay informed about the latest news and features, and explore in-depth guides with best practices. There is also an updated Apple Podcasts Connect dashboard, which has new features that make it easier to manage shows on Apple Podcasts, including the ability to edit metadata, schedule and manage show availability, organize shows into channels, manage multiple users and roles, and learn how listeners are engaging with their shows through new performance metrics and visualization tools.

Stephen Smyk, Senior VP of Podcast and Influencer Marketing at podcast ad agency Veritone One, thinks Apple’s moves point to greater numbers of listeners and podcasts. “The vast expansion of podcast activity from large companies, such as Apple, Amazon, Spotify and Google, underscores the fact that the medium has arrived,” he said. “While Apple has long been a key contributor to podcasting, it’s great to see the tech giant increase its participation in the space, which will drive awareness to a larger number of consumers, continuing to power the growth of podcasting.

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