Pay For Podcasts? No Thanks, Most Listeners Still Say.


Even as some podcast companies lay the groundwork for subscription podcast options, the hard part may still be in front of the industry: convincing consumers they should pay for something that they get for free today. A new survey by YouGov and Variety finds just 16% of those surveyed said it is either “very” or “somewhat” likely they will pay or donate money to access a podcast in the next 12 months. That is actually lower than the 20% recorded in a June 2020 survey.


YouGov’s latest data finds 45% of those surveyed said it is not very likely they will pay for a podcast, with another 39% saying it is not at all likely.


In a similar vein, the YouGov survey found three-quarters of podcast listeners say they have never paid or donated money to access or listen to a podcast. One in five said they have, and the other five percent said they were unable to remember one way or the other. Those results are largely on par with YouGov’s previous podcast survey last June.


Yet despite a majority of podcast listeners shunning paying for podcasts, a potential silver lining for companies that hope to one day offer that option is that most Americans are open to the concept. Less than a third (31%) said all podcasts should be available for free and supported by advertising. The biggest group – representing six in ten of those surveyed – said they have no problem with a mix of ad-supported and subscription-based podcasts. And another ten percent said they believe all podcasts should be ad-free and supported by subscribers.


Paid podcasts are likely to get more attention in the coming months as Spotify has announced plans to launch a new service that will bring paid podcast subscriptions to its platform. A limited beta will be done in the U.S. which Head of Podcaster Mission Michael Mignano said in February will give creators the opportunity to publish paid podcast content on Spotify. “This will give podcasters a number of options to choose how they want to monetize their work,” he said. Spotify has begun allowing podcasters to sign-up for the feature.


Apple is also reportedly working on creating a subscription tier of podcasts, using the lure of a slate of original shows as its bait to consumers to pay for what is currently available for free on the Apple Podcasts app. There has been no comment from Apple so far, but the plans first reported in The Information have been confirmed by several other news outlets. Podcast studios have been asked to sign nondisclosure agreements about their work with Apple, which Bloomberg says will also invest more on marketing podcasting.


Hanging over the idea of subscription podcasts is Luminary. The company launched in April 2019 with $100 million and several high-profile hosts but it has had trouble carving out its niche. It reportedly has fewer than 100,000 subscribers and the app now features a wide variety of content supported by advertising, and accessible to any user regardless of whether they are a subscriber.

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